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Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada performs during the women's short program figure skating in the Gangneung Ice Arena at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018.

Julie Jacobson

Having just finished her short program and traded her skates for running shoes, Kaetlyn Osmond knelt down to retie one of her laces, saying she would most certainly trip over herself if she didn't.

"It would be something I would do," Osmond said.

On the ice, however, the Canadian figure skater was as precise as ever, landing her two hardest jumps – a triple Lutz and a triple flip, triple toeloop combination – which put her squarely in contention for a medal heading into Friday's free skate.

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Osmond sits in third place after the short program, with a score of 78.87, behind Russia's Alina Zagitova (82.92) and Evgenia Medvedeva (81.61).

Canada's Gabrielle Daleman is seventh, with a score of 68.90, while Larkyn Austman, making her Olympic debut, is 25th, with 51.42 points.

Osmond, who did not skate a clean short program during the team event earlier in the Olympics, in which Canada won gold, said she was happy to have improved upon that performance, set to Edith Piaf's 'Sous le ciel de Paris.' "I am very thrilled," Osmond said. "That short program is definitely one of my favourites to compete… and every day in practice that's pretty much the way it goes, it's clean."

Osmond said she was overly excited in the team event, which opened figure skating at the Olympics, and that affected her performance. For Wednesday's short program, she was more collected.

"I had to keep telling myself to relax a little bit. But I felt very strong and very in-the-moment," she said.

The performance sets up a battle for the podium on Friday. In addition to chasing strong scores by both Zagitova and Medvedeva in the short program, Osmond will also be trying to fend off Japan's Satoko Miyahara, who is fourth with 75.94 points, and Kaori Sakamoto, sitting fifth with 73.18 points. Italy's Caroline Kostner is sixth at 73.15.

Daleman, who touched the ice on her specialty jump – a triple toeloop, triple toeloop combination – was unhappy with her skate and struggled to force a smile as she waited for her marks.

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"I'm very hard on myself, I've always been," Daleman said. "Overall, I just wasn't happy with it, because that's my jump. It's just a stupid mistake … I don't know what happened, and that's what I'm most frustrated about."

Daleman said she was proud of herself for not letting the rest of the program suffer after the early mistake, which could leave her off the podium. She said plans to use it as motivation for the free skate.

"To be honest, I'm going to get angry over the next few days, and make sure it doesn't happen again," Daleman said.

Though Austman struggled with her double axel, she drew rave reviews for her costume from Saturday Night Live comedian Leslie Jones, who was doing commentary for American network NBC.

Jones remarked that Austman's sequined cocktail dress, along with the costumes worn by Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir while winning their ice dance gold medal, were the envy of the Americans.

"Canada got a damn costume factory some-damn-where, because they are killing us with the costumes, dude," Jones said. "First Virtue and Moir, now [Austman]. I like this outfit."

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Osmond, 22, Daleman, 20, and Austman, 19, are the youth movement of Canada's figure skating program, with medal-winners Patrick Chan, pairs skaters Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, and Virtue and Moir all expected to make this their last Olympics.

It is the second Olympics for Osmond and Daleman, who were in Sochi four years ago as rookies. But while those Games were largely an exercise in gaining experience on the sport's biggest stage, they both came to Pyeongchang hoping to contend for a spot on the podium amid a deep and talented lineup of skaters, including the Russian women who sit first and second after the short program.

Osmond said she was looking forward to competing against them. Osmond took silver at last year's world championships behind Medvedeva, while Daleman claimed the bronze.

"They're such sharp competitors and they're always at the top at every event. So it's really inspiring, and not so much intimidating, being on the ice with them," Osmond said. "But knowing that I'm able to compete at their level, compete on the same ice as them. It shows that I have the same strength and it's just inspiring to see how I can measure up."

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