The Olympics began in earnest last night, despite the opening ceremonies not taking place until Friday. New events slopestyle snowboarding and team skating took center stage, and not even 24 hours into competition viewers have already got Team USA heroes — hooray, Jamie Anderson! — and disappointments — when you cry, I cry, Jeremy Abbott. Look elsewhere for your recap of the actual athletic performances; here’s all you need to know about the best television moments. (I’m looking at you, cutaway to a USA top hat.)
He’s Such an Elsa: We kicked things off, as always, with Bob Costas anchoring. But while the Internet quickly decided Costas was announcing from Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, I’m more inclined to think the NBC folks took their set inspiration from current box office hit Frozen. Perhaps by the end of this week we’ll get Costas covering “Let It Go”? The Olympics are the time for dreams to come true, after all.
Possibly surprising some viewers, Costas didn’t shy away from all of the controversy surrounding the Sochi Games. Right in his intro he said NBC’s coverage would include talk about “security, cost overruns, and human rights issues…” It’ll be interesting to see how that coverage continues as part of the primetime highlights. For Thursday’s broadcast, it meant having a New Yorker reporter and others on to discuss why Vladimir Putin is so powerful, and why it’s important for the Games to go well. The experts explained Putin couldn’t possibly care less about how things are perceived outside, but that he was quite invested in whether Russians themselves thought the games were going well. Chilling!
On a lighter note: Slopestyle! The new snowboarding event — which drew headlines earlier this week when USA fave Shaun White dropped out of the event — was certainly something to watch. The power of the women, particularly, made this event memorable. No one was getting eliminated last night; they were competing to be one of the highest four scores, which would allow them to automatically advance to the finals, bypassing a middle round. The only downside of watching people who just have unbelievably more balance than you or I was a lack of knowledge about the sport. Not knowing a lot of specifics made it a little difficult to tell who was great and who wasn’t so hot — if they didn’t have a major wipeout, they kind of all looked the same flying through the air.
Team Skating: Last night also debuted a new skating category: Team Skate. And, as Olympian-turned-commentator Scott Hamilton explained, the pressure is on. If you mess up, “you don’t just let yourself down, you let your team down as well.” How does it work? There are 10 teams of one man, one lady, one pair, and one dance couple. For each event, the team that finished in first place gets 10 points, second nine, and so on. At the end of the short program, the five lowest teams are knocked out and teams may substitute two players. The team with the most amount of points win. But don’t worry: If you fall and all of your teammates complete perfect routines, that won’t be an awkward night in Olympic Village at all.
About That Pressure… Yes, Team USA-er Jeremy Abbott didn’t have the best routine in his short solo performance (and having to follow Russian superstar Evgeni Plushenko was no picnic for anyone). But my goodness, the announcers were auditioning to be Regina George. Here’s just a sampling of things they said to/about Abbott (and most of this was before he even performed/messed up!):
–“For a skater that’s historically struggled with nerves, to have to come out right after Plushenko? Not the one you’d pick.”
–“You see that 9th at the 2010 Olympics, of course that’s a sore spot.”
–“He had a disastrous short program there, which left him in 15th place…He’s trying to put behind [him] that personal nightmare.”
–“He’s never had the success internationally, because of the way he handles the nerves.”
–“This is a disastrous performance.”
–(After his routine, to him) “Tell me in your words what went wrong tonight.”
Is it any wonder this was the final result?
Mostly thanks to Abbott’s less-than-stellar opener, Team USA is currently in 7th place for team skating. Russia currently holds the number one spot, followed by I-personally-think-superior-to-Russia Canada and China.
Snarkiest Bob Costas Comment: Explaining why his eyes might look a little wonky: Pink eye. Or, as Costas told it, “Woke up about as red as the old Soviet flag.”
Olympic Stud of the Day: Jamie Anderson
One of the few athletes who got a prepackaged intro, Anderson was easy to root for right off the bat. As the announcer explained, “She’s a tree-hugger — literally. Before she begins, she’ll take a few moments to herself and bear hug a tree.” A woman after my own heart. The announcers went out of their way to describe her chill, “lethargic” style on the slopes — which many viewers likely assumed was an exaggeration. But watching her incredible run, it really did seem very matter of fact, like, “Oh, I guess I’ll attempt to win a gold medal today.” Very cool, and one to watch for the rest of the competition. Automatically advancing to the finals after her score tonight, she’s currently second only to Austria’s Anna Gasser.
Anderson narrowly edged out Russian skater Plushenko on the Stud Ranker, but never fear: A man who wears outfits with that much bedazzling will find his way to the top of this list by the time the Games are over. Jazz hands!
Top 5… Coveted Items of the Night:
Costas’ aforementioned ice palace:
Sparkles! (Not coveting the gems? The lady behind him):
Cinderella costumes courtesy of the Russians. (Side note: Bringing all of my young girl princess fantasies into the ice skating fantasy really isn’t playing fair. That’s got to be a rule violation.)
The best Dad outfit of all time:
Neon green-trimmed eyewear (which many athletes were sporting):
End Note: In moguls, three Canadian sisters all advanced to the finals — in case the athletes were already making you feel like your family might be a little lazy.