Sochi 2014 Olympics Recap Week 1—The Monday Morning Realist

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Feb 7, 2014; Sochi, RUSSIA; Colored lights illuminate the fountain at the base of the cauldron following the opening ceremony for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Fisht Olympic Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Bilow-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 7, 2014; Sochi, RUSSIA; Colored lights illuminate the fountain at the base of the cauldron following the opening ceremony for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Fisht Olympic Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Bilow-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi, the largest Winter Games in history by amount of athletic competitions, are now halfway in the books. Already, these games are not without their fair share of five-ringed headlines.

And these are, surprisingly, without mention of the rings fail at the Opening Ceremony—or the subsequent doctoring of the evidence of the rings fail thanks to our friends at Russian State Television. We Realists know what happened, though.

Anyway, how can we color these Winter Games so far? Red, White, and Blue (the colors of both the Russian and American flags), for one. The white also representing snow (or what is supposed to be snow, as there has been more real snow lately in Atlanta, Georgia (a former Summer Olympics city) than there has been in Sochi. The various colors also that have made up the look of Sochi’s games can apply as well, including blue, orange, and purple.

Orange also seems to be the color of the water in Sochi as evidenced by the H20 coming out of the sinks of the hotels in the Sochi area. If only Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Chernyshenko, and the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee invested in as many Brita water filters for the Olympic villages as they have invested in rubb…well, THAT is another topic for another website, perhaps.

 And, if you are an Olympics viewer watching stateside—think pink.

Optical Delusions

Nov 10, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; NBC Sports reporter Bob Costas prior to a game between the New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

For as long as we Realists can remember, Bob Costas has been the face of the Olympics on NBC. Even with all of the constant changes at the continuing merry-go-round of personalities that is NBC News and NBC Sports, one constant over the years has been St. Louis’ very own Bob Costas.

Costas had made his way, along with the rest of Team Peacock, over to Sochi to anchor primetime coverage of the day’s events from Sochi. Of course, 8:00 in New York and Philadelphia is when most in Sochi are already sleeping tight in their beds, so American body clocks have to be adjusted accordingly when dealing with such circumstances.

Unfortunately, it, or something else, may have made its way to Costas.

Viewers observed a noticeable case of pink eye in Costas’ left eye throughout most of his primetime coverage on the main NBC network. This was clearly visable to the viewing audience despite the fact that he was wearing glasses as well.

Such a sight was not a good look for either Costas or NBC to have its flagship sports personality on the air with such an issue, but for a few nights, Costas played hurt and still did his primetime coverage.

In addition, he also was able to talk over the phone from Sochi to the MLB Network (where he also works) to give his thoughts on Derek Jeter’s upcoming retirement from baseball and the New York Yankees after the 2014 MLB season.

This led to Matt Lauer taking Costas’ place for NBC primetime for most of the first week from Sochi. If anyone knows baseball, it’s Costas, who told his NBC compadre, “We’re going to the bullpen, and you’re Mariano Rivera.”

One question for NBC from this Realist—why didn’t NBC’s primetime coverage with Matt Lauer begin with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”? A second is if Lauer is Mo Rivera, does this mean Meredith Vieira was Brad Lidge circa 2008?

Even Vieira got a chance to do primetime from Russia. Meaning Costas’ issues with his eye actually led to a bit of history as Vieira, who will launch her new daytime talk show in September, became the first woman to be a solo host of an Olympics primetime program.

Mary Carillo, by the way, filled in for Costas as well for NBC’s primetime coverage in Vancouver.

Also, it has been announced that Costas will return to his place as host of primetime coverage on NBC starting Monday. So hopefully, you’re at least halfway done with this edition of Monday Morning Realist before Costas once again takes center stage as NBC’s primetime Olympics host.

Welcome back Bob! Even with all of NBC’s shortcomings, Olympics coverage somewhat didn’t seem in place with no Costas on the air…

Or on the record, whatever your fancy.

No Longer a Mogul

Ok, Realists. On to actual competitions.

These included the finals of the freestyle skating moguls competition, in where Hannah Kearney had hoped to make history by winning back to back gold medals. This after she already won gold as a 23 year old four years ago in Vancouver.

Now, 27, and enrolled at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire, Kearney came back for primary purpose of achieving history and successfully defending her gold medal from 2010.

History would be denied for Vermont’s favorite daughter.

