They Always Get Their Man

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Three Americans who have already won gold medals in Vancouver try for three more, and Mary Carillo does her best Dudley Do-Right impression. It's Day 9 of the Vancouver Olympics!

• We begin the night with the 2-man bobsled. Is it bobsled or bobsleigh? I've heard it called both. For instance, the official site of the Vancouver Olympics calls it bobsleigh, while the NBC Olympic page calls it bobsled. I would normally side with the Olympic site over the network, but it gets even more confusing. On this Olympic page, it's called both! Who knows? I guess it doesn't matter. But if you want some more information, you can read about bobsled/sleigh history here, and on this page you can watch a cool POV shot of being on the run at St. Moritz, the very first bobsleigh/sled run. That's probably more than you really wanted to know.

• Anyway, back to these Games. The first two teams down the bobsled run are both from Germany. Both teams featured one teammate slapping the other. I'm assuming that was for luck and not because they hate each other, but they are Germans, so you never know. The Russians do high fives. The Dutch slap each other on the feet. The first Americans down the track just do a little fist bump. Maybe the reason that the United States historically hasn't done well in bobsled is their lack of slapping. After the first run, the U.S. team of Steve Holcomb and Curt Tomasevicz is in sixth place.

• Now it's time for speed skating. Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick are expected to compete for gold tonight in the Men's 1500m. Unlike the bobsled, this event is actually live, so there's a short commercial break between each set of skaters.

Remember all of the ice problems they've had at speed skating this week? Play-by-play commentator Dan Hicks tells us that because of that, the athletes have nicknamed this arena "The Slow-val." That's funny.

•  We watch several races before we get to Hedrick, and he seems pumped and ready to go. He starts out fast, but clearly gets winded early and finishes over a second behind the leader. Fifth place. No medal for him.

Davis races next in the last heat against Canadian Lucas Makowsky. Think there's going to be any crowd noise in THIS race? Shani is doing all right after the first of three laps, but he's behind NBC's superimposed "leader line." On lap two, you can see by his facial expressions that he's giving it all he's got. Good closeups, NBC! On the final lap, the leader line is still out of his reach and you can tell he doesn't have another gear. The leader line finishes first. Shani Davis finishes second.

There's nothing wrong with second, but this whole thing seemed kind of anti-climactic. Maybe NBC spent too much time hyping Shani Davis here. After all, he only won silver in this event in Turin, too. Oh well.

• To the mountain and the Women's Super-G in using NBC's Tape-Delay-O-Vision. I'm sure those of you on the internet earlier today know how all of this turns out, but I don't, so shhhhh!

Julia Mancuso goes first and thus is in first place! That probably won't hold up since her line wasn't that good at the top. The most impressive thing about her run was the multi-Julia-strobe-cam. I don't know what else to call it. If you were watching, you know what I'm talking about.

The next skier we see had a problem in the same place as Julia, but unlike Mancuso she couldn't keep it together and went down. Skier number 12 is Maria Riesch, and she beats Mancuso's time. NBC uses Simulcam to show us the turn which Julia took wide and Maria took correctly. Nice!

• Steve Porino does a nice little segment on Lindsey Vonn's skis. For both the downhill and today, she's been using men's skis. I know what you're thinking: they're just slabs of wood, right? Oh no! First of all, they're all composite now. Secondly, men's skis are longer, stiffer, and thicker than women's skis. What? They are! Get your mind out of the gutter. Anyway, because of all of that, you need more strength to use them. Pretty informative. Thanks Steve!

• Next up, Lindsey Vonn and her guy skis. She finishes first again! If this holds up and she wins gold, here's an interesting question: if Lindsey hadn't caught a ski tip in the Super Combined, would she be this Olympics' first three-gold winner?

• Two skiers later, Austria's Andrea Fischbacher renders that question moot. Even though she almost lost it near the top of the mountain, ran into the padded barrier at the finish line, and hit herself in the face with her skis while celebrating, she still posted a time faster than Lindsey's, putting Vonn in silver for now.

•  More Simulcam! This time it's Vonn versus Fischbacher. Given that the skiers can't run at the same time, this effect is a really good way to show where one racer outperformed another.

• Slovenian Tina Maze beats Vonn out of the silver and yells "Da! Da! Da!" at the camera. Commentator Tim Ryan says he doesn't know what that means, but she seems happy. I don't know Slovenian, but I know "Da" in Russian is "yes." I don't think it's too big of a stretch to guess she just said "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

• Gratuitous crash-cam. American Chelsea Marshall catches an edge near the top and wipes out. I don't really have a problem with this. In America, you want to see how the American's do, even if that means watching them crash. Too bad for Chelsea.

• So Fischbacher ends up the winner. But in her post-race interview, all I can think of is how much she sounds like another famous Austrian... Ahnold. Afterwards Bob tells us she's the second-cousin of fellow Austrian ski champion Hermann Maier, also known as "The Herminator." Coincidence?

• Oh no! It's back to live events, this time with Apolo Ohno and the Men's Short Track 1000m quarterfinals. Canadian Charles Hamelin wins and Ohno finishes second to qualify for the semis. How must other racers feel racing against Ohno? He just hangs back in third or fourth place until the last three laps, then he effortlessly passes the leaders. That's got to be demoralizing.

• American J.R. Celski races two heats later. We almost had some fluff there when they showed his leg injury AND his brother, who has never seen J.R. race and is only briefly in Vancouver until his Army unit redeploys to Iraq. If either of these had been slow-motion or dramatically lit, they'd be fluff. But as they were presented matter-of-factly, I'll let it slide. Celski makes it through to the next round.

