It's the last day of the Olympics. But though the Games are winding down, we've stayed ever-vigilant to keep watching what little there is left through the night and day, just so's you can enjoy your Sunday and actually do things.
Though NBC covered a few of the skates at the gala exhibition, it missed most of them, which got covered in their late night broadcast. Among the most interesting were --
Yulia Lipniksaya, the 15-year-old who'd come to so much attention during the Team Competition, but stumbled a a few times in the individual event. During the gala, she had a couple of flexible moves, twisting her leg and bending her body is ways that anchor Terry Gannon called out, "That's no possible." Tara Lipinski quipped that she was "missing ligaments and muscle groups." Gannon added a great quote from Gracie Gold about Lipniksaya, saying that the Russian "had no spine, but iron in her bones."
The Chinese pairs team of Tong and Pong (who, one must admit, sound like adorable cartoon characters) have skated for 20 years and were retiring after this performance, and then getting married, which they put off for two years so they could focus on competing in the Olympics. They had a very tender skate to "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables.
Mao Asada is the Japanese Silver Medalist from four years ago, who was devastated by a disastrous short program, losing her chance to even medal, but coming back in the free skate to at least deliverer a tremendous skate that let her go out on a high. She did a lively performance to a medley of "Smile" and "What a Wonderful World," in a frisky arrangement. Gala performances often use music with singing -- something not allowed in competition (though I believe that's unfortunately changing for the next Olympics) -- so there was a fascinating irony to the first line of the performance: "Smile, though your heart is breaking." She had one of the most fun moments of the gala when she got to the line in "What a Wonderful World" that goes, "I see friends shaking hands, saying 'how do you do?'" -- at which point she had skated over to the boards and extended her hand to a photographer there. At first he was taken aback, but soon recovered and put down his camera, and walked over to shake her hand.
The French ice dancing pair had a very clever idea -- they re-created much of the final dance from the movie, Dirty Dancing. It was terrific, though they didn't carry it through and the song turned into some hip-hop number, though the did finally return back to Dirty Dancing. The commentary also pointed out the great rapport that the three broadcasters had that made them so good together, willing to joke and chide one another. After the performance, Johnny Weir enthused, "That was the best ever!" To which Terry Gannon responded, "I don't know if I'd go, 'Ever.' But pretty darn good."
My own favorite though was shown during primetime, when Gracie Gold skated whimsically to "All That Jazz." I like performances during the gala where skaters do things that they'd never do during competition. Hers had that wink and fun. For my taste too many of the skaters performed to oh-so-tender numbers that let them emote and show their Artistic Side. The gals was terrific, nonetheless.
Moving to other coverage, Mary Carillo had one more wonderful piece that was near-and-dear to my heart -- a report about traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. As readers of these pages know (even if Chris Dunn gets a bit obsessive as only he can trying to quibble over the details...), I absolutely love trains, so it was a joy to watch.
The winning line of the the Olympics came during an in-studio discussion about analysts who joined Bob Costas to discuss their thoughts on the games. At one point, commentator Ato Boldon -- medal-winning former athlete -- said with great enthusiasm about the difference being on the broadcasting side of the event, "I'm here experiencing all these things with my own two eyes for the very first time..." -- at which point Bob Costas interrupted him and said, "Well, you're one eye up on me." The room broke into hysterical laughter.
Canada won the Gold Medal, fairly handily it turned out, beating Sweden 3-0. It was interesting to see most of the players and even coaches singing the Canadian National Anthem during the medal ceremonies. Keep in mind that these are all professionals in the National Hockey League, but clearly the victory had a lot of meaning to them.
I'm sorry to see the competition end because I love listening to Doc Emrick. But unlike the other announcers who we'll have to wait to the next Olympics or perhaps world championship to hear them covering their sport, happily Doc Emrick is the main hockey announcer for NBC so there's much more ahead, and soon.
And still more cross country, the Sport That Never Ends. In this case, almost literally. It's the 50K race. That's around 31 miles, the Winter Games version of the marathon. Yes, 31 miles of skiing cross country. Nice landscape at least. Lots of clacking and shooshing. Shockingly, an American, Noah Hoffman, was actually in second place with 7.5 kilometers to go, out of first by five seconds. (Then again, "only" 7.5 kilometers is still skiing for another 4 miles...) And lots of skiiers were still in the midst. In fact, 28 still in contention! It must be SO annoying to ski for 30 miles and lose out of a medal by seconds. At a certain point, I wonder if any of them are thinking how they'd like to take off their skis and start running past everyone. But in the end, in front of a Russian crowd going crazy, Russia swept the podium, winning Gold, Silver and Bronze, as a Russian skiier came from behind and sprinted into third place to complete the sweep. He beat the Norwegian skiier for the final medal by -- are you ready? -- .2 of a second!! After skiing 31 miles. Forget losing by "seconds" -- that would have been forever by these standards. This was losing a medal by just two-tenths of a second. And to wrap up the news, the American, Noah Hoffman, ended up 26th.
And finally, we have to end the Bob Sledding coverage with mention of perhaps my favorite event (because as I said at the beginning, it's one of the events that gives me hope to keep my own Olympic Dream alive) -- the four-man bobsled. I won't give the results because NBC is re-broadcasting it during the afternoon. But what I'll say is that at one point the announcer excitedly cried out about one of the sleds when the latest time break was posted on screen during its run: "And now they're pulling away!!!" They had increased their lead by .01 of a second. The smallest amount the clock will allow. That said, these two sliding announcers were very good throughout.
And now, on to the closing ceremonies. Let's see if they have a tribute to the Ukraine...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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