What you should see tonight during NBC’s prime-time telecast is lots of snowboarding and freestyle skiing, but what you may get is lots of moaning over the absence of Shaun White – and lots of figure skating.
This is normal when NBC and the Olympics have their biennial fortnight fling. Thursday’s skating featured the short programs in men’s singles and pairs events in the newly minted team competition. (If you like to watch Team USA dominate something, this will not be your bowl of borscht. Falls, albeit in their two weakest events, put the Americans in seventh place.)
Still, you’ll get an early look at some of the top skaters at the Games, including homeland favorite Evgeni Plushenko, who is trying to avenge his bitter second-place finish in Vancouver. (The “bitter” was all on his side.) But the best man on the ice Thursday was Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan.
Plushenko is 31; Hanyu is 19. Plushenko famously griped about the dearth of quadruple jumps four years ago in Vancouver; Hanyu landed a flawless quadruple toe loop. Plushenko is arrogant; Hanyu is, well, we don’t know, do we? NBC will tell us as soon as the network finishes scrambling to put together a Hanyu profile.
NBC is showing much of these Olympics live with a lot of help from its cable affiliates, NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, USA and CNBC. Thursday, however, the cable stable was free to continue providing news and reruns of “NCIS.” You see, NBC is hoarding the “hip” events — freestyle skiing and snowboarding — for prime time, not just Thursday, but for the entire Games.
So don’t expect three entire hours of skating Thursday night, especially because NBC loves to bring us Americans Doing Well. We’re in for a big dose of Hannah Kearney, going for yet another gold medal in freestyle skiing moguls. She easily took the top spot in qualifying ahead of melodically named Canadian sisters Chloe and Justine Dufour-Lapointe, and the rest of the field.
And look for a lot of slopestyle despite the absence of White. (Let’s face it, Shaun White brightens up any competition on personality alone, never mind talent. But he was never among the favorites in the event.)
Jamie Anderson, however, is a favorite, and she easily won her qualifying round to advance directly to Sunday’s final. Anderson is not a dark horse, so NBC has had plenty of time to put together a nice little feature on her. Her teammate Karly Shorr also gets to skip the semifinals and move straight to Final Jeopardy.
Not so the White-less U.S. men’s contingent, Sage Kotsenburg, Chas Guldemond and Ryan Stassel. All three will have a second chance to qualify for Saturday afternoon’s finals during Saturday morning’s semifinals — none of which will be show live. Because again, NBC will keep the good stuff tucked firmly in its squirrel-like cheek until 8 p.m.