Bode wins gold, “aboriginal” skaters and I’m forced to watch hockey


Paul Chinn / Houston Chronicle

So many pointy things.

Whew. For a hot minute there, I thought we were in store for some hockey action tonight on NBC primetime as we tied up the last few fleeting moments of NBC Nightly News. Luckily for me, it’s going to be on MSNBC, and therefore, I don’t have to care.

But what do we get instead of burly men in lots of protective gear skating around doing manly things like smashing into each other and hitting stuff with sticks? Well, we get FABULOUS men (and sometimes their sisters) in lots of sequins doing FABULOUS things like twirling and making sexy tango faces at each other.

Before we get to that, you know what I hate? The sound of the skates on the ice in long track speed skating. I don’t know what makes it sound worse than figure skating or short track — I suppose there are more powerful and frequent pushes on the ice — but it’s like nails on a chalkboard.

Cindy Klassen was living the dream of a Canadian speed skating champ. Then one day her sister got in a really mean car accident. Like flip over a bridge in bad. So Cindy took time off to care for her sister. She was once the most decorated Canadian athlete. These were supposed to be her games, but now she’s not even the best ranked on her own team. But she’s still got her sister. What she doesn’t have, however, is gold. Not even close.

Skating, skating, skating … All you need to know is the Netherlands loves their speed skaters and takes them very seriously. They even have this thing called the Holland House which is sort of like the House of Blues of speed skating. And the winners get to go there and get hugged by someone who I assume is important to the Dutch, and then a giant, fake gold medal crowd surfs up to the stage. So. Confused. (Sidebar: I’m really embarrassed about how many times I had to rely on Google to double-check the Netherlands, Holland and Dutch were all sort of the same thing.) It’s gold here for Holland/Netherlands/The Dutch in the women’s 1500m.


Sheesh, more super combined downhill. I still don’t understand what this event is or what separates it from the slalom or the super-G. Hey, look! It’s Bode Miller! I vaguely recognize that name. He fails to overcome first-place Norwegian (and sweetheart) Aksel Lund Svindal.

YES!!! Ice dancing time. Tonight is the original dance, the second of three nights. The compulsory (not upholstery) dance is a set routine all teams perform. Tonight, they have to include certain elements, but are free to choreograph them as they’d like and use whatever music they’d like within a certain tempo. (Think of it like the men’s short program.) This year’s theme for the original dance is “Folk/Country.” Americans Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates come out in their rodeo finest to hit the ice to a song by the Dixie Chicks. You know what’s a strange juxtaposition? Country music, chaps with fringe, cowboy hats and FIGURE SKATING. Samuelson and Bates earn a 53.99, and a 85.36 total over the two rounds.

Wait. What’s happening now? What’s this ski cross noise? Apparently this is the first time we’re seeing this in the Olympics. Whoawhoawhoawhoa. All these skiers are going rilly, rilly fast and going over jumps and stuff AT THE SAME TIME? THAT IS A LOT OF POINTY THINGS MOVING REALLY FAST AND GOING AIRBORNE AT ONCE. TOO MANY THINGS, IN FACT. Canada’s Davey Barr and Switzerlands Micahel Schmid manage to advance to the semifinals without getting impaled, so that’s good, I guess.

Here’s Cris Collinsworth to give us our dramatic backstory of the evening. Chris Del Bosco is looking into a mirror in black and white, so you know it’s serious. At 13, he started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. At 17 he was banned from the U.S. junior ski team for a positive marijuana test. At 21 and 23, he got DUIs. Then he “switched to the less formal scene in Ski Cross but his behavior would mirror the nature of his new sport: fast, unpredictable, dangerous.” I’m sorry, say what, Collinsworth? So marijuana use and drinking and driving are totally cool in ski cross, because they’re “less formal?” Huh. Then Del Bosco got drunk and fell in a creek WHILE WALKING. That’s how drunk he was. He broke his neck. But he just kept drinking. In 2006, he entered rehab and has now been sober for more than three years. Now he’s skiing for Canada. I’m still a little uneasy about sending him down a hill moving so fast in close quarters with other athletes while strapped to four very pointy things. He manages to advance without impaling anyone either.

Why, why am I watching semifinal qualifying ski cross and not ice dancing? When network television collapses, I hope you, NBC, are first.

In the finals, Del Bosco went too big on the last jump and took a spill, missing the podium. Chin up, Del Bosco, you’ve come a long way.


Here’s something useful, Steve Porino is telling us the difference between downhill and slalom. In downhill, you use bigger, more stable skis, but you can’t take tight turns. In slalom, you use smaller skiis to navigate tight turns, but you can’t move too quickly or you’ll wipeout. It’s tough to master both.

Unless you’re Bode Miller. Who flies into first and SPOILER ALERT (in case you just time traveled here from 1977 via Jughead and don’t know how to use the Internet): He wins gold.

Honest to goodness true fact about Bode Miller: He dated a professional log roller in 2002. Thanks, Wikipedia!

