Finally, a truly thrilling night of Winter Olympics. It’s not that there hasn’t been exciting moments, but they’ve been blended into countless hours of skiing, which is so, so boring. (Sorry, Lindsey Vonn!)
By sheer stroke of luck, my last night recapping these Winter Olympic games lands on the women’s figure skating free skate.
After disappointing performances in the short program, it’s going to be tough for Americans Karen Chen, Bradie Tennell and even Mirai “Triple Axel” Nagasu to make the podium. Doesn’t matter. It’s all about the “Not Russians.”
For the last few years, Evgenia Medvedeva (an incredibly fun name to say) has dominated the sport. At 18 years old, these should have been her games. But! Her teammate, 15-year-old skater Alina Zagitova outperformed her in the short program, and now they’re neck-and-neck for the gold! The craziest thing is, even at 15, there are so many insanely talented young skaters in Russia, this might be BOTH of their last games.
That’s drama! That’s a backstory! Gimme gimme gimme.
Johnny Weir is so atitter over the rivalry he describes what Medvedeva must do by quoting Elizabeth Taylor, “Now is the time for guts and guile,” not once, but twice.
Let’s be real. That was Johnny Weir quoting Sex and the City quoting Elizabeth Taylor, okrr?
That bit of drama already baked in, we’re also treated to what I believe is the first worthwhile video package I’ve seen these whole games. It’s a closer look at Medvedeva. She loves Asian culture, including K-Pop and J-Pop music, Sailor Moon and anime. She even once skated a routine DRESSED AS SAILOR MOON. This is the first time I can remember that a Russian (ok,”Not Russian”) Olympian was portrayed this sympathetically. She’s just a regular, geeky teen! She’s not a steely, skating machine/‘80s villain. Look at her dance awkwardly! Look at her draw her favorite anime characters!
At one point the video transforms into an actual anime-style animation of Medvedeva skating, and it is so cool! Where was all this effort for the last fucking week and a half, NBC?!! This video package deserves a goddamn medal.
When it comes to the event itself, all the Americans are sort of non-factors. Mirai doesn’t even attempt her famed triple axel, really, instead landing a waltz jump, which, honestly, seems like something I could do. Karen Chen does a FINE job, but nothing spectacular. Weir calls Tennell’s skate “provincial,” which is some serious shade.
There are lovely programs from Japan’s skaters Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto, the latter of whom’s music featured incredibly distracting weird bird noises for some reason. Veteran skater Carolina Kostner of Italy skates a solid program, if not technically challenging. And as much as I was rooting for South Korean skater Choi Da-Bin, her combined score fails to reach above 200, which is sort of the bar to be considered for podium contention.Embed from Getty Images
One of the skaters most favored to give the “Not Russians” a run for their gold, Gabrielle Daleman from Canada, totally bites it a couple of times. She’s basically just rolling on the ice. I’ve never wanted a giant hook to come out and mercy kill a routine more than this. It’s not that it’s bad, but she’s clearly heartbroken and it’s hard to watch her fight through. As soon as it ends, she breaks down in tears. Poor thing.
By the time Zagitova hits the ice, I’m practically shaking with excitement. She totally meets expectations as well. Again, to the untrained eye, it’s so hard to differentiate between so many good routines, but the great ones always stand out. In all honesty, it gave me full-body chills. It was one of those things that’s so beautiful, you start crying and don’t know why? Just a masterpiece, overall. She earns an incredible 156.65 in the free skate, for a combined score of 239.17.
It would be too perfect for Medvedeva to skate immediately after, so instead we get a brief respite from the drama in the form of Canada’s Katelyn Osmond. OR DO WE? Because homegirl brings the house down serving full-blown Black Swan fantasy, and I could not be more here for it. She slays, earning a combined score of 231.02 and slipping into second. Also, she inspires Johnny to say a phrase I immediately need needlepointed to hang in my salón, “A swan has gotten her wings, Terrance.”
OK, the moment is upon us: Medvedeva hits the ice. She’s giving me moody merlot sparkle. She’s giving me YAS, gloves. She’s giving me a figure skate FOR … HAH … LIFEEEEEEEE. It’s beautiful. I’m fully sobbing. It is so, so good. She, somehow, earns an identical free skate score to her rival Zagitova, 156.65. HOWEVER, since Zagitova was ahead in the short program, Medvedeva’s combined score, 238.26, isn’t enough for gold.
THAT is how it’s done. It’s a little heartbreaking for Medvedeva, I’m sure, but she truly went out there and did her best. She didn’t like trip over an errant lace or something. She’s got nothing to be ashamed of.
As if that wasn’t enough quality programming for the evening. We also devoted a large chunk of time to short track speed skating, which is thrilling. Not only is this a great event with easily understood stakes (it’s a race, stupid), but they show us quarterfinals, semi-finals and finals, which means we’re quickly familiar with and invested in these athletes.
It’s the kind of thing that’s fun to watch, but, sorry, not that fun to recap. There’s a great Chinese speed skater that dominates all his runs, earns China’s first gold in short track and then goes on to skate again in the relay like goddamn machine. How are his thighs not in actual flames? Despite his dominance earlier, Hungary upsets with the win for gold in the relay. It’s fun!
The women’s 1000m is even more exciting. South Korea’s Choi Min-Jeong is just so fucking good. Like, she’ll coast in the back of these quarterfinals and then suddenly sprint up to first on the outside like nothing’s nothing. She’s crushing.
It’s assumed going into the final that the two South Korean women are the heavy favorites. HOWEVER, both — BOTH! — skaters go down, and the Dutch take the gold. Unbelievable! I’m not even sure if I’m happy or mad, but I AM ENTERTAINED!
We also got the briefest glimpse of men’s curling, which is not an event the U.S.A. is known for being particularly good at it. Except! This time! They are! They’re going up against the Swedes for gold this weekend. I just like how they all look like dads and are dressed like dads and also I sort of have a thing for “dads,” but that’s a lot to unpack in this blog right now.
Alright, friends, it’s been so fun, but I am out of here. Tonight, Therese faces bobsled, speed skating, snowboarding and — oof — Alpine. 안녕!