As readers of pages know, I tend to vegetate in front of the television when the Olympics are on -- whether the Summer or Winter Games, it makes no difference. With remote control in hand, I snooker down on the sofa and click away, as much of the day (each day) that I can get away with.
I had possible travel plans in February but when I realized the Winter Olympics start on February 9, that put an end to that. It sort of made zero sense to travel when all I'd do is sit in front of the TV all day -- with no certainty that I'd have access to the Many Networks of NBC, which will be covering it all. I explained to those on the other end that things have been re-scheduled. They were understanding.
Anyway, NBC recently finished broadcasting the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. I missed most of them because of CES activities, though that's okay. I like these pre-Olympic events, but important as they are, including National Championships...they're pre-Olympics, not the Olympics.
I did catch up with the "U.S. Figure Skating Sports Spectacular" event last weekend, which was largely an entertainment exhibition of those who either got a medal or will be participating at the Games. (It was a little confusing how they decided which is which. Some people with medals won't be going, and some will be going who didn't get a medal. I suppose it had to do with how well people did during the season, or if they were injured, or...oh, I don't know.) The broadcast also showed several of the Gold Medal-winning skates.
One thing I liked that's new this year in the telecast is that during a skater's performance, they now have a little box in the upper left corner of the screen with a running display of how the athlete is doing on technical merit. There are 12 squares for each required element, and when the judges determine how well that was accomplished, the box displays green, yellow or red. It also showed a running total of the skater's technical points, in comparison to the current leader. (The presentation points -- formerly "artistic" -- are not displayed.) It worked very nicely, and put things in perspective, with more of a sense of the competition.
I also am glad to see that the broadcast team of Terry Gannon, Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir will be back. I came across them several years back when they were starting out on the NBSsports Channel and have blossomed in popularity, moved to the #1 team. Weir and Lipinski can occasionally be a bit too self-serving, but Gannon does a good job keeping it all under control, and I get the sense from what little I've seen this year that they've matured a bit with time and gotten more comfortable, toned down somewhat. Goofiness and humor is great, but ultimately this is a sports competition, not the Ice Capades, and hitting the right balance helps. What I particularly like is that they actually talk during the skate and analyze it and explain what is happening, what was done well and poorly, and why. That was something the previous analysts -- Scott Hamilton and especially Sandra ("Oh, how lovely") Bezic didn't do. Also, for the pre-event analysis and post-game wrap-up, they again have Scott Hamilton who does an excellent job in this position, and much better than when he was calling the skate. And he has a new partner with him, Tanith White, replacing Bezic who was very nice but a waste of air space. White was perfectly okay, and host Liam McHugh did a good job.
Generally, I find the Ladies competition a bit more interesting than the Men's, and I also like the Pairs. Can't stand and don't watch Ice Dancing. I have no interest in the "required cha cha" or "required tango." ("But it's soooo pretty," I hear some cry out. Swell, but this is an athletic competition. And if you're going to have Ice Dancing, then why not have Competitive Ballroom Dancing. It exists as a real event, and is exactly the same except that it's on a hardwood floor, not ice.) That's the way it goes. For commentary on Ice Dancing, one must go elsewhere.
All that said, the skater who blew me away was the Men's champion, 18-year-old Nathan Chen. He defended his national title from last year, and is remarkable. He's the only skater in the world who does five "quads" in his performance (basically jumping and spinning around four times, though there's more to it than that). And there's more to his performance than just that, as well. From what the commentators were saying, he appears to be one of the favorites for the Olympic Gold Medal, if not the favorite.
Here's what I mean. This is his Gold Medal Skate. (Note this is not the NBC feed. It comes from a channel called Ice Network, so it's different announcers that who NBC will have for their broadcast.)