FINALLY, back to ice dancing where the French are doing a cancan and pantomiming smoking. (Announcer: “And anyone who’s been to France knows how popular cigarettes are!”) Is this the national stereotypes program of ice dancing? The Americans are cowboys, the French smoke and do the cancan, what’s next? The Italians come out and start spinning pizza dough? The Japanese make smaller and more efficient automobiles? Therese compares it to the Miss Universe National Costume portion of the competition. Anyway, the French earn 58.68 and a total of 96.67. Sacrebleu!

British skaters (and siblings) Sinead and John Kerr go American to Johnny Cash’s I’ve Been Everywhere. At one point, he rides her like a truck. No, really. She’s on her back and he’s straddling her. All that icky, brother/sister stuff I mentioned Friday? Yep. Here it is. Gross. 56.76/92.75.

Up next, Italy’s Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali. They’re keep it real with an Italian folk dance. Their outfits seem a little more demure than what we’ve seen so far. Apparently we should be a little concerned with their “twizzles.” Whatever you say. 60.18/100.06.

YESSSS. Up next, the Russians with the controversial “aboriginal” costumes. They’ve toned it down by losing the face paint, some of the tribal paintings on the costume and, oh yeah, the darker flesh tone. Good call, guys. You’ve got to tread carefully. Trust me. They’re performing to some grunting, didgeridoo, drumming music that’s sort of strange and is already making me uncomfortable. At one point he pulls her by the hair. (“Aboriginal” = cavemen?) Then she stands on his thighs with her skates, which just seems unnecessarily dangerous. 62.84/106.60.

No. No to bobsled.

Huh? Just half way through some Germans’ run, they cut away to hockey, live. Noooooo! I thought I was safe from hockey! SIGH. It’s Canada vs. U.S.A. and U.S.A. wins! They beat Canada! I have no idea what that means! Did we win a medal? No idea! They show us like 2.2 seconds of game and then the empty rink. Just lingering on the empty rink. After consulting with Therese, we think we’re in the finals and will either end up with silver or gold, depending on how that goes. And Canada plays Germany now for ha-has. But what do we know?

Turns out, not much! Canada will have to win four games, the U.S. will need three wins … for gold maybe? I’m still so confused. Bob Costas pretty much pees in his pants underscoring what a big deal this is in Canada. All the front pages in the entire country of Canada — and NOT just the sports sections, he’s very quick to point out — will be about this hockey game. This is going to send tremors throughout Canada. TREMORS, COSTAS SAYS.

Now we get to watch Cris Collinsworth sit in an empty arena talking about this. WHERE IS THE ICE DANCING?

Oh good, here it is. Meryl Davis and Charlie White will be skating a Bollywood routine, even if they’re American. This dance has been a big hit on YouTube, apparently, in India. I’m sorry, but is there something off about Meryl Davis’ face? It’s like her eyes are too far apart. She’s beautiful, of course, but there’s something strange. I know, I know, I’m a terrible person, but COME ON, tell me you weren’t thinking it. More importantly, their routine was awesome. They earn a 67.08/108.55. FANTASTIC.

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France skate next to a song called Thank God I’m A Country Boy. It’s about as authentic as the Russians’ “aboriginal” routine. At one point there’s a really embarrassing air banjo moment and no. Just, no. 59.99/96.12

Israeli siblings Alexandra and Roman Zaretsky ice dance to Hava Nagila. It’s fine, but not nearly as good as some of the others we’ve seen earlier. (Though, I’m glad they chose a celebratory dance and not a sexy tango, because, you know, gross.) 55.24/89.62.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are up next from Canada, performing a Spanish flamenco. They’re incredible and bring the crowd to their feet for a standing ovation. Clearly a standout routine. 68.41/111.15.

The final team for the night is the American pair of Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto. They’re skating a Moldavian folk dance. Huh? A Molwhaza? No matter, it was high-energy and super fun and very, very impressive. It’s the only routine that made me realize I was applauding at the end. I loved it. What can I say, the heart wants what it wants. And my heart just wants Moldavian folk dances. They earn a 62.50/103.33, which lands them in fourth place. Honestly, I’m surprised. I certainly would have them over the Russians’ “aboriginal” dance.

Ice dancing comes to its dramatic conclusion tomorrow night and Therese will be here to blog all about the free dance. (Someone, c’mon, step up and skate to GaGa. Dedicate it to Johnny Weir. Please.) She also gets the pleasure of watching freestyle skiing (what does that mean?) and zzzzooooommmm WHEEE! ski jumping.

UGH FINE, I’ll mention the 10 minutes of bobsledding I saw. Some observations:

– Bobsledders are sort of hunky, meaty men. Like Chris Pratt on NBC’s Parks and Recreation.

– The Americans’ bobsled looks a lot like the Batmobile.

– I want to be the guy whose job it is to sit in the back of the bobsled and put my head down like I’m motion sick. I could totally do that job.

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