• Over to Whistler medal plaza, where Jon Montgomery of Canada prepares to get the gold medal he won in skeleton last night. Will he sing, "Oh, Canada"? Yes! Him and everybody else in the partisan crowd.

I hadn't noticed this before, but the Mounties are in charge of the flag raisings, and in this case, all of them are saluting. Cool.

• Coincidentally, Mary Carillo is here tonight to present her long form fluff about the Mounties. She travels to Regina, Saskatchwean to report for Mountie training. Imagine the drill instructor scene in Full Metal Jacket played for laughs. It's kind of like that, only not actually as funny. She also gets some training in high-speed driving, handcuff application, and some time on the gun range. The best part is the music. During the training sequences, Mary does calisthenics to the music from Stripes. When she finally gets to put on the scarlet tunic and Stetson hat of the Mounties, they play the music from the bridge scene of The Untouchables, which coincidentally, features the Mounties. Well played!

So, I like Mary's fluff better than Jimmy Roberts' fluff, but still, is there nothing close to Vancouver to do a story on? Regina is over 1,000 miles from Vancouver. As much money as the Vancouver tourism department has been spending on ads for the Olympics, you'd think NBC would be showing them some love instead of promoting something two provinces away.

• Over to the short track for the semifinals. Michael Phelps is in the crowd. Hopefully he brought his Olympic luck and not his post-Olympic luck.

Semifinal 1 has Celski, Francois Hamelin of Canada, and two Koreans. I don't distinguish between Korean racers because they always race as a team. With two laps to go, Celski passes Hamelin and the Canadian falls down, and despite the fact that neither of those two was anywhere close to the Koreans, Hamelin was advanced while Celski was disqualified. How does THAT work? J.R.'s Iraq-bound brother disagrees with the call.

In Semifinal 2, Apolo lets everyone go by him to start off in fourth place. A misstep by China's Han Jialiang advances Ohno to third. So again Ohno is in third with 2 laps to go... One lap to go... HALF A LAP TO GO! WOW! Somehow he makes a move to go from third to first in less time than it takes me to write this. Amazing! Unless of course you're the guy who finished third. Then it's demoralizing.

• Back to the bobsled for some crash footage. The British crash was the most spectacular, with the brakeman actually ejecting himself from the back of the sled. Both are fine and were interviewed afterwards, saying that they got a little burn on their back but will return, presumably for the 4-man bobsled, or bobsleigh, next week.

• Another crash, this time from Canada. Because both riders stayed in the sled and because it crossed the line, they weren't disqualified. So here's how the Olympic rules break down:

1. If your bobsled crosses without you in it, you're disqualified.
2. If your bobsled crosses upside-down but you ARE in it, you're still in the competition.
3. If you cross a finish line on your stomach without skis, you're disqualified.
4. If you cross a finish line on your stomach with skis... well, that hasn't happened yet, but I can't imagine it would be good, can you?

• Fluff for Simon Ammann, ski jumper for Switzerland. In 2002, he won two gold medals and was a star. In 2006, he finished 38th. Now in 2010, he's won two more golds. Bob said he found his mojo again.

Okay, but did we just do this story because we were waiting for short track to be ready? That's kind of what it looks like.

• Back to the short track for the Men's 1000m "B" final. But while we wait, why don't we look at this low-angle shot of Apolo Ohno's crotch? Eww... why don't we NOT, NBC.

The B final only has two racers in it because J.R. Celski was disqualified and Canada's Francois Hamelin was advanced to the "A" final. I know these two can race just for pride's sake, but really, how much pride are you going to feel for saying "I'm number six! I'm number six!" Well, I guess you'd feel more than for saying "I'm number seven."

• The "A" final features two Canadian brothers, two Koreans who will probably be racing as a team, and Apolo Ohno. This place is going to EXPLODE.

Even better, in a short Ohno pre-taped interview he insinuates that the Koreans might race as a team, even though that's illegal, but because it's hard to judge that, you just have to prepare for it. I knew I wasn't the only one who thought that!

The race starts. It's an Ohno sandwich with Canadians in front and Koreans in back. Four laps to go, Ohno moves to second. Three to go. Apolo's slip puts him in fifth! Two to go. Same! LAST LAP! Apolo passes BOTH Canadians on the BACK HALF OF THE LAST LAP to get the bronze, his seventh Olympic medal!

I know I keep typing in all-caps, but it's exciting! How could you not?

Korean Lee Jung-Su wins gold. And in addition to the silver medal, Korean Lee Ho-Suk's gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein. I know, it's a terrible joke, but I couldn't help myself.

• An intimate moment with Apolo Ohno. As he takes his skates off, he talks to the camera, smiling while saying that it was a great race and that if he just hadn't made that one mistake... He looks very satisfied. This is a man on top of his game.

Moments later, he talks formally to Andrea Joyce, and says pretty much the same things, just more eloquently. If this really is his last Olympics, he'll be missed.

• And to close out tonight's show, Britain's Amy Williams gets her gold medal for skeleton. Will she sing along to "God Save The Queen"? Yes! Good for her!

I would have bet you a loonie each that at least one of the trio of Vonn, Davis, or Ohno would have brought home a gold medal today. That's why they play the game! Better luck tomorrow as I try to decide whether to watch regular Olympic coverage or the MSNBC broadcast of U.S. vs. Canada hockey. See you then!