We watch the Olympics all day so you don't have to.
Nice to see Nathan Chen get a bit of redemption and respectability by having one of the all-time highest scores in the men's freestyle figure skating. That's the Nathan Chen I was referring to last month when writing about the U.S. National Championship. He remarkably moved up from 17th place to 5th -- and only missed 4th place, just one spot out of the medals, by only .4 points. I'm sure he was thrilled by that redemption. I'm equally sure he's also thinking that if he'd only had a mediocre skate in the short program and finished that night as low as 6th place, which would have been a disappointment, he'd have ended up winning the Gold Medal. In fairness, if he'd been that close, there's obviously no guarantee he'd have had that "sense of redemption" push for the freestyle skate. He'd certainly have had motivation to stake great, but it would have been different, so you can't really extrapolate one result over a different situation.
Sorry to see Lindsey Vonn miss out on a medal in the Super-G. It's tough skiing first, especially when they had to push the event back due to winds, so the competitors didn't have a chance to test the course. But still, she skied very well and dropped out of contention because of a mistake she made near the end. Also, this isn't her best event, which is the downhill, so that's yet to come. But bizarre and wonderful to see that everyone at the Super-G (athletes and TV alike) got flummoxed by the result. After basically anointing the winner and all the celebrating at the venue, TV cut away -- only to have to return and show on replay (!) the actual Gold Medal-winning run by an athlete no one thought had a chance, Czech snowboarder Ester Ledecka, whose highest standing in the Super-G all year was 19th. When she finished, it was a hoot to watch her expression which seemed not to comprehend the results showing that she had taken over first place. At the press conference afterwards, she left her goggles on, explaining that she hadn't expected to win, so -- unlike the other competitors -- she hadn't put makeup on earlier.
I particularly like the Super-G. With the lengths and the curves of the course, you usually get an especially-great view of the mountain range as the skiers fly down.
There's a problem telecasting races like skiing, the bobsled and luge and such, where you only have one person racing at a time, and they're going against the clock, rather than one another. There are a few ways that TV could help things, though -- one would be very easy and workable, the other would be great but not likely. For the first, a problem is that TV only lists the time of the skier in first place, so that's the only comparison viewers get. But three competitors are vying for the medal stand. I think TV should list the times of all three top athletes so the viewer could know that, even if the current racer didn't beat the top time, he or she might still have placed in medal contention.
The other thing that TV could do is...well, actually something they already do, but only on a rare occasion. And it's great when they do it: after a race, they sometimes superimpose the leading skier going downhill over the racer who just competed. The technology works great and appears as if they're racing each other. I don't know if it's only possible to do that in short bursts when both races have been recorded, or if it could be done live for an entire race. If the latter, I'd love to see that (though I have no idea if it would be too odd and distracting). But in lieu of that, I wonder if they could do something in these sports like they do in speedskating -- and that's have a line that marks the pace of the leader, which shows in relation to the skaters on the ice. They do that live, so you can see in real time where things stand in the race. (Oddly, though it works great, they only use it on occasion.) What I don't know is if that technology only works because a skating track is a consistent oval, whereas skiing runs and a bobsled track is full of twists and turns. But I do hope they can come up with something -- if not these technologies, then something.
This morning, the U.S. women had a strong chance to win their first-ever medal in cross-country skiing, with the running of the 4x5K relay. Four legs of about three miles each, with their top skier Jessie Diggins handling the anchor leg. Unfortunately, they were pretty much out of the race halfway through the first leg. Before the race, analyst Chad Salmala said that the team had to stay without about 20 seconds of the leader to be in contention. Halfway through that first leg they were already 35 seconds behind, and by the end of the leg that margin had increased to over a minute. They held that for the rest of the race, so a strong first leg might have gotten them a medal, but as Salmala noted, "It just wasn't her day." They came back a bit from the pack and ended up in fifth place (Diggins' third fifth-place finish of the Games, I believe), but it wasn't enough for the podium. However, the race not only had an exciting sprint finish, with Norway beating Sweden by under two seconds -- but it was the 13th Olympic medal by Norway's anchor Marit Bjorgen, tying her for the most medals by anyone in the Winter Games...and with this being her 7th Gold Medal, that is the most for a woman in Winter Olympic history, for any sport.
I like the biathlon, another of my faves. In part because it's so odd -- shooting and skiing -- but in part because I actually find it a pure Olympic event, harkening to man's primal days of of find food in the winter, far more than any of the freestyle skiing competitions. The women's competition was enjoyable though fairly uneventful, except for one notable tidbit. Anastasia Kuzmina was born in Russia but when she was dropped off the Russian biathlon team a decade ago for not having good results, she moved to Slovakia. She won the Gold Medal. A pretty good result, by any standard. And another of these Game's "Ooops" Moments.
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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