The second day of pairs figure skating commences on Day 5 of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, and the Russians are hunting for another gold medal after winning the team competition to open up the Games.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov set a new world record in the short program on Tuesday, scoring 84.17 points to take a 4.53-point lead over Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy heading into Wednesday's action.
Competition for a podium finish will be ferocious, as there are five pairs within five points of third place finishers, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia, after the short program.
American duo Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir are right outside that group in ninth place, and they'll have their work cut out for them to finish in the top five.
Here's a look at when and where you can catch the action, followed by predictions for which teams will finish on the podium.
When: Wednesday, Feb. 12, at 10:45 a.m. ET
Where: Iceberg Skating Palace, Sochi, Russia
Watch Live: NBC Sports Network
Watch Primetime: NBC (starting at 8 p.m. ET)
Live Stream: NBC Olympics Live Extra
Gold: Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, Russia
Volosozhar and Trankov were so good on Tuesday that Eleanor Oldroyd of BBC Radio felt the need to tell the world she was "hugely privileged" to have witnessed the spectacle:
The home crowd played a big role in helping the dynamic duo break their own world record.
"When all the audience is up on its feet, it gives us great energy," Trankov said, as relayed by the Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "We were trying to breathe together with the audience and feel the good wishes from them, and it has helped us through this program."
In addition to the home-ice advantage the Russians currently possess, Volosozhar and Trankov are simply skating on a different level than anyone else. The only thing that will cause them to stumble is a tumble or two.
Silver: Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, Germany
Savchenko and Szolkowy have traded gold medals with Volosozhar and Trankov the past three years at the World Championships, and this duo have won four world titles in their history.
Additionally, it would be wrong not to give Germany's Savchenko and Szolkowy their due for putting together a phenomenal short program on Tuesday. While they are well behind the Russians, this duo's score of 79.64, as a way of comparison, would have been the top score in the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
Alice Cook of She's Game Sports picked this team to win gold before the Games, via Boston.com, noting its extraordinary chemistry: "This team's chemistry on the ice is second to none. They will be skating to Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker in the free skate. If they perform the Pas De Deux like they did at the 2013 Grand Prix Final, they should win."
If the current leaders slip up on Wednesday, then Germany's pair could certainly earn a gold medal in this event.
Bronze: Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, Russia
While Volosozhar and Trankov are clearly the world's elite pairs duo, Russian teammates Stolbova and Klimov aren't far behind in the grand scheme of things.
They won the 2014 Russian title before heading to Sochi without their friendly rivals in the competition and also won gold at the 2013 Winter Universiade. Currently in third place, this young team is 4.43 points behind the German team and 1.89 points ahead of China's top team.
Like their veteran teammates, Stolbova and Klimov have the benefit of home ice. After a rousing short program, set to flamenco, Nick McCarvel of NBC reported "Thunderous applause and Russian flags by the dozen" from the elated crowd:
Thunderous applause & Russian flags by the dozens inside Iceberg as Stolbova/Klimov throw down. Could move into 1st pic.twitter.com/uJJFtbXer8— Nick McCarvel (@NickMcCarvel) February 11, 2014
There are plenty of worthy teams coming in right behind them, but Stolbova and Klimov appear to have the momentum heading into the free program to win the bronze medal, giving Russia two of the three in this competition.
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