There’s a reason NBC has nixed live coverage of the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events, holding them for prime time, and that reason is this: Gold and bronze medals medals for the United States on Saturday, the first day of competition.
All the kerfuffle over the absence of Shaun White (Shaun Who?) is at an end. Instead, a little-known American shocked the sport, the U.S. Olympic Committee and network executives by winning the gold medal in the snowboard slopestyle event.
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Sage Kotsenburg had to go through the morning’s semifinal runs (12:30 a.m. Easstern time) to qualify for the finals (3:45 a.m. Eastern). The semifinals were perhaps a little early to show live — except for those just getting home — but the finals were eminently watchable. For instance, the U.S. women’s hockey team began tournament play at 3 a.m., and that was shown on NBC Sports Network. (The Americans beat Finland, 3-1; it’s doubtful you’ll see much of that during the prime time telecast.)
And that’s because you’ll get lots of Kotsenburg and lots of Hannah Kearney, who unlike Kotsenburg was competing under the weight of high expectations. She had to settle for bronze in the freestyle skiing moguls behind the mellifluously named Canadian sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe.
The finals began at 1 p.m. Eastern, which seems a really good time to broadcast a fun event. But apparently Saturday night is better. So enjoy those reheated NBC leftovers.
This bears repeating — well, really, it doesn’t, but here we go just the same: Figure skating will be shown. Any day any figure skating competition is held, figure skating will be shown that night in prime-time telecast. (The surprise is that you could also have watched it live yesterday.)
So brace yourself for Julia Lipnitskaia. The little Russian will skate onto the ice for her short program in the team competition and you’ll marvel at how young she looks. (She’s 15.) And then she’ll perform her short program and you’ll marvel at how good she is. (She won gold at the European championships earlier this year.) Needless to say, the partisan crowd went wild for her and so will everyone else.
Jeremy Abbott had put the U.S. team in a precarious position — a three-way tie for fifth — with his short program two days earlier; only the top five teams advance to the final round of competition, in which skaters perform their long programs. But ice dancers Charlie Weiss and Meryl Davis, favorites for a gold medal later in the Games, bumped the United States up to third place with a nearly flawless performance.
Then it was up to Ashley Wagner, whose stumbles in the U.S. championships nearly kept her from the Olympics. Wagner needed to finish in the top five to keep the United States in contention, and she finished fourth with a clean, brisk performance. That pushed the Americans into the third spot going into the medal round, which promptly began Saturday afternoon with the pairs long programs.
The U.S. duo of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir skated a shaky program but kept the United States in third place. Medals will be decided with free skates Sunday for the men and women singles and ice dancing.
Confused? You should be. Scores are cumulative, and the Americans cannot make up enough ground to win the gold medal, which seems to be the Russians to lose. Fear not — NBC will explain it all to you tonight.