Welcome, welcome to an Olympic night filled with speed skating, a little slalom — say that three times fast — and more speed skating. Tonight’s Olympics coverage was all about the final women’s alpine skiing event, and more speed-skating crashes than you could possibly handle. Add in a little more Shani Davis disappointment, and that’s about it!
First things first, our Olympic Stud of the Day honor shall be handed to America’s own Mikaela Shiffrin who became the youngest slalom gold medalist at the age of 18. Not only that, but for a moment in her second run, she almost fell over, saving herself by completing her turn on one ski! Then, she was able to recover and beat out one of her skiing idols by a full half-second. Yep, I think it’s safe to say that a one-ski maneuver to get gold deserves a little something special. Now, we’re off to the races!
Short Track Men’s 500-meter: The first thing I learned tonight was how incredibly stressful it is to watch short track races. With less than a minute to find your way to the front of the pack, people fall … a lot. In the quarterfinals alone, we witnessed multiple falls.
There’s the classic collision:
Or the no-one-to-blame-but-yourself crash:
In fact, after America’s J.R. Celski fell on his own in the race (but then got up and finished), the judges decided an earlier fall in the race was the result of a Korean skater, and therefore, said Korean was disqualified so that Celski made it through to the semis. Talk about drama!
And while we’re talking about Celski, did you guys hear that he once made a documentary featuring Macklemore and Ryan Lewis? So he just earned like 1,000 cool points, right? And when you consider that he also holds the world record in this race, he only gets cooler. However, all that coolness didn’t help him in the semis, where he was eliminated in what Apolo Ohno described as “40 seconds of pure mayhem, carnage, and chaos.”
But there was one skater who seemed to laugh in the face of chaos, and his hair looked like this:
Enter Russian skater (and former Korean skater) Viktor Ahn. Ahn took hold three gold medals in the Torino games and now had the opportunity to be the first man to win gold in all four speed skating events (not in the same games). In the finals, Ahn started out in last. Then, before I could blink, one skater fell, and suddenly Ahn made his move all the way to first to win gold! And then he proved that his hair wasn’t the only awesome thing about him when he celebrated like this:
Alpine Skiing Women’s Slalom: Elsewhere in Sochi, all the pressure seemed to be on American skier Mikaela Shiffrin. The reigning world champion, Shiffrin was going up against her skiing idol, Austrian Marlies Schild, in a very difficult slalom course. But the 18-year-old prodigy was able to execute a solid first run down the mountain, something that made her adorable parents very happy. As the commentators put it after Shiffrin’s first run, “Dad’s pumped; mom’s relieved.”
However, run two proved to be more challenging for skiers with the soft conditions of the course. American skier Resi Stiegler fell during her second run, and she wasn’t alone. Marlies Schild’s sister Bernadette also went down. Proof:
According to our commentator, Bernadette suffered from “over-skiing.” I hate when that happens, don’t you?
With only one skier left to complete her second run (Shiffrin), Marlies Schild was sitting pretty in first place. If she won, she would be the oldest competitor to take home gold in the event. And if her admirer Shiffrin won, she’d be the youngest. Here’s how they were feeling about those fun facts:
Seconds into Shiffrin’s run, the skier started to go a little too fast, even getting airborne at one point. Luckily, Shiffrin only needed one ski to complete a turn, and her recovery from that heart-stopping moment would earn her the gold.
As she put it in a post race interview, “Start grinding out that gold guys, I’m coming.”
(Also, what is Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and how does that relate to this event?)
Short Track Women’s 1000-meter: Back to the blades, it was time for the semi-finals, and once again, the falls kept coming. America’s Jessica Smith made it through after the skater in front of her fell of her own accord.
And after another two bit the dust (and were both penalized), it was time for the finals! Sadly, Jessica Smith took fourth as Korea’s Park Seung-Hi skated her way to gold.
Speed Skating Men’s Team Pursuit: Oh hey, Shani Davis! Time for a little redemption? No? Okay, that’s cool. Teaming up with Brian Hansen and Jonathan Kuck, Davis took the ice for the team pursuit. Sadly, the trio lost to Canada in the quarterfinals. Let’s just say that synchronicity was not their strong suit. Although Davis was the only one without goggles on, so at least he looked cool. Meanwhile, we saw that The Netherlands defeated France (by a big margin), before coverage ended. Who will win gold is nothing if not a mystery waiting to be solved. Moving on …
Short Track Men’s 5000-meter: Jumping straight into a final, we saw the return of J.R. Celski and Viktor Ahn, who both hit the ice with their teammates in what would become my surprise favorite event of the night. I’m still not entirely sure how it works, but I love how these teammates literally push one another to help move the relay along. And the number of laps, which I thought would surely bore me, only had me more intrigued. Who was going to give out? Surely they had to be tired, right? But I was wrong! This was one race that was fought until the final moments.
Let me back up: After an early wipeout, this race quickly became all about Russia and the U.S. Even though the U.S. team was ranked number one after the World Cup, Russia was in the lead for much of the race. But with only 15 laps left to go, we passed them! Wait! With only 7 laps to go, Ahn passed us back, and now Russia was in the lead! In the final laps, it was back to Celski versus Ahn as they anchored their teams. And finally, Russia came away with the win. But if I do say so, the event was the real winner, because it quite literally stole my heart. I mean, watch how they push their teammates along:
And finally, I will leave you with my Bob Costas snarky comment of the night: “Can you take a selfie on a flip phone? I’m just a decade or two behind the technological curve. We’re just about finished with primetime tonight. Hope you all enjoyed it on those newfangled color TVs.” Oh Bob, you kill me.