So close … we are so close to the end, my little Bald Eagles. The end of the Olympics are really in sight, we just have to get through some bobsledding, some non-competition figure skating and some … SPEED SKATING? I WAS NOT TOLD THERE WAS GOING TO BE ANY SPEED SKATING. ~frantically goes through notes, checks the DVR info description~ NOPE. NO MENTION OF SPEED SKATING ANYWHERE. WHAT’S NEXT, NBC, Y’ALL GOING TO BE LIKE, “OH WAIT, WE FOUND ANOTHER DOWNHILL SKIING EVENT THAT INVOLVES 200 SKIERS FLINGING THEMSELVES DOWN A MOUNTAIN ONE AT A TIME, SO COME ON OUT, BODE, WE NEED MORE OF YOUR MONOTONE AND MEANINGLESS COMMENTARY!”
Speed Skating. ~sigh~
So this is another new Olympic event, something called “Mass Start Speed Skating,” in which 75? 80? skaters skate around the rink 16 times and there are sprint laps where people can score 5, 3 or 1 points but in the end you need 60, 40, or 20 points to medal and the skaters can’t pass the first skater on the first lap but then they can and there are horns and according to the Chardee MacDennis rules they then throw darts at a player’s hand and if he or she flinches, the other team wins a card but if a team member spills a drink, his or her team must chug the other team’s drinks and if a player draws the “Chance: Go to jail. Do not pass go, do not collect $200” card, that player is put in a dog kennel (or a closet, bathroom, basement, attic, etc.) and the only way out is to eat the unbaked ingredients of a cake and it’s all very confusing because despite all the rules and the point system, it still seems that the first three skaters who cross the finish line end up being the people who win medals? SO WHAT IS THE POINT OF THE POINT SYSTEM?
I think basically it’s roller derby on ice? Maybe?
Right, so we begin with the Women’s event, in which the Estonian skater Saskia Alusalu pulls way ahead in the second lap, and the announcers are all like, “Well, that’s stupid,” but for a good 14 laps, she’s so far ahead of the pack that she very nearly laps them. But then all hell breaks loose in the final lap and Estonia gets left behind as Japan, South Korea, and the Netherlands basically shove her firmly into fourth place (finishing a full 14 seconds behind the medalists, so, like, not even close). It was exciting there in lap 15 and 16, but I still have no idea what any of the sprint points had to do with anything.
Before we get to the Men’s Mass Start Event, NBC literally replays the men’s 1000m Speed Skating race in which Kjeld Nuis won the gold, but this time instead of showing the race, they show us the reaction of his family while they were watching the race. REPORT: They were excited.
I guess NBC has to fill three hours of primetime coverage somehow.
As for the Men’s Mass Start Speed Skating gold medal event, the men take a much more chill approach to the beginning of the race, almost daring each other to pull a Miss Estonia and take the lead. At some point, two skaters do pull forward with the rest of the pack hanging back through most of the race. But when the pack decides it’s time to actually compete, it’s kinda terrifying and predatory looking.
And to the delight of the home crowd, South Korea’s Lee Seung-hoon wins gold, with Belgium and the Netherlands taking silver and bronze. OK GOODBYE FOR FOUR YEARS, SPEED SKATING, GOODBYE.
The next winter sport I can not wait to wave goodbye to: Four-Man Bobsledding.
We have to get through the third and fourth runs before we can give out any medals. Though this leg of the competition is known as “moving day” because it’s the opportunity for teams to move up (or fall) in the standings, that just does not happen much and everyone pretty much stays where they were when we last saw them. The announcers insist that it’s because the track is warmer than it was the day before, making it harder? or easier? to steer on? It’s unclear.
In an effort to try to convince us that this is a sport that the athletes can actually affect and not just an exercise in Newton’s Second Law, we are given another video in which bobsled driver Nick Cunningham explains that the brake men’s job in the back of the sled is to get into the sled and keep their heads down to make the sled aerodynamic. So, their contribution besides running the sled down the track is to sit and keep their heads down for 45 seconds?
Later, one of the announcers explains that there is SO MUCH TRAINING that goes into being a bobsledder, like, for real, you guys. They have to practice so hard on how they get into the sled, “it’s like cold cuts,” she explains, “being put into a sandwich. It takes maximum efficiency.”
I have many questions:
- What do cold cuts have to do with jumping into a sled?
- Do cold cuts have to be placed on a sandwich in a particular way?
- And does that way have to be particularly “efficient?”
- Have I been making sandwiches wrong my entire life?
- Or has the announcer never made a sandwich before?
I don’t think I understand this simile.
But to give credit where credit is due, the announcer isn’t wrong about the importance of the “getting into the sled” part, cold cuts or no. The most exciting run of the night was actually Team Cousin’s fourth run in which the brake men (including Cousin Sam) do not get their asses into the sled on time, and as a result one of the front bars doesn’t go down for a good 10 seconds of the run. This could have been — and in fact should have been — a disaster, but instead, they do pretty well, securing their place above one of the Latvian teams. SUCK IT AGAIN, LATVIA. Note: Team Cousin never makes it out of 9th place. But hey! They didn’t fall in the ranks, right? TEAM COU-SIN! TEAM COU-SIN! TEAM COU-SIN!
In the end, the Germans who were in the lead win gold, the South Koreans who had been in second win silver — tying with the other Germans who had been in third, which, somehow, means no one wins bronze? The fourth team, Switzerland, they get bupkiss?
So … wait … are there a finite number of medals? Because here’s what I can’t wrap my head around: what would happen if, theoretically, four teams had identical times? How many medals would be passed out? I know that will never happen, but it seems unfair that there are three winning times spread among four teams, but only three medals will be awarded.
