Finally, it is time for the premiere event. It is always bittersweet when the ladies event arrives, as it is a sign that the most anticipated event is upon us but it also means that the Games will soon end and that the attention brought upon our sports will soon return to normal levels.
The Ladies Short Program is an event that is six years in the making, as Kim Yu-Na and Mao Asada finally faced off on Olympic ice. It is so rare that two rivals who were pitted as being 1-2 so many years ago would remain healthy and at the top of the sport. Mao and Yu-Na likely would’ve finished 1-2 in Turin and it is so rare to see an Olympic re-match in figure skating. It just doesn’t happen.
After a dreary Grand Prix season that saw Miki Ando atop the podium at two events, the short program had the potential to be one of the ugliest nights in Olympic history. Thankfully, it was anything but.
NBC opened their coverage with Cheltzie Lee, which was a bit curious as not many people outside of the absolute diehard crazies even know who she is. Cheltzie performed a Triple Salchow+Double Toe combination. Let’s break this down, you had to perform a Triple-Double combination with a double loop as one of the jumps in 1988. This is why per-country rules irk me to no end. It is extremely unfair to the skaters who just missed out on qualifying for their teams. Cheltzie did make up for it by having on one of the nicest skating dresses in recent memory, but I need to see a few more jumps if you’re going to be the Olympics.
Tugba was also shown on NBC yet again. It is always fun to watch her, but she did not have her best skate by any means. The music really could’ve been better, but she does have a nice spiral and packages herself well. Her jumps were underrotated, but her parents did finally get to see her perform.
It was a bit odd for NBC to start off with two low ranked skaters and get our hopes up like that, because the peacock pretty much showed skiing until 11:00 PM. One would think that they would’ve jumped at the chance to show Johnny Weir near the boards for Ksenia Makarova, but she was chacked from the broadcast. Ksenia finished 12th in the short with a great skate, so there is hope that we will see Ksenia, Galina and Johnny on NBC for the long program.
NBC did return to show us Mirai Nagasu. They didn’t show us the restaurant fluff they seem to be waiting to show us, but they did bring it up and mentioned that her mother is suffering from cancer. Panasonic sponsored Mirai and got her parents to Vancouver, so it was great to see them sharing her Olympic debut. Mirai has actually done quite well in the short program at her Grand Prix events and she delivered yet again. Her triple lutz+double toe was a bit shaky and garnered negative GOE, but she had a spectacular double axel and triple flip. Her jumps were high and the landings were strong. The speed that Mirai generates is unreal. Of course, NBC mentioned that she never hits a bad position as they were showing her layback, which has a ways to go before it reaches Nikodinov-level. More point of the toe, better free leg! Mirai was awarded 63.76 for a program that was so badass that she ended with a bloody nose. Her spiral sequence was easily one of the best of the entire event. Her score would prove to be critical, as it got her in the top group. It was too low PCS-wise and she definitely should’ve finished ahead of Rachael Flatt. This is one time that reputation clearly played a role, as Mirai’s elements are infinitely better than Rachael’s in the short program. While Rachael may have a triple-triple, the GOE on every other element and each program component score should’ve vaulted Nagasu ahead of Ms. Flatt. Total Bullshit. I’d even considering putting her ahead of Ando, but one can understand that Miki has more power.
Tracy Wilson was brought on TV to explain downgrades to anyone and did an excellent job of conveying what an underrotation is to the lay person. Notice that this is the fourth event and the only time that NBC even has to discuss them at length. Can Tracy Wilson commentate aboot my life? She is such a gem. Can we please have her interviewing the skaters and showing things on the monitor again?
NBC didn’t show us an epic effort by one of the triumphant Canadian ladies. What a tradition! Cynthia Phaneuf had a good program going as she hit her jumps, but went down on footwork. Even Ioana, who is a sweet apologist for all European ladies and the skaters beloved by FSU, texted me to say “WTF is wrong with Canadian ladies?!”
David Michaels also deserves a special place in hell for deciding to air the nasty fall Yu-Na took on her triple flip in practice. As if I wasn’t nervous enough already, I was having to practice my breathing in order to get through the rest of the night. It was a total, Nastia eating mat on her back 1 ½+rudi in the AA warmup moment.
I’m rather surprised that NBC didn’t show everyone’s favorite skater, Elene Gedevanishvilli, or her fame whore of a coach. Is Robin attracted to the Katarina Witt-sized adornments that Elene sports? She delivered an incredible short program for her and even hit her triple toe+triple toe, but she was totally weighed down on her triple lutz and pitched forward accordingly. Robin was quite pleased, but she didn’t propose to Elene yet. Robin Wagner knows when the cameras are and are not on her. Elene’s spiral sequence could be so lovely, but we have the IJS to thank for whatever the hell those positions are that she does. One of the positions looks like what a dog does over a hydrant. Her ‘’Fever’’ program really isn’t as sassy or as exciting as it could be, but it is very much a music issue. 61.92 She will be the last skater in the penultimate group, so hopefully her Carmen will make the broadcast.
