By Annie Barrett
Updated August 03, 2020 at 07:04 PM EDT

Despite a brilliant skate, Japan’s Mao Asada (left) finished nearly five points behind South Korea’s Kim Yu-Na (middle), who broke her own world record in the short program. NBC pitted the two 19-year-olds’ routines side-by-side in this crazy video. So which Brian of the 1988 Battle of the Brians is Kim? Even though silver medalist Brian Orser is Kim’s own coach, the answer has to be gold-medalist Boitano. The chunky jewels on Kim’s mosaic-style James Bond dress simply come far closer to the gold hardware on Boitano’s blue military-style costume than anything on Asada’s dress ever could. But enough about that. EVERYONE rose to the occasion last night! Or more succinctly, in the immortal words of one of Scott Hamilton’s guttural spasms after someone lands a tough jump, “Owwwhh! What a night, unnhhhhh, I can’t believe it!”

Before I get into the ladies’ rankings, please join me in a hearty Canadian round of applause for your faithful PopWatch on Ice recapper Mandi Bierly, who was last spotted “performing” spiral sequences in the middle of a New Jersey Transit car midday Tuesday — eyes closed, iPod’s “Fo Shizzle My Twizzle” playlist on shuffle, hoping the train would transform into a giant bobsled and luge her all the way to Vancouver. (Update: She’s at her computer.) Top 6 finishers after the jump, and by jump I obviously mean triple lutz-triple toe. For the love of Scott, this is the Olympics! Owwhh!

1. Kim Yu-Na was just pure sexy-cool on the ice. (Watch.) After watching a bunch of biggest-celebrity-in-her-country packages about Kim that basically amounted to “the poor girl ran away to Canada due to stalkers,” I was hoping her actual routine would live up to the hype. Perhaps in the same way it’s hard to explain why she’s such a phenomenon off the ice in her home country, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s so dazzling about Kim on the ice. We keep hearing that other skaters are “pure athletes” and “jumping beans,” so for me it was nice to see a skater return to the playful, somewhat sultry side of skating — ye olde “artistic interpretation” from days of yore, if you will. (Read my interview with Kristi Yamaguchi for more on the disconnect between the current and former systems.) This is ice dancing, people. I’m sorry she has the weight of an entire country on her tiny shoulders, but how amusing was that fridge commercial in German? And now, in the spirit of NBC, I’m going to abruptly end a sob-story montage about Kim Yu-Na with a harsh cut to—

2. Mao Asada is the only skater with a triple axel, and she landed it! (Watch.) Scott Hamilton was so excited: “That is as free and easy and happy as I’ve seen her skate. When do you peak? You want to peak at the Olympic Games. Nailed this.” I especially liked that Mao received an ample audience reaction during the “Here I am!” pose in her spiral sequence. (My heart breaks a little when the skaters debut the Here I Am — the most audience-connective move in a given routine — to no recognition. Not even a “should we clap now?” titter. I guess you could blame the skater, but I usually blame the crowd. If I was in the stands, I’d be on the edge of my seat for the Here I Am so I could do a standing O every time. Sometimes it’s the music’s fault, maybe?) Anyway, I truly enjoyed Mao and hope she can be as relaxed tomorrow night as she was Tuesday. If she has to skate after Kim Yu-Na, will she be able to handle it?

3. Joannie Rochette Was anyone not crying before Joannie (pictured, right) even assumed her opening position? (Watch.) The Canadian skated on home ice just two days after the sudden death of her mother, and looked so emotional on the sidelines beforehand that I worried she’d wipe out right away and didn’t know if any viewer — let alone Joannie herself — could handle a whole routine. Wrong. The girl with a rose down her back and a tear in her eye found solace on the ice and skated a routine perhaps made even more beautiful and poignant by the fact that the commentators were completely silent throughout the entire thing. Perhaps Scott felt it would be disrespectful to have his usual orgasm every time she stuck a landing. “The scores don’t really matter, do they? But this is her personal best.” Hmm. I think they matter a little, at least tomorrow? I think we’d all love for Joannie to medal.

4. Miki Ando Japan’s Ando competed in the Women’s Skate Cross last night. (Watch.) You hardly knew which crucifix to focus on — the small one around her neck or the giant sparkly one emblazoned across her sternum. Ando lost points on some under-rotated triples, but attempted plenty of them. “Ohhhhh she’s GOIN’ for it all the way!” cried Scott. Still, her 64.76 fell far short of her season’s and personal best, so I guess she was the night’s disappointment. But isn’t it pretty awesome that the night’s disappointment didn’t even fall? I hate when everyone falls; it drags down the competition’s element of sheer wonder/magic.

5. Rachael Flatt Both members of Team U.S.A. exceeded expectations and will get to skate in the final group Thursday night — seriously, quite the accomplishment in itself. This one, Rachael, is a Stanford-bound smartie. “If anyone can figure out the scoring system, she can!” joked Scott. Oh honey no. Here was Scott Hamilton’s well-prepared assessment of Rachael’s routine: “The straight-line sequence really defines this program of personality, the intricacy, the difficulty.” (I initially thought he said “sequins.”) For me, Rachael’s routine was all about a total confidence I still can’t quite fathom for an 18-year-old and legs that were roughly seven shades darker than the rest of her. (Watch.) Very proud of both of our girls…

6. Mirai Nagasu Her “Pirates of the Caribbean” routine (watch) was one of the first we saw last night, and the master spinner set a gorgeous tone for the next few hours (of televised skiing). She turned a triple combination into a double due to lack of speed. Her mom, who wore clothes with holes in them so she could afford lessons while battling cancer, looked concerned after Mirai’s routine. She had developed a bloody nose from spinning too hard. Ah, the Olympics. By the way, I love when an early-competing Olympic athlete’s chances of becoming the current frontrunner are so high as to seem like a done deal before the score even pops up. What’s that, Mirai “needs 59.23 to lead”? OF COURSE she’s going to lead! I think I get as happy as they do. It’s like a mini gold medal in their minds.


  • I love the instant recognition of the skaters’ faces and sort of recognizing the look and shape of their names. Turkey’s Tugba Karademir! Of course!
  • The way Finland’s Laura Lepisto‘s maroonish sparkly sleeves didn’t really match the rest of her deep purple dress annoyed me at first, but then once she spent some time mid-air, the blue-violetness of the butt helped everything make more sense.
  • Sometimes skate guards look like snorkels.
  • I’ll let my mom, Dee Barrett, review Carolina Kostner via email: “The Italian got a little cheeky with her butt in those red panties! We, however, do not watch if someone falls — on to the next one… I didn’t get to see if that ever became much of a malfunction or not.”
  • My mom and I are maybe a little too fixated on people’s butts.
  • “The Japanese skaters received skates made of chocolate.”


Finally: OH MY GOD.

Does Kim Yu-Na get gold? Who did you love last night, PopWatch-on-Icers?

Annie on Twitter: @EWAnnieBarrett

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