As I noted the other day, I like watching figure skating, though with a lot of caveats. Thus far, they've had the new Team Skating event, and overall it seemed successful. (Skaters from each discipline compete -- women's single, men's single, pairs and "ice dancing" -- and a team gets points from each.) Not all the top skaters competed in full -- for instance, a team can use one skater for the short program, and a different skater for the long program. Also, half the teams get eliminated after the first round, so you don't see some athletes fully compete. And also, some countries don't have competitors in each category, so they don't participate.
NBC will be showing the end of the team figure skating competition tonight, though NBS Sports had it on earlier. I won't give away any results, but do have some observations about it all. "All" being the skating and the telecasting of it.
One observation from all this is that Americans shouldn't expect to win a gold medal -- or even medal at all -- in the premiere event, women's single. That's not to say they don't have the talent to do it, just that the field is very strong. Last Olympic winner Kim Yu-Na from South Korea is competing again. So is 2010 silver medalist Mao Asada from Japan. None of that guarantees them a place on the medal stand, but one has to consider them strong contenders. And if so, that only leaves on spot. Young Russian skater Julia Lipnitskaia, only 15 years old, was considered an outside shot for a medal coming into the Games, though more someone for the future -- but not only did she blow the judges away in the Team Event, but she now well may be the favorite for the gold. She was that great.
That doesn't leave much room for the Americans, or anyone. But -- since the all takes place on ice where people often fall, and nerves can grow, it's certainly reasonable to think they have a chance. Three Americans will be competing, but two have the best chance -- Ashley Wagner and "she with the perfect Olympic name" Gracie Gold. Of the two to, the one who has impressed me most (both from the Team Event where they both skated, and the U.S. Nationals) is 18-year-old Gracie Gold. And it's not because she's from Chicago. She surprised people by winning the Nationals, but everything I've seen from her has been flawless and (no pun intended) graceful, landing every jumping with a seeming ease. Wagner is very good, the previous U.S. Nationals champion, though she's had problems falling, and the question is whether she can give two clean skates.
Either of the two Americans could get a medal. Gold could even win the Gold. But they're facing really tough competition from above, and there are only so many spots open.
So, that brings us to the TV coverage.
As I mentioned previously here, I have a serious problem with NBC's skating analysts Scott Hamilton and Sandra Bezic. What they say before and after the event is fine, but during the skate they're borderline useless. Hamilton does a fair job, with rare, occasional comments, but Bezic is a waste of air space, either being totally silent often for the entire skate, or just tossing in some inanity like, "Lovely" or "Oh, my."
So, it was with interest that I watched the coverage on NBC Sports where the analysts were folder Gold medalist Tara Lipinski and Olympian Johnny Weir. I had my hesitancies -- Lipinksi is still pretty young and hasn't been around skating all that long (Hamilton has probably been announcing almost longer than she's been alive), and Weir has always seemed more interested in Johnny Weir than others. It was with much pleasure to discover that they did a very good job. Not great yet, but for a first Olympics they were very impressive.
First, they both spoke and analyzed during a skate. Second, they made helpful and insightful comments. Third, neither minded being critical, even of Americans, but did it all politely and professionally. And most fascinating of all is that Johnny Weir speaks Russian! So, periodically he'd fill in what the crowd was shouting.
Interestingly, on NBC's primetime coverage, the overlapped much of the same material, so it was possible to directly compare the two announcing teams. Hamilton and Bezic did slightly better than previously, but that's not saying much. They were still deeply flat. And in the end, for my taste, Lipinski and Weir skated circles and double-Salchows around them.
So, if you're someone who likes watching figure skating, you might want to check when NBC Sports is covering them, and either watch there or perhaps record them for viewing instead.
Side note a tip for anyone who follows Olympic figure skating. Given that Tara Lipinski won the Gold Medal at the age of 15, and Julia Lipinskaia just won a team Gold Medal at the age of 15...you might want to keep an eye on any skaters whose last names start "Lipinsk" and turn 15 when there's an Olympics upcoming.
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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