I get chided for not only getting up early to watch the Olympics, but also watching offbeat events which often are considered boring. Including cross-country skiing, a field which the American women have never won a medal of any kind, ever. Well, nyah, nyah, nyah to those people -- because early this morning, I watched the women's Team Sprint, and when the great and joyous Jessie Diggins made the switched off on the final leg from teammate Kikkan Randall...they were actually in third place, in contention for that first-ever medal. But more than that, on this furious final leg, Diggins (having at one point made it to first place but by then fallen back again to third as they entered the stadium) broke away on the final turn...and didn't just get a medal, but fricking won the race, and the U.S. women's team got a Gold!!! And by a whopping .19 seconds. This is not just the first medal of any kind by the women cross-country skiers, nor only the second cross-country medal by any American (the first was Bill Koch 42 years ago), but the first Gold Medal by any American in the discipline
Announcer Steve Schlanger gave an enthusiastic call, but it was of course his maniacal analyst Chad Salmela who I thought would have his head explode. I've written often how he goes bonkers screaming at anything exciting for any country, but this pushed him off the Richter Scale. (His cry of "HERE COMES DIGGINS!!!!! HERE COMES DIGGINS!!!!!" reminded me of the famous call in the 1960 Rome Olympics when little-known American Billy Mills came from nowhere to sprint past the world's best -- "HERE COMES MILLS!!!!!" -- and win the 10,000 meter race.) If you see they are going to replay the end of the race, do yourself a favor and watch. For the race and the call. But this photo below says it all.
I've been pretty clear that I don't care for the "freestyle" (hot dog) skiing events -- there are few that are briefly watchable, but one that I do enjoy is the Ski Cross (which as a snowboarding cousin). What is good about it is that unlike all other downhill skiing events, this has athletes actually competing against one another at the same time in a race, rather than one at a time against the clock. And though there are oddly-designed hills that skiers have to fly over, that's all they do -- no acrobatics or "tricks," just basic obstacles, so it's not particularly different in theory than the steeplechase. It's simply a pure race for speed. The finals were exciting -- except like short-track skating, half the racers wiped out so there were only two athletes competing for the podium. Something which unfortunately is inherent in the sport, as well.
My favorite skater during the women's short program last night was Kailani Claire of Australia. Not because she was best -- she wasn't close, but was very good and had a fun performance -- but because of her choice of music. How could I not love a skater who opens her performance with Ella Fitzgerald?! I don't have the video of it, but here's the audio.
It was shame to see the U.S. men's hockey team get knocked out in the quarterfinals. But it's not surprising because those they took the game into overtime, they lost in the shoot out because the Americans looked lackluster in the third period. Tonight is another and big hockey game as the women go for the Gold Medal against their rivals, Canada. It will be broadcast on NBCsports.
Speaking of hockey, my pal Claire Duffy Swift who works for NBC News produced a very nice piece on three former Yale hockey players who, 10 years after their college days are now on the U.S. team. I can't post the video, but you can find it here.
After over a week now of Olympics Watching, enough TV commercials have repeated endlessly-enough that I feel qualified for a few observations:
With two commercials featuring figure skater Ashley Wagner, it seems clear to me that sponsors thought the 2014 Olympian would be repeating and make the U.S. team again. But she didn't. I have no idea how good the Mamma Mia sequel will be or how many of the songs will be repeated -- it looks to have a thin idea for a plot (10 years after marrying, the couple is pregnant, but don't tell anyone), and I have no idea how many songs get repeated or how they justify bringing the three men all back now that we know two of them are not Amanda Seyfried's father, but it seems lively -- however, at least from the ads, it appears that Cher has made the acting choice to sleep-walk through the movie. So, nine out of 10 U.S. Olympians grew up drinking milk. For the record, there are 244 U.S. Olympians -- I want to know which 24 didn't grow up drinking milk. Hey, I want to know just five who didn't. Because I switch so often between NBC, NBCsports and CNBC when commercials come on or there's an event I don't want to watch, I miss the opening of many ads. And because of that, there's one ad that has made zero sense to me -- the one with the little girl holding a teddy bear and skating around with it. Until yesterday! It took over a week, but I finally saw the opening and now at last understand it. It's very cute -- though I can't tell you what it's for, which means it's not particularly an effective ad. It appears as if NBC has decided to remake the series, Glee, and call it Rise. My guess is they pitched it as "Think Glee but crossed with two shows that have worked so well for you, Friday Night Lights and This is Us. So, it's totally different from Glee because it's serious and about real teen angst. But with singing and dancing and musicals." Finally, my grocery story has a free special every Friday for card members. Last week's turns out to have been the Hershey Gold that has been advertised heavily during the games with Apollo Ohno. It was free, so I got one -- and it was very good. It's chocolate mixed with peanuts and pretzel, so it tastes sort of like a Reese's Peanut Butter Up.
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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