I've been yammering about how good Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir have been as figure skating commentators on NBC Sports Network, and the other day suggested that they might be the primetime analysts on NBC at the next Olympics. If you didn't see the primetime coverage last night of them in studio with Bob Costas, at the end of the segment Costas enthused, "You two really need to get your own show. If I'm running the network, you have your own show." Then right after, Willie Geist did a piece on social media and noted that the #1 person who has been searched for at the Olympics is not an athlete, but...Tara Lipinski. (I have to figure that this is in the U.S., but he didn't say that, so...?) Popularity like that does not go unnoticed by network executives. I stand by my guess. So, we'll see.
Alas, the U.S. men's hockey team got crushed by Finland 5-0 in the Bronze Medal game, so they'll be finishing out of the podium. The game was close in the first period, but the U.S. fell apart after that.
The U.S. also fell apart in speed skating and short track skating, which was probably the biggest disappointment in the games. They got zero medals in the former, and only one in the final team relay of the latter. And even that, they were the standing world champions and favored to win the gold, but got the silver instead.
The other day, I mentioned a snowboarder Vic Wild who was dropping in the sport and had lost most of his funding and support from the U.S. Snowboarding Association, so he married his Russian girlfriend (also a snowboarder) and competed for Russia instead. When I wrote about that, he had just won the Gold Medal. Well, last night, he won his second Gold Medal. Apparently that whole, "losing his funding" thing didn't work out real well for the association.
There were a several nice pieces one that didn't make primetime. The always joyful Mary Carillo had two: one about the birthplace of the sliding events, at the Cresta Club in St. Moritz, Switzerland, founded in 1885. And her second about the gorgeous Lake Baikul, the deepest lake in the world. There was also another piece by Jimmy Roberts on the first-ever Alpine skiing medals by the U.S. in 1964 when coach Bob Beattie predicted medals, and Billy Kidd and Jimmie Heuga both got on the podium in the very last slalom race.
But it's the third stood out. A beautiful and moving -- and long, about 45 minutes -- featurette on a Russian hockey team (Lokomotiv) that lost all its members in a plane crash two years ago, and the impressive effort to rebuild, with several twists near the end. One twist is political, involving Vladminir Putin and a dissident politician, but the most notable is a deeply emotional sequence when it's discovered later that the team's most popular player had been donating money anonymously to a charity for children in medical need, making his last donation on the day of the crash, allowing a young girl's life to be saved -- who ends up being "adopted" by the player's family and the new team. I'm sure it'll show up on YouTube. Look for it.
I had written about the great Norwegian cross country skiier Ole Einer Bjorndalen a few days ago. During his race today, they told a hilarious story about him. It seems that several years back, he bought a vacuum from a vacuum salesman and was so impressed by the guy's enthusiasm and attitude, that he hired the vacuum salesman to be on his team as his sports psychologist!
Bob Costas had the wonderful 18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin in studio as a guest on late night. She came across very interestingly -- charming and open, but surprisingly sophisticated for her years and even more confident, just on the good side of arrogant. When Costas asked her about the 2018 Olympics, and if she might be competing in all five disciplines, and not just the two she did this year, she said that that was the goal -- and joked with Costas about his question on winning everything, saying how, yes, she wanted to win everything, and than ran off a string of events which had nothing to do with skiing that she wanted to win -- checkers, hopscotch, everything she competed in. All with a smile and a laugh, but she looked like she meant it. It was notable that at the start of the interview when Costas mentioned that she was the youngest woman ever to win an Alpine skiing event and asked if she knew that, she said she did, that someone had told her earlier. Then, Costas laughed, "Ah, I thought I'd surprise you." To which he answered quietly, and I'm not even sure Costas heard because he was on to his next question, "I don't get surprised."