After 80-90 minutes of sleeping with my eyes open, NBC aired one of the coolest fluffs ever. Subject: Kim Yu-Na. I would like to go on the record as saying I would TOTALLY buy anything she sells and even want to purchase that fridge after seeing that adorable commercial. Was it really necessary to show her popping all of those triple loops? I like to imagine that she never misses a jump in practice.
Margaret Thatcher, a long-time Mao Asada fan and worshipper of Machiko Yamada, called me during this time and was extremely on-edge. His Ambien hadn’t kicked in yet, and he could not deal with his adopted daughter being minutes away from taking the ice.
Margaret Thatcher: “Do you have any idea how horrible Mao’s short program is aside from the triple axel?! I’d sue Tarasova myself, but I don’t think I have jurisdiction in Russia!”
Around this time, Aunt Joyce was experiencing nervous issues like Anna Liukina and requiring Chardonnay like Tanya Lysacek. Where is my safe place?!
Laura Lepisto, former European Champion (such a prestigious title, how many times did Surya win ?!) performed a triple toe+double toe that was executed far better by Katarina Witt in Lillehammer. Laura’s double axel and triple loop were nice, but this girl just needs to get some jumps in order to be taken seriously. One of the most precious moments in television occurred when Scott Hamilton criticized Laura for tucking in her chin while she skates. Um, what about everything Rachael Flatt does and her horrible posture?! Lepisto did have a slight hook on her camel spin, but she recovered well. 61.36 NBC tried to make up their horrendous coverage to us by not showing commercials between Laura, Mao and Yu-Na.
NBC introduced these ladies with another fluff on Yu-Na, this time joined by Mao Asada and Rachael Flatt. I’m sorry, on what crack-smoking planet does Flatt deserve to be part of a fluff with only Mao and Yu-Na. Oh yes, they’re all teenagers. NBC seemed to forget about Rachael during the fluff piece and focused on Mao and Yu-Na. I was a little frightened by Mao’s rage during that one commercial, but I approve of her kicking a little ass (preferably Miki Ando’s.) Of course, Tom Hammond ended this feature with a voiceover that raised my heart about 55 beats per minute “Superstars Must Win Gold.” STOP IT. WE KNOW. I KNOW. Visions of the Yunabomb were filling my brain.
I was brought back to Earth by a horrible dress being worn by Mao Asada, Seriously, worst-dressed skater ever. What, is Armine her dressmaker? Sandra pointed out that the short program isher weakness and that Mao is approaching it like a long program, Um, okay? It doesn’t really work like that. Whatever. Remember Sandra’s choreography….remember Sandra’s choreography….breathe….Lu Chen at 1996 Worlds….
Okay, Mao’s Olympic moment arrived and her entire Olympic hinged on her triple axel combination. She nailed it and tacked on her double toe, but the combo was VERY Irina Slutskaya, meaning it had a lot of pop but absolutely no flow out of it. The combo pretty much came to a dead stop and only garnered 0.60 GOE despite including an enormous triple axel. Mao landed her triple flip and double axel, but she really wasn’t feeling Masquerade Waltz or bringing any drama. She looked so thrilled after the triple axel that she wore an “I’m So Happy”-Midori –Ito- in- an- English –interview facial expression and didn’t interpret the music. Why did she even keep this music? It isn’t as though last year’s long program was such a gem that it needed to be brought back in another capacity. Yu-Na Kim was visible during the program, as she was standing behind the open curtain but didn’t appear to be paying attention. We can only hope that Yu-Na pulls a Katarina and stares her down during the long program. Tarasova practically pushed her assistant out of the way and stole the limelight at the boards and in the Kiss and Cry. “GOOOD GIRLL!” Tarasova was so pleased and ready to take all of the credit for Mao again. She could be seen willing Mao’s program along from the boards. I worry about Tatiana’s blood pressure during these events.
Kim Yu-Na skated to center ice and it was just obvious that she was going to own it. Some friends had IMed me warning me that she was going to bomb, but she delivered a fantastic short program that was just begging for GOE. I believe she may have had a bit for fire in her performance at Skate America, but I do agree with her score being 4.5 points ahead of Mao (as did the Eurosport commentators.) This “Bond Girl” program is going to be one of those iconic Olympic moments that is shown in commercials for years to come in the way Witt is shown skating to Carmen. 78.50- New World Record. You can’t really compare scores from event to event. The international judges are now getting more comfortable pushing into the 9s and 10s for program components, so the scores have been higher in general over the last few months. There seems to be a push for World Records at the Olympics.
Margaret Thatcher: You will get yours in hell.
