A Rude Awakening After a Thrilling Night on the Halfpipe

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I had spent my whole night falling in love with Shaun White. I watched from the edge of my seat as he took the gold in men’s halfpipe. I cried honest-to-god tears when he received his score on his final run. I whooped and hollered along with him as he embraced his family.

I woke up this morning wondering “When did Shaun White get hot?” And so I spent (much too much) time Googling “Shaun White through the years” to pinpoint when it was exactly Shaun White became sexually attractive to me (a transformation that started some time in 2012 and was complete by 2013).

HOWEVER, then I pulled my head out of the Olympic snowdrift of feel-good content long enough to catch this fucking horrifying story and complaint against Shaun White from last year. (Must’ve missed THAT recap package, NBC and literally every other major news outlet.)

The complaint alleges that Shaun White harassed a woman in his band with vulgar text messages, videos and overall jackass behavior. He even (allegedly) tried to demand she cut her hair a certain way to fit his image of the band. You know, Shaun White’s famous band? The band with its iconic image? That band.

Now, of course, White has vehemently denied these allegations, and the complaint was settled last year.

But excuse me if I’m a bit soured.

Anyway, last night was the men’s halfpipe. Since he scored so high in the qualifiers, Shaun would be hitting the pipe last each round. (Presumably, that potentially left him more time to shove a screen playing ‘Shake the Bear’ in someone’s face.) His first run earned him a 94.25, positioning him atop the pack.

Shaun obviously was hoping to sit comfortably in first place, but his second run was less successful, opening him up to be outdone by Japanese snowboarder Ayuma Hirano in a stunning second run that earned him 95.25. (You could almost hear White asking Hirano, “are u sure this is the decision u want to make?”)

It’s moments like this that make me wonder if the judges and producers are in cahoots. The way the tension mounts before Shaun White is up for his final run, it all comes down to this. He’s sitting in second place. We just watched the video package about how he thought he was done, but he wasn’t done, in fact, he’s back stronger than ever, etc. and so on. It feels like the climax of a Rocky film. (But imagine Rocky yelling “Yo, Adrian, cut your hair above your shoulders, but keep your bangs!”)

White delivers on a massive third run, and the camera lingers on him as he awaits his score. When the score drops, it’s a massive 97.75. White bursts into tears, like someone just stuck their hands down their own sweaty pants and made him smell them. This makes White’s third gold medal and the United States’ 100th medal of all time at the Winter Olympics.

Hooray? I guess?

The other big event we were scheduled to see last night was Mikaela Shiffrin’s big Olympic debut on the slopes, but, thankfully for a ski-hater like me, the weather once again delayed the event until Friday. Oh well! Sorry, Therese!

Instead, we got a small grab bag of performances from speed skating and pairs figure skating.

I feel like the 1500m speed skating event is one of the most ideal Olympic events. It’s just long enough to build drama, but not long enough to get boring. They skate two at a time, so there’s a race element to it that gives each run some obvious stakes, but it’s not as chaotic as when there’s too many skaters all at once falling and rolling on the ice while wearing essentially swords on their feet.

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We really just dropped in ever so quickly to speed skating, and the most interesting person was Dutch skater, Koen Verweij. This beautiful, Targaryen motherfucker lost the gold in Sochi by .003 of a second. (See frustrated, Harlequin romance novel photo above.) I can’t even begin to quantify how fast that is. How he didn’t just whisper “Dracarys” and melt the whole rink down, I’ll never know.

This time, his opponent around the track took a spill, and, even though he didn’t tumble with him, Verweij ended up out of medal contention. Still, Holland House must been LIT last night regardless, because his Dutch teammates took gold and silver.

After so very much snowboarding, we were also treated to just a morsel of pairs short program figure skating. (Is that the right order of those words?) As excited as I was for the new rule allowing music with lyrics this year, I gotta say I’m pretty disappointed with the results.

It feels like everyone is taking a page from the Shonda Rhimes book of soundtracking, which means there are a lot of sleepy, gloomy covers of pop songs. Good god. Would it kill someone to skate to Carly Rae Jepsen? Cardi B? Truly, the world did not need a slowed-down version of U2’s “With or Without You.”

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The exception is Italy’s pair, Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek that do a full camp performance where Ondrej plays a lovable scamp, and she’s trying to get away from him? I think? At one point she slaps him? I don’t really understand. But at least it’s uptempo, and they’re wearing fun red & white outfits like tablecloths in a pizza joint. This all couldn’t be more quintessentially Italian unless they were, I don’t know, dressed like meatballs and skating while holding opposite ends of spaghetti in their mouths.

The best of the bunch were the Chinese pair Sui and Han, skating a gorgeous short program to a beautiful (but dreary) cover of “Hallelujah” by k.d. Lang. It was breathtaking. Their tehcnically flawless performance earns them 82.39. (For comparison, American married pair Chris and Alexa Knierim earned a fine 65.5, qualifying them for the free skate portion of the pairs competition.)

Canadians Meagan Duhamel and the first openly-gay man to win gold at the Winter Olympics, Eric Radford, skated to the aforementioned U2 cover. Sadly, my DVR fully seized up during their performance, so I have no idea how it turned out. It must’ve been pretty good, because, according to the internet, they got a 76.82 and are currently in third place.

Tonight, I pass the baton back to Therese. She’s on deck to cover the pair’s free skate (dangit!), speed skating, Alpine (we’ll see about that!) and the most horrifying of all Olympic sports, skeleton!

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