Olympics recap: Canadian curse on ice, really happy American on a sled
Aside from watching skeleton slider Noelle Pikus-Pace finally win her Olympic medal, there wasn’t much to love in NBC’s primetime broadcast on Valentine’s Day. Commentator Scott Hamilton referred to the men’s free skate as “disappointing,” and Ted Ligety admitted he “choked” in the Super Combined. On the upside, I did have time to wonder how many people have sang, “I like the way you work it, Ted Ligety” to the tune of “No Diggity” to him, so that’s something. (Update: At least one.) Here we go.
OLYMPIC STUD OF THE DAY: It’s possible no runner-up in the history of the Olympics has ever been happier than Pikus-Pace. We heard her long journey in Thursday’s telecast, and her story finally got a happy ending as she slided to a silver behind Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold. What we learned: Noelle’s son (in green below) has inherited his mother’s good lungs.
Also, there’s room for so many emotions on the mountain. Here’s the U.S.’s Katie Uhlaender, who finished .04 seconds behind bronze medalist Elena Nikitina of Russia, trying to fight back tears. She ultimately failed.
Meredith Vieira, talking to Pikus-Pace below, filled in for Bob Costas and deserves a medal for her legs.
THE CANADIAN CURSE CONTINUES: Longtime figure skating fans know that Canada hasn’t had luck winning a men’s gold medal even when they have the reigning world champion. Look around, Patrick Chan, there are a few reminders in the arena! (P.S. I’m jealous Canadians get to hear Kurt Browning do commentary.)
The three-time world champion Chan broke Scott Hamilton’s heart when he couldn’t capitalize on Japan’s 19-year-old Yuzuru Hanyu falling on his opening quad and stepping out of a triple flip during his “Romeo and Juliet” free skate. Chan had multiple deductions on jumps, and Hanyu’s lead from the short program was just too much. Chan had to settle for silver while Hanyu took home Japan’s first gold ever in the men’s event. Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten earned the bronze, his country’s first figure skating medal, while jumping in a cummerbund, which was impressive. But after watching a performance like Jeremy Abbott’s — which Abbott choreographed with his coach Yuka Sato to Muse’s “Exogenesis Symphony Number 3” — Ten’s felt a bit hollow. You can’t imagine anyone connecting as deeply to “The Young Lady and the Hooligan.” Jeremy Abbott simplified some jumps but stood tall, which landed him in 12th. Fellow American Jason Brown had a distant shot at the bronze, but wound up in 9th after his “Riverdance” routine failed to match his performance at Nationals. Still, both Americans left the free skate satisfied, which was nice to see.
While the quality of the programs in general was a letdown, here are the Top 5 moments:
1. Spain’s Javier Fernandez, who finished fourth, gets catcalled.
2. Hanyu does that dramatic move that no one does better than Paul Wylie.
3. Hanyu sticks his ending. (There’s nothing sadder than when a skater finishes after their music.)
4. The vest worn by Germany’s Peter Liebers, who finished 8th, didn’t necessarily match his music (“Who Wants to Live Forever”) but it did match the rink!
5. Chan wears the competition’s best shirt, with non-sheer heavage and a hint of movement when he picks up speed.
SUPER COMBINED BUST: First of all, am I the only one who thinks commentator Todd Brooker sounds like Sex and the City‘s John Corbett? Okay, now on to the competition. The unseasonably warm temperatures made yet another event on the mountain less than ideal. It was 41 degrees at the top of the men’s downhill, and 51 degrees at the bottom, which meant the snow could slide like gravel on a road. The U.S.’s Bode Miller and Ted Ligety had won this event, which combines downhill and slalom, in 2010 and 2006, respectively, but alas, they finished 6th and 12th. (Their American teammate Jared Goldberg, who I don’t even remember making the telecast, came in 11th.) The big story was whether Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic could finally make it to the top of the podium after two silvers. He had every advantage: His father, Ante, who’s also his coach, set the slalom course (meaning he designed it). But nope, he’s once again the bridesmaid (bringing his family’s Olympic medal count to 10). Switzerland’s Sandro Viletta took gold, and Italy’s Christof Innerhofer was very excited to earn bronze.
Miller seemed to swear, understandably, after his slalom run.
Ligety opted for a little head smacking.
But the guys will both be in the Super-G on Sunday, so let’s cheer up.