We’ll get to the puppies in a moment. Promise.
Bob Costas and The Eye check: Still no Bob Costas, which means The Eye is still with us, somewhere in a half-finished Russian hotel room.
Our new Bob Costas and The Eye, Matt Lauer and The Beard, explains that there are 10 sports on the schedule tonight. However, neither Matt Lauer nor the beard can count:
- Men’s Figure Skating Short Program
- Women’s Skeleton (first two of four runs)
- Men’s Slopestyle Skiing
- Women’s 1000 Meters Speedskating
(And, yes, I’m sure he meant that there were 10 sports competing in Sochi yesterday, not that NBC was covering 10 sports that night, but that is not what he said.)
First up, speedskating. There are 36 competitors in this event, so NBC narrows it down to 5 races that feature either the skaters who actually medaled, or that feature Americans, because they know what you want. (And what you want is not that much speedskating. Be honest.)
Here’s what I learned from Women’s 1000 Meter Speedskating:
- China has never won a Gold in Women’s Speedskating.
- The Americans had a big weird vent on the back of their skin-tight suits, but then they covered it up with some black duct tape or something, thinking it would make them go faster.
- The weird vents are nothing compared to the contrasting crotch patches on their suits. Why are there contrasting crotch patches on their suits? WHY DO YOU WANT ME TO LOOK AT YOUR CROTCHES, TEAM AMERICA? I FEEL VIOLATED.
- One of the American skaters, Brittany Bowe, holds the world record in this event, but it was clearly just a fluke or something, because no one seems to be taking her particularly seriously tonight.
- China eventually wins their first Gold in this event, the Dutch take both Silver and Bronze. Which I guess means that was a waste of perfectly good duct tape, Team America.
- Speedskating is interesting for like, one, maybe two races, but could be vastly improved by hot pink spangled unitards and twizzles. Maybe some Prince.
Let’s race on over to Women’s Skeleton, a.k.a. “Head First 80 mph Sledding,” a.k.a. The Most Terrifying Event in the Olympics, a.k.a. NOPE.
Why is it called “skeleton?” Glad you asked, because NBC isn’t going to tell you. According to the Internet, which as we all know is very trustworthy: “In 1892, an Englishman, Mr. Child, surprised his sports friends with a new sled made mostly from metal. Some speculate that since the sled looked like a skeleton, it was thusly called. Others claim that the name ‘Skele’ derives from an incorrect Anglicization of the Norwegian word ‘Kjaelke.’ Sounds legit!
We are going to spend a bunch of time on this event — which isn’t even medaling tonight, by the way — because we have a Great American Story for NBC to salivate over, especially now that Bode Miller and Shaun White are DEAD TO US (just kidding, they’re great, whatever).
Meet Noelle Pikus-Pace, Olympics veteran and mother of two. Pikus-Pace was supposed to compete in the 2006 Olympics in Turin, but that didn’t happen because while training in Calgary, her leg was broken by a four-man bobsleigh. AND THAT’S WHY YOU DON’T WALK ON THE BOBSLED TRACK. She competed in Vancouver, but only came in fourth. So in a fit of pique she pulled a Michael Jordan and “retired” to have children, except the retirement didn’t stick and here she is in the Olympics again. Pikus-Pace has two adorable children and a very patient husband and she had a miscarriage, and that is why we are supposed to want her to win, GO PIKUS-PACE! I guess. Why not.
Except. Except that I am having conflicting feelings. On the one hand, as a mother of two children, I have nothing but the utmost respect for her fierceness, determination and hard work. Being a mother is tough business, getting up at 5 and dragging your toddler out to the track while you train is unimaginably tough. And that’s why on the other hand, STOP IT, PIKUS-PACE, YOU’RE MAKING THE REST OF US LOOK BAD. I feel accomplished and healthy when I take the dogs out for a walk longer than around the block, YOU ARE RUINING THIS FOR ME.
Pikus-Pace competes in the first two of four runs in his event, the next two runs to take place tonight. And she does fine, pretty great, even, for a woman who has two kids and has been run over by a bobsledding team once or twice in her life. After the first two runs, she is behind Britain, Elizabeth Yarnold, of whom we learn exactly nothing. We also don’t learn a thing about Canadian Sarah Reid, other than that she has one bitchin’ helmet:
Someone we do learn about, sorta, kinda, is American Katie Uhlaender, who also has a cool American Eagle helmet, because U!S!A! U!S!A! U!S!A! Katie teaches us about the sleds they use: “We lie down on this part, and then this part goes on the ice.” Information! NBC also casually mentions but does not elaborate much on the fact that Katie’s dead father was a baseball player, and that she wears his National League Championship ring around her neck, leaving it up to us to find out more on our own. “That’s what Wikipedia is for,” says NBC, “look it up, dummy.”
Instead, we spend an inordinate amount of time on a graphic detailing Katie’s many injuries: broken foot, torn ACL and MCL, broken knee cap and a concussion for good measure. AND THAT’S WHY YOU DON’T WALK ON THE BOBSLED TRACK.
