NBC’s primetime Olympics broadcast Sunday will be remembered as the night that reporter Christin Cooper made Bode Miller cry by essentially asking what he was saying to his late brother, Chilly, when he spoke to the sky before his run in the men’s Super-G. We’ve devoted a separate item to it, which includes Miller’s response to the backlash against Cooper, and you can read that here. I think it was a fair question – considering how open both Bode and his wife Morgan, who’s allowed herself to be mic’d during Bode’s events in Sochi, have been with NBC – but it shouldn’t have been asked then when Miller was already wiping away tears. It should have been saved for Matt Lauer to ask in the studio, when Miller and surprise Super-G silver medalist Andrew Weibrecht sat down with him for a chat that aired in NBC’s late-night coverage.
In that interview with Lauer, a more composed Miller explained why he was so overcome after tying for bronze with Canada’s Jan Hudec – only .02 seconds ahead of fourth place finisher Otmar Striedinger of Austria. “Today, in the start, I knew it was gonna be a close race. There’s not much separating the field in these, and me and my brother had talked about coming to the Olympics here together – he was trying to qualify [in Snowboard Cross],” Miller said. “Right in the start gate, I was kinda like, ‘If you’re here with me’ – I know I bring a part of him with me everywhere I go – I said, ‘give me a couple hundredths today. Just, like, give me that little extra push. I’m gonna be sending it.’ Everyone says, ‘Send it like Chilly,’ that’s kinda one of the mottos. I really wanted to ski my best. But I did kinda just connect those two in a way inside. And then for it to come down and be as close as it can possibly get in ski racing and end up with a medal was just kinda, I don’t know, it seemed kinda connected. At that point, I was just pretty overwhelmed with the feeling of getting a little bit of help from my brother.”
As for the other Americans, Ted Ligety, who finished a disappointing 14th, gave Weibrecht – who hasn’t been on any podium since the 2010 Olympics, when he took home a surprise bronze – a genuine hug congratulating him. Class act. Their teammate Travis Ganong came in 23rd. The gold went to Norway’s Kjetil Jansurd. Here’s how his country called it:
ICE WAR: The battle between America’s reigning ice dancing world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Canada’s reigning Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir was won by the Americans in the short program. The dance featured a required Finnstep pattern (think ballroom quickstep, with 70 steps in 38 seconds) and suited the more frenetic Davis and White, who got help from Dancing with the Stars pro Derek Hough. Virtue and Moir, however, were back to their dreamy, problem-free selves:
Here’s Moir winking before the program (he’d be my partner of choice) and celebrating afterward during NBCSN’s live coverage:
He didn’t look thrilled with their scores, but in an interview afterward, they said they’d be happy as long as they managed to create another “moment” like that one in the free skate. And they like their chances for gold, too. Davis and White skated last, so we got plenty of backstage shots.
In the end, they scored the highest marks for a short dance ever, 2.56 points ahead of Virtue and Moir, whose fans questioned the margin. The fight for the bronze medal will also be a good one on Monday. I’m pulling for Russia’s Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, who are sitting in third after their short – ahead of France’s Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat and Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev. They also win my best-dressed award. They perform that “Swan Lake” free skate with incredibly inventive lifts. Can’t wait to see that again.
Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte are in sixth, but look at the way her skirt moves during these twizzles.
Bonus points also go to the U.S.’s Madison Chock and Evan Bates, who sit in 8th (one spot above their younger U.S. teammates, siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani), for her fringe…
And to Canada’s Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam, who are in 18th and didn’t make it into NBC’s primetime coverage.
Speaking of not in primetime, Johnny Weir is killing it on NBCSN’s live figure skating coverage with Tara Lipinski and Terry Gannon. I can’t wait to see what he and Tara (yep, she was sporting a fascinator) wear for the free skate.
Johnny’s Top 5 greatest hits from the short program:
IT’S BOBSLED TIME: It took long enough to start! After the first two heats of two-man (which concludes Monday), Russian Fed. 1 is in the lead driven by Alexander Zubkov. His brakeman, Alexey Voevoda, is a seven-time national arm wrestling champion (!) in charge of starting this little pre-run ritual:
Switzerland 1, driven by a man named Beat Hefti, is in second,.32 seconds slower. USA 1 (Steven Holcomb and Steve Langton) is in third, behind them by .04 seconds. Holcomb’s trying to drive America to its first Olympic two-man medal in 62 years. As for the Jamaican team, well, they got a huge cheer but, in the words of the commentators, they’re “certainly using all the ice on the track.” They sit in dead last, 30 out of 30. NBC did a nice package on their rock star status in the late night slot, with driver Winston Watts explaining that they’re the coolest people there – loving, caring, like a little family – even though they have no dedicated technician or support staff with them like the other teams. After qualifying for the Games, they had to fund their trip. They received more than $129,000 in donations on CrowdIt in two days. (If you’re feeling inspired, check out our oral history of Cool Runnings.)
DERBY CROSS: If you saw seeding for women’s snowboard cross in the afternoon, when they go down the course solo, you were probably scared s–tless to watch them actually race with six riders on the course at once. American Jacqueline Hernandez crashed so badly in seeding, I couldn’t bring myself to replay it to Vine it. (She escaped with a concussion, thanks to her helmet.) Here’s Norway’s Helene Olafsen screaming as she blew out her knee, which was also horrifying but made me think how rare it is that we hear the athletes yelling when they go down. Do they not all scream, or just not as loudly as her?
The primetime coverage picked up in the quarterfinals, setting the scene for American Lindsey Jacobellis’ run for gold. You’ll remember she was hotdogging before the finish line in Torino and wound up with silver. She was eliminated in the semifinals when she went off course in Vancouver. The first quarterfinal was relatively uneventful. The second took out the reigning Olympic gold medalist and two other riders in crashes. The third took down at least one rider. And the fourth, which Jacobellis won, took out Australia’s Torah Bright, but not before she gave us another signature shimmy in the start gate. The first semifinal had three crashes, allowing American Faye Gulini to make it through. The second semifinal took out Jacobellis, who lost her line and slid out with two jumps to go when she was so far out in front.
Czech Republic’s Eva Samkova, who was rockin’ her superstitious mustache, took the gold with a celebration befitting someone who knows that any race could end with her being carted off the mountain. It’s the first snowboarding medal for her country. She’s our Olympic Stud of the Day.
Canada’s Dominique Maltais took the silver, and frankly, I would have been afraid to have her chasing me. Here she is in the start gate.
And France’s Chloe Trespeuch took the bronze.
Jacobellis gave NBC an interview and was remarkably composed: “I’ve just been racing for so long, and I love it, and of course moments like these are so upsetting, because I know I have the ability to win, and I want to win every time, and it just doesn’t work. So it’s just kind of unfortunate that that’s how it panned out here.”
Let’s end on a happy note. Bob Costas will be back in the studio on Monday!