THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2018
THE WORLD WITHOUT AMERICA
Even NBC can't make something happen without support.
- Welcome to the biggest night of any Olympics, the evening of the Women's Freestyle program in figure skating. It will all be LIVE tonight. We start by talking to Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, who apparently has killed Liberace's couch and skinned it for his jacket. Skating coming up soon!
- But first we head out to a different ice skating arena for the short track speed skating. Ha! Just kidding. It's the same arena, but hours earlier. This is the Men's 500-Meter quarterfinals. It's four laps of madness. MADNESS, I SAY! No Americans qualify for the semifinals. Apolo! It's time to come out of the booth and get back on the ice!
- Next is the Women's 1,000-Meter quarterfinals. Again, no Americans are in this. But South Korea places skaters in both the women's and men's semifinals. We might as well root, root, root for the home team because at least the crowd will be excited.
- After a short commercial break, it's already time for the Men's 500-Meter semifinals. Funny how that works in prerecorded events. Anyway, the benefit of having time-compressed events like this is it's easier to see how much more effort the skaters put into the semis than the quarterfinals. Two Koreans qualify for the finals. This should be good.
- The Women's 1,000-Meter semifinals eliminate a Korean in the first race, and get one through in the second race. Korea has two chances to medal in the finals.
- Around the Games we go! The US men are going to the gold medal game for curling! Yes, really. Get your brooms out Friday night and organize your parties at home!
- And now for the Men's 500-Meter final. Go Korea! Koreans Hwang Dae-Heon and Lim Hyo-Jun take on Wu Dajing of China and Samuel Girard of Canada. And they are FLYING around this track, but it doesn't look like anyone can catch Wu. They don't, but Hwang and Lim finish two and three, so the home crowd has something to be happy about. The women's final isn't as kind to the home team. The two Koreans knock each other out on the last lap. The crowd goes silent. Well, I rooted as hard as I could.
- It's time for some Yevgenia Medvedeva fluff. The 18-year-old Russian likes K-Pop, Asian culture, and Sailor Moon. Well, who doesn't? It has those boom anime babes that make you think the wrong thing. Anyway, she likes to draw anime, which NBC decides is sufficient inspiration to literally draw her into her own personal anime segment. I've got to hand it to NBC on this one. While I still think fluff is a waste of time, they went all out for this one. Animation isn't cheap.
- MADNESS! It's the Men's 5,000-Meter Short Track relay race, which is basically one thousand people on the ice all skating a meter a piece. That's what it looks like anyway. Somewhere around halfway through the Korean team hits the wall, leaving only the teams from China, Canada, and Hungary to fight for gold. Last lap, Hungary passes and wins! Hungary has NEVER won a winter Olympic gold medal of any kind. They'll be burning couches in the streets of Budapest tonight!
- Figure skating time! We're 90 minutes into the broadcast. Will NBC stick with this the rest of the night? That would only be two-and-a-half hours. They could if they're planning on showing it all live. First up is American Alexia Paganini, who for this event, is not American, but Swiss. How many Olympic athletes are from America or train there but don't compete for them? I wonder if someone actually has that number?
- Let's recap women's hockey! The USA finally beat Canada to win the gold. Will they sing the anthem? Oh yes! Arm-in-arm, smiling, singing, all the players get into it and you can even hear singing from the crowd. Awesome. Sixteen years ago, I got to sit in the Salt Lake arena as Canada won the gold. Tonight, revenge! That was a long time coming, eh?
- More figure skating fluff! Tara tells us how figure skaters are defined by their rivals, then NBC shows us video of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. I don't think Medvedva and 15-year-old Alina Zagitova are quite that level of animosity, but who knows what Russian mobster lurks in the wings of the Gangneung Arena?
- LIVE figure skating time! Olympic Athlete From Russia Maria Sotskova is beautiful and graceful on the ice, but I guess if she has no rival, then she must not be a good skater. Maybe if she had just kneecapped someone with a baton she'd be somebody now.
- Karen Chen of the United States is next. She, too, is fine, but misses some jumps in the middle of her program. Clearly she needs someone who antagonizes her to perform better.
- Next from America is Bradie Tennell, dressed in blue and skating to music from "Cinderella." She might not have a real rival, but does an evil stepmother count? Her medal hopes haven't turned into a pumpkin yet, but there are nine skaters to go and she's only in second place. Probably no glass slipper for her.
- As she did in the Team Skate last Sunday, Canada's Gabrielle Daleman skates to "Rhapsody in Blue," but no amount of good-music-choice points I can give her are going to make up for her multiple falls.
- Choi Da-Bin of South Korea is a crowd favorite. Will she need a rival crowd to perform well? Nope. She skates well enough to move into first place for now.
- Mirai Nagasu of the US is up next, and while every move she performs looks fine, she was supposed to have done two triple something-or-others and only did two single something-or-others, so she's losing a lot of points. She can do no better than fourth.
- We're in the last group of six skaters. Only Bradie Tennell clings to a possible United States medal, and that's only a bronze. Unless all six finalists do a double McFacey-plant, it seems unlikely the US will medal tonight.
- Satako Miyahara of Japan, fourth after the short program, will be the first skater to try and break Bradie's glass slipper. And she does. There will be no fairy tale ending for Tennell. Miyahara moves into first.
- Italy's Carolina Kostner is probably the most graceful skater in the competition, but she can't do the jumps that all those young kids today do. When Zagitova is going to bounce all over the arena like Tigger, it's hard for Kostner to compete using arm flourishes. She is currently in second.
- Japan's other skater tonight is 17-year-old Kaori Sakamoto. And that's really all you need to know. As the other skater from Japan, she moves into third. She won't be there long.
- Next up, 15-year-old wunderkind, Alina Zagitova. She's moved all of her jumps to the second half of the program to get a ten percent bonus. The wonderful thing about Tiggers, is Tiggers are wonderful things. Their tops are made out of rubber. Their bottoms are made out of springs. Zagitova bounds around the arena, racking up points. She finishes 17 points ahead of Miyahara, who is now in second.
- Up next, the old woman from Canada. Kaetlyn Osmond is 22 and more than four years older than half of the finishing group. No, she's not as old as Grandma Kostner, who's 31, but her clock is ticking. Better win tonight, Kate! She's in second, so the worst she can finish is bronze. Good job!
- We wrap up the night with Medvedeva, trying to knock off rival teammate Zagitova. Yevgenia probably isn't as bouncy as Alina, but she has three more years of life experience, so that might make all the difference. "I don't know if we just watched gold," says Terry Gannon, "But I know we just watched greatness." Oh, please. He's been waiting all night to use that line. Tara and Johnny split on who they think will win, but they think it's going to be close. Well, it was definitely not gold, Terry, so maybe you should have used that line with Zagitova. Medvedeva finishes less than a point behind. The real winner here? Both skaters share the same coach, whose skaters won gold and silver. That's going to look good on the resume. Right now in Russia, there's an 11-year-old looking to knock them both off the medal stand in Beijing in 2022.
So both short-track speed skating and figure skating had no close American competitors tonight. Only via replays did we get to see US success. It's up to the curlers to save us! Sweep! Sweep! Sweep your way here tomorrow night!