We also learn about a very pretty Canadian lady, Mellisa Hollingsworth, who won Bronze in Turin, but thencame in fifth in Vancouver where she had her own little Hannah Kearney moment with the press, crying and carrying on because she didn’t do as well she she’d hoped. Suck it up, Canada.
And so, after a bunch of terrifying, face-first skeleton runs that the announcers describe as “a dance” (Note: IT IS NOT A DANCE, IT IS A FACE-FIRST DEATH RIDE), as of last night, the Brit is in first, Pikus-Pace is in second, some Russian is in third, and Katie Uhlander is in fourth.
When we return to the Den of Loneliness, Matt Lauer solemnly informs us that after these very runs, the bobsledders began their training and promptly ran over an ice-making worker, breaking both his legs. AND THAT’S WHY YOU DON’T WALK ON THE BOBSLED TRACK. When will you people learn that you mustn’t walk on the bobsledding track?! How hard is it to avoid walking on the bobsledding track?
Hey, you know what time it is? It’s time for Men’s Slopestyle Skiing, because it is always time for slopestyle something or other, always.
There are some qualifiers, which we are going to just sort of 1260 triple switch triple cork our way over because, yawn, qualifiers. What you need to know is that there are a bunch of Americans who make the finals — a full third of the competitors who make it to the finals are American, in fact — and they are all adorable. So adorable!
One of the Adorable American skiers is Nick Goepper, who is from Indiana where they don’t even have ski resorts. In fact, they are so lacking in ski resorts, that he and his father had to build a terrain park in their back yard out of a lot of PVC piping. Nick Goepper’s mother is very patient and she is very understanding which is why she is one of those Procter and Gamble mothers and I most certainly am not because OF COURSE YOU’RE NOT BUILDING A TERRAIN PARK IN MY BACKYARD, ARE YOU DAFT?
Another Adorable American is Joss Christensen, whose father died in August. (Sadface emoticon here.)
Another Adorable American is Gus Kenworthy, who, as the image above demonstrates, is adorable and is busily saving as many homeless Sochi puppies he can find. No, but for real. Let’s look at another picture because ALL OF THE PICTURES OF GUS KENWORTHY WITH PUPPIES.
UGH. MY GOD. SO CUTE.
And the final Adorable American is Bobby Brown. Whose name is Bobby Brown.
Less adorable is some Swede, Henrik Harlaut, with whom NBC is bafflingly obsessed, possibly because he’s pretty sure he is Gary Oldman in True Romance.
Aside from the fact that Gary Oldman in True Romance seems to have an aversion to pants that fit, we also learn that he has a curious habit which, true story, he picked up from the Jamaican bobsledding team, wherein he skis with a raw egg in his pocket. For good luck. Now, I find it hard to believe the Jamaican Bobsledding Team bobsleds with eggs in their pockets, seeing as their unitards don’t have pockets, but whatever, Gary Oldman in True Romance, if you think it helps, knock yourself out.
I’m pretty sure the egg doesn’t survive his first qualifying run, in which he falls all over the place, PROBABLY BECAUSE HIS PANTS WERE AROUND HIS ANKLES, PULL UP YOUR PANTS, GARY OLDMAN IN TRUE ROMANCE, but he does fine in his second run and makes it into the finals, so what do I know.
In the finals, Gary Oldman from True Romance has two solid runs, and makes a bunch of crazy jumps, but the judges, like your trusty blogger, are so distracted by his ill-fitting pants that they only give him scores of 83.80 and 84.40. AND ANOTHER THING: GET OFF MY LAWN.
As for the only skiers that we are allowed to care about, Team America, they do super great! Gus, our puppy savior, has a rough first run, but has a terrific second run, performing something called a “mute grab double japan” and scoring a 92.40. GO, GUS! THE PUPPIES ARE PROUD OF YOU!
Joss Christensen is skiing with a photograph of his dead father in his pocket, which far more sense than an egg and is less likely to require dry cleaning. He scores an amazing 95.80 in his first run doing a “triple switch triple cork 1260,” whatever that means, and earning a 93.80 on his second run — which, fun fact, would have also won him the Gold, even if he hadn’t mastered his first run.
Handsome Bobby Brown has a less impressive set of runs, his highest score being a 78.40 because he sits pretty far down on the skis on his landings. The judges in my estimation are pretty harsh. I mean, do they even know how handsome he is under that helmet and goggles?
Certainly that’s worth a point or ten, right? AND YES, I KNOW HE WAS BORN ROUGHLY AROUND THE SAME TIME I GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL, SHUT UP.
Finally, our improbable skier from Indiana, Nick Goepper, who skis without poles — which begs the question why any of the slopestyle skiers ski with poles in the first place, what do they need poles for? — scores a solid 92.40 in his first run. This earns Nick the Bronze; our Puppy Saint, Gus, the Silver; and Joss the Gold, making the most American podium since 1992 and the most adorable podium in maybe ever. U!S!A! U!S!A! PUPPIES! U!S!A!
Finally, Mens’ Figure Skating: the short program. Again.
