The second day of the London 2012 Olympics was filled with more teeth-clenching and heart-wrenching moments than last night’s episode of True Blood. At this pace, we’re going to be a ball of nerves by day 17. As anticipated, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team ruled the day, but their world was rocked when world champion Jordyn Wieber failed to advance to the individual all-around finals. In other upsets, France nabbed the gold in the men’s 100-meter freestyle relay, lowering Ryan Lochte’s pedestal while redeeming Michael Phelps. Now for the highs: Dana Vollmer set the women’s world record in the 100-meter butterfly and the U.S. won its first synchronized diving medal in history. Despite all the action, parent reactions, colorful commercials, and NBC’s overall coverage (including its lack of live broadcasts) provided the most entertainment and discussion fodder.
Keep your friends close, but your frenemies closer
Aly Raisman knocked reigning world champion Wieber out of the all-around gymnastics final, reinforcing the network’s theme of the night — these girls are each other’s best friends and biggest threats. From home videos of them training with each other as children to non-stop commentary about the pressure to compete against teammates, the stage was set for someone’s triumph to mark another’s downfall.
Wieber erupted into tears as soon as she caught sight of the scoreboard, covering her eyes in vain. And the 17-year-old’s pain was our pain. Audiences everywhere wanted to run up to her, clean her chalky hands, and give her a big bear hug. To make matters worse, NBC later interviewed Raisman in front of Wieber as Wieber struggled to maintain her composure. Let’s just say that those awkward hugs the girls give each other after completing an event are going to get a tad more uncomfortable come Tuesday.
The spectacle prompted a discussion about the fairness of the Olympic rule that limits each country to two gymnasts in the all-around finals. (Wieber had the fourth-best individual all-around score, but she trailed fellow Americans, Raisman and Gabrielle Douglas). Bob Costas later interviewed former national team coach Béla Károlyi about the policy and I think Károlyi, whose wife Marta is the team’s coordinator, also found it unjust. Subtitles would be extremely helpful in future interviews.
Vollmer loses her cap, finds gold
Everybody loves a good underdog story. Vollmer didn’t qualify for the Olympic Games in Beijing but was the favorite to win yesterday. Even after a slow start and after losing her top cap mid-way through the race, she smoked the competition and set the world record for the women’s 100-meter butterfly.
“The top cap came off,” she told Andrea Kremer after winning her first individual gold medal. “I have never had that happen before. I thought about it, and maybe it kept my mind off my legs hurting or something. I don’t know.”
NBC’s commentators were visibly upset about Vollmer’s (cap) loss and said on multiple occasions that they hoped it would be returned to her. Really? The girl just broke a world record, I think she’ll be just fine without it.
In a complete role reversal from the Beijing Olympic Games, the American men lost their lead in the final leg of the freestyle relay, relinquishing gold to the French. Phelps swam second and outperformed his teammate and rival Ryan Lochte (who had the lead when he dove in for the final leg the race), redeeming himself after a disappointing performance in the 400 IM the previous day (which Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines played up to unprecedented heights). Speaking of choking, Australia — the favorite to win gold — finished a disappointing fourth.
Lochte seemed completely stunned by the loss and resorted to making excuses. “The 100 free, I don’t really swim it; I haven’t swam it in a long time,’’ he said. Oh what a difference a single day makes; Lochte’s grill didn’t even make an appearance.
Rubber ducky you’re the one, you make diving lots of fun
With a little help from their yellow friend, Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston ended the U.S. diving drought, earning America its first medal since 2000 and first-ever hardware in synchronized diving. NBC stressed how compatible the girls were: They apparently both love rubber ducks and even share a rubber duck pet named Alfred. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.
I’m not sure how it affected their overall performance (perhaps it was the key to their silver medal), but the girls had an affinity for Beats by Dr. Dre and disdain for the divers’ jacuzzi. While the other competitors stepped into the hot tub to warm up in between dives, Bryant and Johnston avoided it as though it had been transplanted from the set of Jersey Shore.
Mom-cam at its best
All parent reactions at the Olympics are priceless, but Aly Raisman’s mom’s convulsions left everyone else in the dust. She winced her way through her daughter’s bar routine, yelling out encouragements and commands (“Stick it! Stick it!”) alongside her husband. Clad in USA Polo gear, the two also dressed the part of the ultimate stage parents.
Watch their reactions below:
-Citi bank tried to convince us that “Olympic athletes are just like the rest of us.” I’m sorry, I didn’t buy it from Us Weekly and I’m certainly not going to believe it now.
-AT&T aired a commercial about Lochte winning the 400 IM. That was fast. If only I could say the same about their customer service.
-Retired Olympic gold medal gymnast Shawn Johnson appeared in a promo for Matthew Perry’s upcoming sitcom Go On.
-Swimmer Natalie Coughlin is the perfect cover girl for Pantene Pro-V. Finally, a shampoo commercial I can stand behind!
Check back in tomorrow for more NBC Primetime Olympics coverage.