Congratulations to EW.com’s Olympic Stud of the Day, Dutch Chris Hardwick a.k.a. Michel Mulder, winner of the Men’s 500-meter Stay In Your Lane event. I was just about to write off long-track speed skating as “almost too chill,” but suddenly there were twin Dutch brothers in the picture and I had to reevaluate (plus, duh, nothing in existence has ever been “too chill”; get it together, Annie!) After a very confusing “time correction” — an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one — kept Michel and silver medalist Jan Smeekens in the dark as to who actually won, a photo finish determined that Mulder had indeed edged out his teammate by one-hundreth of a second. Michel’s twin brother Ronald took the bronze, making it an unprecedented clean sweep for the Netherlands.
Cannot even decide who’s cuter. No need.
(It’s Dutch Chris Hardwick.)
Ha, okay, forget that. The Mulder twins’ proud parents are the cutest of them all.
Men’s Moguls: A Psychosomatic Terrorscape For Your Own Knees: Meanwhile, much of NBC’s telecast was a real slog both figuratively and literally as the unsavory springtime skiing conditions severely messed with the competitors’ ability to relax and ski their best. But tough cookies, right? Insurmountable obstacles are what the Olympics are all about.
Carolyn Manno even held up a representative slush chunk so we knew how bad it was.
It was AWFUL. A nightmare!
But gold medalists don’t let piss-poor conditions — or angry, dilapidated moguls — stand in their way. Canada’s Alex Bilodeau became the first freestyle skier ever to repeat gold. You may remember the Vancouver winner’s brother, Frederick, too — he’s six years older, has cerebral palsy, and is Alex’s biggest fan. The uneven sidewalks of Sochi are no match for their brotherly bond (seriously, both guys looked like they were about to take a tumble here):
After his win, Alex ran over to Frederick for a big hug:
Alex said in NBC’s weepy bio segment and in his post-win interview that had Frederick been born with the same physical capabilities as him, he would have been three times as fast as Alex based on sheer motivation.
Meanwhile, Bilodeau’s teammate, 21-year-old alpine “prodigy” Mikael Kingsbury, took the silver. “Tonight, Canada is freestyle country!” [Do some sort of full-twisting double back flippy ski-flail here if you can. Do it in your mind!]
Women’s Super Combined: Given the slushy conditions, “super combined” struck me more than ever as some sort of icky grey-tinted extra value meal of unexpected balmy weather, potential injury, and utter dread.
Into the Blue Abyss
Manno’s commentary kept stressing…well, basically how freaking stressed out “this stair-stepping spine of a slalom hill” was making everyone. “It doesn’t feel good up there,” she said. “NOBODY’S FEELING GOOD.” Agh! Indeed, a few skiers had to give up after losing too much time in the slalom backend of the two-part race. It seemed like not too many finalists except now three-time Olympic gold medalist Maria Höfl-Riesch of Germany had devoted a significant chunk of their training to the slalom, which requires tiny “wiffle bat” skis instead of great big regular surfboard skis.
NBC provided lots of helpful diagrams to further compound my confusion and terror re: skiing in general.
Speaking of which: We got a hot little bio segment of how Team U.S.A. skier Julia Mancuso likes to take the month of April to visit Hawaii and surf and really dig into the importance of Letting Go vs. Muscling Through. It may have seemed cheesy to some, but this sort of personal journey of finding yourself in the rhythm of the ocean and “letting it flow” is pretty much what I’ve been very (painfully) slowly attempting to do for the past three years since moving from New York to California. So to see a person who’s functioning at such an astronomically higher achievement level narrating the potential solution to all of my problems was pretty INSANE! But great.
Hell yeah. But enough about us: Here’s Julia Mancuso’s grandpa, a huge influence on her getting into the sport in the first place. He passed away last year, and you can tell he was the best:
“Big Race Julia” — always super in the clutch — dug out a bronze medal from the slush, or “found the inner fierceness to GO TO BATTLE with this rough angry slalom course” in NBC commentator doom-speak. She said growing up in Olympic Valley (Squaw Valley, host of the 1960 Winter Games) was what made her love the Olympics. Julia is now the most-decorated (see today’s special homage to flair, below) female U.S. skier in history, and if she skis well Wednesday, she could tie with Bodie Miller as the most metallic U.S. skier ever. She’ll do it! No doubt.
PAGE TWO: The Unbearable Frightness of Speed Skating; Pieces of Flair
Short Track Speed Skating: Men’s 1500m: Is any sport more frustrating to watch (and probably do?) than this one? Forget competing against yourself — the theme of short-track speed skating seems to be “It’s great that you trained your whole life for this, but some other guy wants the inside track, so SEE YA!”
And they’re never sorry. It’s just the sport.
Even that puck-like lane divider gives me anxiety!
You may have recognized South Korean skater Viktor Ahn as Ahn Hyun-Soo, who’d sported Harry Potter glasses at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
He’s skating for Russia now, or, “he’s wearing a Russian skin-suit,” as Apolo Ohno announced a bit more energetically than he has ever announced anything. (This is true for most things Apolo Ohno says; each is more vigorous than the last; I am loving his passionate commentary!) He won three golds in 2006, missed 2010, and picked up a bronze tonight — Russia’s first-ever short-track medal.
Meanwhile, U.S.A.’s J.R. Celski valiantly made the finals but failed to set the pace of the race himself; that duty and the gold medal fell to Canada’s Charles Hamelin, who should probably be our Olympic Stud of the Day just for this awesome kiss he laid on girlfriend and fellow speed skating star Marianne St-Gelais — but as the 1500 isn’t even supposed to be Charles’ best event, he should have at least another chance down the line.
Day 4’s Top 5 Pieces of Flair:
5. Maria Hoefl-Riesch’s snow leopard helmet
4. Austrian Anna Fenninger’s cheetah helmet/spiky bun
3. Switzerland’s Lara Gut was the perfect ’80s movie ski bunny queen bee in these shades.
2. Julia Mancuso’s sparkly eye shadow/gold sequined scarf/(not pictured: tiara worn on podium)
1. Charles Hamelin’s neon green goggles/crazy pants
That’s more like eight or nine pieces — but let’s go with it! You can never show too much personality at these Games. Just ask Bob Costas, whose right eye is now as tired, splotchy, and red as his left.
Snarkiest Bob Costas Comment: I think the guy’s too damn tired to be that passive-aggressive right now, but I did like his characterization of halfpipe favorite Shaun White’s big Day 5 ahead as “anxiety for him; anticipation for us.”
Update: Whew, thank God… Bob Costas gratefully gulps vodka with Mary Carillo
Share your own Olympics-related anxieties, fears, hopes, dreams, and Stud-crushes in the comments….