But! DRAMA! As the men are out warming up, Russia’s Plushenko landed on a quad funny — a landing that NBC helpfully shows us some 87 times — and hurts something in his back, the back that he has had operated on before, and he has the hideous foot-long scar to prove it.
And so, just as Plushenko is getting ready to kick off the competition, he consults with his coaches for a few minutes before skating over to the referees TO WITHDRAW FROM THE COMPETITION WHAAAAAAAT?
This sends some poor NBC editors into a mad scramble to slice together a video package about Plushenko’s “journey” up to this point, how he’s a “rock star” in Russia, how he is under intense pressure to perform in these, his last Olympics, etc. etc. And I don’t know about all that, but I can confirm that there is some weirdo fan art of him out there, like, tons of it.
Plushenko heads back out to the ice where he takes a final bow, and the whole thing is genuinely shocking and sad. “My back hurt. Is problem. I normal people like fans. I try best,” Plushenko explains in a sad interview. What a drag it is getting old.
American Jeremy Abbott has to follow this insanity, and he begins his jazz hands performance that he did in the Team Competition. However, as he goes for his first big jump, he lands moving forward (according to Scott Hamilton, this is certainly not something I would have noticed) which ends with him not just falling, but careening into the wall. And he just lies there for several seconds. And it is just terrible. TERRIBLE! ARE YOU DEAD, JEREMY ABBOTT?
But instead of following Plushenko’s footsteps (skate steps?) Jeremy Abbott GETS UP and FINISHES HIS PROGRAM and DOES EVERYTHING ELSE PERFECTLY and SCORES A 72.58 WHICH IS HIGHER THAN HIS TEAM PERFORMANCE. Jeremy Abbott isn’t going to medal in these Olympics, but he’s won a very rare award: my deep admiration. U!S!A! U!S!A! U!S!A! (No, but seriously, what he did was really incredible and he is the very definition of what it means to be an athlete.)
Next is American Jason Brown who ZOMG IS WEARING A PURPLE VELVET OUTFIT WITH THE SYMBOL FORMERLY KNOWN AS PRINCE ON THE BACK IN SEQUINS I DIE. I. DIE.
He then performs a fun, sassy little skate to Prince’s “The Question of U” and, just: YAAAAASSSSS. BOOM, EVERYONE IN THE WORLD WATCHING THIS SKATE JUST GOT PREGNANT.
My only criticism of the routine is that it needs more pancakes.
Jason Brown scores a solid 86.00 which is a personal best because Prince is magic.
But not even Prince can defeat Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu‘s short program, the same one he performed in the Team Competition. And somehow, this time around, he does even better? Who even knew that was possible? In fact, he performs it so well, he breaks what has up until now been the mythical 100 point barrier, scoring a 101.45, the highest anyone has ever scored in the short program. Just imagine if the performance had been to Prince, though.
Javier Fernandez of Spain is next, which bueno suerte, Javier, you’re going to need it. Javier is very cute and he carried his country’s flag in the opening ceremonies, but his performance which him doing what appears to be the robot while wearing a holy mess of an outfit is no match for Hanyu, and he scores a 86.98.
The only other skater that can challenge Hanyu, Patrick Chang of Canada, comes out and does his very elegant, very traditional routine, the same one we saw in the Team Competition. It is smooth, it is lovely to watch, it’s also kinda boring. NEEDS MOAR PRINCE. He scores a very impressive, but still very second place 97.52.
Oh, and the other guy from Japan, Daisuke Takahashi, does his routine but it is not that exciting, does not involve Prince or pancakes, it’s just a bunch of arm-flinging, and he scores an 86.40.
And with that, Plushenko, and his pink Chanel fur-hatted wife wave goodbye to the Olympics and drive off on the retirement community shuttle. Прощания, Plushenko! Take care of that back! Don’t pull a Pikus-Pace and “retire!” But seriously though, dude, give it a break.
Say, how does the McDonald’s Medal Count stand up today? Oh we have 12 medals and Norway only has 13? WE’RE COMING FOR YOU, NORWAY.
And now for a bunch of clickies: A Russian environmentalist who was critical of the Olympics was sentenced to a gulag for 3 years because that’s how Russians do; the athletes are busy getting busy and why not? have you seen Bobby Brown?; an interesting article about figure skating and why it is still so closeted despite being so gay; and here is some classic Russian propaganda that has been updated.
As for videos, I’ve got those, too:
Jason Jones of The Daily Show takes a look at Russian homophobia, and it is brilliant:
If the Freestyle Moguls weren’t exciting enough for you:
And Conan looks into some of the problems at the Olympics:
Don’t steal those puppies, Gus! You’re compromising the safety of the Olympics!
Well, it’s Valentine’s Day, if you haven’t heard, and both Bobby and I have made other plans with actual people in our real lives, so there might not be any coverage of tonight’s events. But buck up! I’ll be back with Saturday and Sunday coverage and we will watch more figure skating, snowboard cross, something called the Super G, more speed skiing and ski jumping. Which is a lot. Icing the vodka now. See you then!
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.