Monday, February 15, 2010

MTVP Vancouver 2010 Olympics Coverage: Day 3

Cheesy Valentine’s Day allusions ruled the day as pairs figure skating was the focus of Day 3 of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. There was the married couple, the couple that each skates with a different pair, the pair that needs to see a sports psychologist. The list goes on. Besides pairs figure skating, freestyle skiing continued to provide the most entertaining moments of the evening. Overall, though, I could feel that the delay due to weather of the alpine skiing events had thrown NBC’s planned coverage into a bit of a tailspin. There was coverage of events, such as luge, which was never planned to air in primetime, and I don’t think the broadcast teams for those sports were quite up to the challenge.

I went from being kind of bored by pairs figure skating at the beginning of the broadcast to being mildly pissed off by the end. Only one pair was shown earlier in the broadcast: China’s Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo. Ever since they announced that they would be coming out of retirement to compete in these Olympics, they have been considered the favorites to win gold. Because they only just came back from retirement, they hadn’t been ranked last year, so they skated first. The result was the world record for most points ever scored in a short program since the Code of Points (COP) system of judging was introduced. When Shen and Zhao retired (the first time), they got married, so there was all sorts of Valentine’s Day cheesiness in the segments about them.

Then there was American couple Jeremy Barrett and Amanda Evora, each of whom skate with a different partner. I can’t even count the number of times the NBC commentators repeated Barrett’s cheesy quote about how he doesn’t recommend competing against your girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. Barrett and his partner, Caydee Denney, were expected to be the more successful pair, but it was Evora and her partner, Mark Ladwig, who had the better skate. Barrett and Denney had issues with their very first jump, but Evora and Ladwig skated their personal best performance. It still won’t be enough to compete against any of the top pairs, but it was nice to see people go out and do their best and be ecstatic about that. I will say that I preferred Barrett and Denney’s music selection, though. Stravinky’s “The Firebird” is a lot of fun.

I guess I need to read up on scoring in figure skating, because many of the scoring decisions later in the broadcast completely baffled me. I couldn’t understand why some pairs such as Canada’s Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison and Russia’s Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov, each of whom had major falls in the middle of their routines, and in the case of Dube and Davison, some bobbles during footwork, scored higher than several other pairs with clean, beautiful routines. Just to prove I’m not approaching this from a complete USA bias, one of the routines that I thought deserved to be ranked higher was that of Canadians Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay. I’m sure that at least part of the explanation is that Dube and Davison and Mukhortova and Trankov performed more technically difficult routines, but something is fundamentally wrong with a scoring system so out of synch with what the viewer enjoys watching. Logically, it makes no sense to me that a poorly performed, but officially difficult routine should score higher than a gorgeous, close to flawlessly performed routine.

For tonight’s pairs free skate, I think I will officially be rooting for Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. Their short program skate to “Send in the Clowns” involved some pretty ridiculous costumes and make-up (they looked very harlequin), but I liked that they were fearless enough to wear something so outrageous. They stood out from the crowd for sure. And they didn’t have a cheesy Valentine’s Day story attached to them, either. That makes them okay in my book. They are currently in second place after the short program.

Freestyle skiing provided the most entertainment to me for the evening. There was a really cool interview with gold medalist Hannah Kearney. She was very articulate and enthusiastic about her sport. When she decides to retire from the moguls some day, I think she would make an absolutely wonderful color commentator. I also enjoyed the international drama that unfolded at the men’s moguls competition. Even if I did inadvertently get spoiled about the outcome of the competition by having up on my computer screen. They used to be pretty good about not putting results on the home page that hadn’t been broadcast yet, but the new “Results Spotlight” feature seems to have put an end to that.

Once two out of the three Americans in the competition were disqualified for crashing on jumps (the third, Bryon Wilson, would go on to win the bronze), I found Australian Dale Begg-Smith to have the most interesting story. He was born and raised in Vancouver, but dissatisfied with the Canadian freestyle skiing system, he moved to Australia and got dual citizenship. The mean side of me thought it would be highly entertaining if Begg-Smith won the gold, what with all the fuss NBC had been making about how Canada still hadn’t won a gold medal at home.

The actual conclusion to the event ended up being a pretty great story, too. Alexandre Bilodeau won Canada’s first home gold medal, and if it had been anyone else, I might have been a little disappointed. If you aren’t a fan of Bilodeau after listening to him talk about how his older brother, who has cerebral palsy, inspires him, you have no heart. It was especially poignant when Bilodeau mentioned that his brother never complains, and he has every right to complain.

While not as exciting as Day 2, Day 3 had its moments. I’m glad for the return of alpine skiing tonight, because I don’t think I could take another hour or so of luge. The sport is obviously incredibly difficult and takes a lot of skill, but the broadcast team leaves a little something to be desired. If I had to hear the color commentator talk one more time about the importance of having a really good start since the track has been shortened, I might have screamed. So, until tomorrow, USA!

No comments:

Post a Comment