Yu-Na's lead is big enough that she could basically skate through her triple flip jumping pass in the long and still win. Maybe she should...
Akiko Suzuki was shown next, but I was still on a high from Mao and Yu-Na. Akiko put her hand down on her triple flip, so she added a double toe to her triple loop.
Margaret Thatcher: Doesn’t Akiko have really weird eyes?! Aunt Joyce: This, coming from a Mao worshipper? What, are you required to have eye issues or bang Morozov in order to make the Japanese Olympic Team?
Then came one of the most emotional Olympic moments. Joannie Rochette, who was in tears as she skated to center ice, delivered a beautiful performance and landed all of her jump passes cleanly. She skated the program well and the audience was really behind her. I think everyone was crying after that performance. Joannie deserves points for even skating and even extra points for channeling Yamaguchi and using her old music for both programs. 71.36
FYI: NBC later apologized during late night because the man they kept showing in the stands wasn't actually Joannie's father. It was one of her relatives.
Then it was time to for Julia Sebestyen, who landed a huge triple lutz+double toe but then followed it up with a 2.5 flip. Margaret Thatcher was glad that Granny had a new wig.
And then it arrived. D-Day. Would Rachael Flatt-line? It was a total Code Blue performance. I am not being mean. It is honest. My mother’s coworker (who is a fierce, fabulous Jew) called me up to ask: “What was with that American girl? She is so boring! That is the best we have to offer? Really? I thought that little Asian girl was much better than her. They say she is some brainiac and got into Stanford, so she should just go to school and stop having this as her hobby. She isn’t any good. Really. She is so boring.”
NBC decided to make us all go into diabetic shock by airing a home video of baby Rachael on ice skates. Because all of these skaters haven’t been skating forever.
Christopher Bowman: Unfortunately, little Rachael has way more charisma than teen Rachael.” (And he is a Code Blue trauma nurse with his support of the girl.)
Peggy and Dorothy sat together to console one another about what they were about to witness. The triple flip+triple toe was extremely tight and both jumps were low and questionable. Then it came: the weird triple lutz technique. I’ve never seen a triple lutz quite like Rachael’s. She didn’t get the memo about the jump being approached from a long back outside edge. Instead, she approaches with a long back inside edge, then pushes her ass to the left and briefly rolls on an outside edge as she picks in. She almost falls to the left while doing it. There is a term for that ‘special’ technique: it was a total Triple Queef.
Her Triple Queef was landed so tight (looked like some sort of landing issue) and kind of puttered out in such a way that Scott and Sandra actually shut up and didn’t even respond. I was waiting for one of Scott’s AAAUUUHHHRRRGHHHHH moments but the screamer remained silent (I can only imagine the noise he makes when he gets that one nut of his to perform.) She certainly sold her supposed ‘cuteness’ and yet it failed to win over anyone. 64.64. Peggy Fleming went on the news this morning to say that she thinks the US ladies have a great chance for a medal. For the record, the USFSA likely paid her to be a spokesperson.
Kostner was next in her wretched Valentines Day dress and we learned that she never does full run-throughs. Well, we could certainly tell after her long program at Worlds last spring. Caro landed a triple flip+double toe, but put her hand down on a 63.02. The judges clearly wanted to put her in medal contention in order to get behind ANY European lady, but she was out of the final group with her 63.02. (Total gift.)
Then, there she was, our girl, the one Elvin Walker considers ‘an artist,’ dressed in a new dress with a giant glittered cross. Because Nikolai is just so religious. Sandra delivered her “pure athlete” moniker to Miki, which was her first subtle way of letting us know that she considers her to be in the same category as the Zhangs. (I’m certainly not disagreeing.)
Then she went her for TRIPLE LUTTTTTTZZZZZ+ TRIPLLLLLE LOOP (Severely underrotated) and she likely underrotated her triple flip, but they gave it to her. Her double axel was fine. We then witnessed SUCH an inspired spiral sequence and a Nancy Kerrigan layback spin. Somehow, they gave her a 64+ and she is in fourth place. I’m calling it now, Nikolai and Miki will break up in the Kiss and Cry when she fails to medal on Thursday.
As we wait for the big moment, the weight of South Korea is on all of our shoulders. Pray. Pray. Breathe. Let’s get this baby over with. I am starting to see some gray hairs after what these Olympics have put me through.
I would like to leave you with the beautiful words of Margaret Thatcher who sent me an email this morning:
“I love the beautiful Peggy Fleming and depressed flakey Dorothy Hamill in the audience together looking on critically at Rachael Flatt. What is it that Dorothy is doing to “mentor” Rachael—as we so often hear Sandra Bezic say that Dorothy is doing? I would think Rachael is more likely to need to mentor Dorothy on life management skills. In some ways Rachael reminds me of Dorothy in her competitive years without the cuteness and without the coach who can orchestrate her votes.”