Ashley Wagner probably won’t win an individual medal in Sochi. But there’s got to be some sort of award for her faces – she’s as animated as Jim Carrey in The Mask, only without the benefit of, you know, actual animation. Need even more proof? Let’s start things off by counting down Ashley’s top 5 expressions while receiving her disappointing short program score:
1. “Umm, exqueeze me? Baking powder?”
2. “Yo, are you hearing this? Tell me you’re hearing this.”
3. “Oh crap, am I supposed to look like a CoverGirl right now?”
5. “Whatever, I’m so over it. Maybe tonight I can convince Polina to join the Pen 15 club.”
So yeah, things aren’t looking great for the Americans going into Thursday’s long program. Wagner under-rotated one of her opening jumps, landing her in 6th place for now. 15-year-old Polina Edmunds is only in 7th, despite being the first baby gazelle ever to make it all the way to the Olympics. And Gracie Gold – who was literally born to be either an Olympic champion or a fast-talking dame in a Howard Hawks movie – is currently in 4th, which seems like a pretty decent spot… until you remember that she’s six points behind the event’s current three leaders.
And this is where things get interesting. Because those ladies are all within an eighth of a point of each other – meaning that individual women’s skating gold is still completely up for grabs. Well, only for those who can grab it in midair while wearing head-to-toe spangles and spinning like a whirling dervish.
In all likelihood, the prize will go to defending gold medalist Yuna Kim – a.k.a. Queen Yuna, a.k.a. South Korea’s most beloved national celebrity. (She’s even bigger than Psy!) Kim skated flawlessly Wednesday, effortlessly weaving together dazzling feats of athleticism (those jumps!) and emotionally charged choreography. Her performance was all the more impressive considering it came after a shaky warmup – and four years in which she’s competed internationally just five times. Yet despite her triumphant comeback and her high score, throughout the night, Yuna looked sort of like a model posing for a stock photograph called “Worried Girl”:
Hey, you try having the hopes and dreams of an entire nation strapped to your tiny, elegant back.
Yuna has reason to be worried, though: She’s got a tiny Russian firecracker close on her heels. Surprisingly enough, I don’t mean team figure skating sensation Yulia Lipnitskaia – a 15-year-old dynamo who thinks of nothing but murder all day.
An unfortunate fall during Yulia’s very last jump cost her dearly – NYEEEETTT!! – placing her behind Gold (and probably out of contention for the actual gold). But luckily for the Motherland, Russia’s hills are alive with precocious skating stars… which brings me to the Olympic Stud of the Day: Adelina Sotnikova. Like, come on.
The only proper response to skating like this is “guuuuuuuh?!” (That’s Russian for “most glorious talent, borscht vodka Khrushchev.”)
Sotnikova is trailed closely by Italian ice princess Carolina Kostner, who at age 27 may as well be the Norma Desmond of figure skating. And like Gloria Swanson, she’s certainly ready for her close-up.
I could go on and on about the women’s short program – the heartbreaking downfall of Japan’s Mao Asada, the audacious elegance of France’s Maé-Bérénice Meité, the fact that Kanako Murakami (also of Japan) consciously chose to skate to “Papa Can You Hear Me.” (NBC didn’t show that last one in primetime, which is a travesty.) But since a few other
less important things also happened in Sochi Wednesday, maybe it’s time to move on to the rest of the day’s highlights:
Name you’re least likely to mind hearing over and over and over: Ted Ligety. Ted Ligety! It’s more fun the more you say it. (And before you go for a Blackstreet joke, just know that most of Twitter already got there.) Little Lord Ligety also stepped away from the night with a legit award: He snagged gold in Men’s Giant Slalom, making him the first American ever to do so. Celebrate the win like he did only if you’re wearing full body armor.
Names most likely to confuse you, no matter how many times you hear them: Those which Bode Miller has bequeathed to his firstborn.
Name Ted Ligety’s dad would probably have if he grew up outside Westeros: Bill Ligety, Grabber of Boobs.
Best reminder of why the Winter Games are the way they are: This breakdown of the cost of Being Bode Miller.
Most patriotic accessory: Elena Meyers’s star-spangled nail art. Also, her appetite both for winning and for actual food: “I, like, eat figure skaters for lunch,” she joked in a pretaped package. “That’s how much we eat.”
The red, white, and blue were almost enough to propel Meyers and her teammate Lauryn Williams to a gold medal finish – but the duo came up short in their final heat, losing to Canadians Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse by just one tenth of a second. (Two more Americans, Aja Evans and Jamie Greubel, got the bronze.) Still, their second-place finish does give Williams the distinction of being only the fifth Olympian to win medals in both the summer and winter games. Pretty cool! Right, 11th-place-finisher Lolo Jones?
Least patriotic thing I will say all night: Do those “eating a McNugget is like having a gold medal” commercials make anyone else want to move to Mexico?
Snarkiest Bob Costas comment: The Cos was fairly tame tonight, perhaps because he’s still recovering from his eye dysentery. He did show the appropriate amount of disdain, though, when noting that a certain American skater has a name built for dumb wordplay: “The puns and the headlines are irresistible, especially if she comes through. So Gracie Gold will go for gold at age 18.” And this was right before Apolo Ohno noted, in all sincerity, that Gold is “well-polished.”
Snarkiest Johnny Weir comment, which you only heard if you’d been watching the short programs live: The final group’s chaotic warmup was like “the mall in Paramus at Christmastime.”
Best indication that even NBC doesn’t have a ton of faith in our figure skaters: The night’s main event was introduced with a package that cited “the queen of the ice” (Yuna Kim), “the princess” who stole a nation’s hearts (Yulia Lipnitskaia), “the challenger” who threatened both (Mao Asada)… and “the Americans,” all grouped together.
Best best thing: Elena Meyers’s overly supportive husband. He should team up with figure skating dad Boris Schnapir for a Bravo reality show. They could call it Stands and Deliver!