AND WHAT I GUESS I AM SAYING IS YAY, SOUTH KOREA. Congratulations on being the first Asian bobsledding team to ever medal at the Olympics, that’s pretty damn cool. But I am really glad I don’t have to think about bobsledding again for another four years.
When I was 7, maybe 8, I was DESPERATE to go to the Ice Capades. DESPERATE. Nevermind the fact that I had never put on ice skates in my life (or that I still haven’t), nevermind the fact that I knew nothing about ice skating. I was certain that going to see the Ice Capades would change my life forever. THE GLAMOR! THE COSTUMES! THE TECHNOLOGY OF THE BLADES!
DOROTHY MOTHERFUCKING HAMIL!
I needed the Ice Capades in my life — I JUST KNEW IT — but the monsters who called themselves my parents never took me because they wanted to deny me actual happiness in this lifetime. This is all just fact.
But now, having watched the Olympic Figure Skating Gala, I feel like I have finally experienced an Ice Capades, and, eh, it was fine. Because the competition is over, and these are just, “hey, y’all like figure skating, remember these guys?” performances, there is no real excitement. Sure, the skaters are terrific. By very definition, they are the literal best in the world; but there are no real stakes, no more than there would be at an Ice Capades performance at the Meadowlands.
The “Shib Sibs” skate a very not-sexual skate to a horrid mash-up of “That’s Life” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulders,” a mash-up that was clearly made by a madman, a mash-up that is an evolutionary dead end, a mash-up that is so bad, someone should travel back in time and prevent it from ever being mixed.
Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond performs a boring but pretty routine to yet another unnecessary cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” CAN WE PLEASE DECLARE A MORATORIUM ON THIS SONG? If not, how about in all future skating competitions, there is an automatic deduction of some number of points if the skater chooses to use any version of “Hallelujah,” any theme from a movie about the Holocaust, or the goddamned Moulin Rouge soundtrack.
Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir return for a little more ice fucking. Hey, look, these two have won more Olympic medals in figure skating than anyone EVER (3 gold and 2 silver) so whatever they are doing — or not doing — it’s working.
Not Russian skater and gold medalist Alina Zagitova, who is only 15-years-old, emerges on the ice in a cheetah print bodysuit and proceeds to perform an uncomfortably sultry routine about a “priestess of fire” that involves a candle and she is gorgeous and she is talented but as the mother of teenagers, I am SHOCKED.
Yuzuru Hanyu performs and he’s great or whatever, yawn.
Not Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva comes out in black pleather pants and a black hoodie and proceeds to skate a tribute to that feeling when YOU’RE supposed to be the favorite to win Olympic gold, but then your 15-year-old teammate swoops in and steals it out from under you and you’re, like, happy for her OR WHATEVER, because yay, Not Russia, but inside you just want to listen to some Papa Roach AND DIE. LEAVE ME ALONE.
Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès of France skate to Beyoncé’s “Pray You Catch Me,” so they obviously win the Foolish gold in Song Choice.
In a nod to the hometown crowd, South Korea’s Choi Da-bin skates but I do not care.
And my favorite performance, by FAR, is the North Korean ice skating pair, Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik, who to be fair, are not exactly “great.” But they are what I suspect I would have seen had my monstrous parents had ever taken me to the damn Ice Capades: garish costumes, a lot of waving at the crowds, a lot of clapping for themselves, terrible music straight from the 1970s, some not-dancing. This is all I ever wanted. Foolish gold for the Ice Capades.
Fittingly enough, my Ice Capade fantasy is completed by a big group number in which all of the skaters come out to the ice for one last goodbye in a poorly lit, horribly choreographed finale. Goodbye, cheeseballs! See some of you Ice Capaders in 2022!
Finally, Mike Tirico fills us in on a couple of other remarkable moments from the Games: the amazing Ester Ledecká of the Czech Republic came out of nowhere to win gold in the Women’s Super-G AND the gold in Parallel Giant Slalom in SNOWBOARDING. What the actual hell, Ester? HOW DARE YOU WIN GOLD IN TWO DIFFERENT SPORTS. OTHER PEOPLE WANT TO WIN MEDALS, TOO.
And in Men’s Parallel Giant Slalom in Snowboarding, South Korea’s Lee Sang-ho won the silver marking the first time South Korea has won a medal in a snow sport. Good job, guys! I’m legitimately very happy that South Korea had such a great Olympics. I hope you enjoyed your moment in the sun before your Northern brother starts lobbing nuclear weapons at you.
Mike Tricio also has an interview with Lindsey Vonn in which he reminds her, again, that Grandpa Don is dead, and she’s like, “I KNOW, MIKE, JESUS.”
He also interviews the real stars of Team USA in these Olympics, the Men’s
Minivan Curling Team. I mean, just look at these dudes:
THAT GUY IN THE MIDDLE? HE IS NOT 45. HE WAS BORN IN 1989. HE’S 29 YEARS OLD.
I love them so much.
Anyway, they’re just as surprised to be there as anyone, and hope to spread the gospel of Curling to the rest of the country, not just Wisconsin. And then we are given the video of their medal ceremony — which, true fact, is somehow the first medal ceremony I’ve seen in these Olympics despite watching every. single. night. — and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t moved by watching these loveable oafs be moved as the National Anthem plays in celebration of them shoving rocks across the floor while they swept real hard. U-S-A! U-S-A!
And with that, my little patriots, we are done with the sports portion of the Games. We just have to go to some Closing Ceremonies which happened yesterday tonight and we can put away another Olympics in the Foolish Watcher archives. See you there tomorrow or maybe sometime last week, I have no idea what day it is anymore.