She struggled coming down the moguls course—even she admitted it, and she ended up finishing with a bronze medal. Canada’s Justine Dufour-Lapointe won gold. Ironically, Justine’s sister, Chloe, also competed and finished with a silver.

There was even a controversy as some figured Kearney shouldn’t have even medaled, and many a soul figured that Japan’s Aiko Uemura did better than Kearney and should have been awarded bronze instead.

The Realist wonders even if Kearney felt that, given how self-critical she was of herself after she placed with a bronze. She said that winning bronze “felt like a broken heart” and that she was unhappy with her performance.

She really wanted gold and was especially sad, not only because she felt bad at not winning, but also because she felt at 27 years of age that her Olympic career had come to a heartbreaking end. If anyone saw the medal ceremony, Kearney did not feel anything like an Olympic medalist.

Kearney later looked at the glass half full and felt good that she at least added to Team USA’s overall medal count.

But, Kearney’s original answer is exactly what we should want from our athletes, as long as they’re being honest. Just as one can fake humility, one can also fake emotion. If it is one thing that makes the Olympics so great, it’s that you can tell that there is raw emotion with these athletes after so many years of strenuous training.

Try putting yourself through just one-fiftieth of what these athletes put themselves through every four years to make it to this point.

Just as there was nothing wrong with the Richard Sherman response to Erin Andrews when he contributed to the interception of Michael Crabtree that sent the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl (and their following victory), there was nothing wrong with Kearney’s emotional response to failing to defend gold in Sochi.

Kearney later said to ESPNW that she’s not ruling out a comeback to compete one more time in Pyeongchang, South Korea (where the 2018 Winter Olympics will be), but right now, her focus is on the next chapter of her life. She plans to embark on this after she graduates from Dartmouth in either 2015 or 2016.

By the way, bigger chance of a comeback? Michael Phelps in Rio 2016 or Hannah Kearney in Pyeongchang 2018? Pass.

Two For the Price of One

How’s this for an Olympic first—the first in history that one alpine race produced not one, but two Olympic gold medal winners.

Sorry, LeBron James, they didn’t go to three, four, five, six, or seven.

But it was a first, courtesy of women’s downhill skiing. Dominique Gisin of Switzerland recorded a time of 1:41:57 as she went first among the competitors. Tina Maze from Switzerland, who also has budding careers away from the mountains as a pop star and model, recorded the same exact time as Gisin. This meant that instead of some tiebreaking procedure that may be more or less complicated to figure out than an NFL playoff scenario circa Week 17, Gisin and Maze were BOTH awarded gold medals.

Huh? Come Again?

Gisin and Maze celebrated together after the co-golding. The highest finishing American was Julia Mancuso who was virtually a full second behind Gisin and Maze. The top ten finishers looked like this:

Tina Maze (Slovenia) 1:41.57 (gold)

Dominique Gisin (Switzerland) 1:41.57 (gold)

Lara Gut (Switzerland) 1:41.67 (bronze)

Daniela Merighetti (Italy) 1:41.84

Fabienne Suter (Switzerland) 1:41.94

Lotte Smiseth Sejersted (Norway) 1:42.01

Edit Miklos (Hungary) 1:42.28

Julia Mancuso (USA) 1:42.56

Nicole Hosp (Austria) 1:42.62

Ilka Stuhec (Slovenia) 1:42.65

Three other Americans also competed—Laurenne Ross who finished 11th with a time of 1:42.68, Stacey Cook who finished seventeenth with a time of 1:43.05, and Jacqueline Wiles who finished twenty-sixth with a time of 1:44.05. Only one Canadian participated—Larisa Yurkiw who finished twentieth with a time of 1:43.46.

As is basic knowledge in sports, tiebreaking procedures are common throughout because of the likelihood of two teams finishing with the same record or two participants in an individualized competition finishing with the same score or time. But, normally, those results do not lead to the event being declared to have two winners instead of one.

Technically, that is what happens in soccer (international football) outside of Olympics and World Cup play.

But, it is not the first time in either a Winter or Summer Olympics where two participants in an individualized sport ended up with the same exact time and it leading to a tinge of controversy.

In the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics in the finals of the women’s gymnastics uneven bars, the top two finishers were He Kexin of host nation China and Nastia Liukin of the United States. The two finished with the identical same score—16.725.

The FIG (Federation Internationale de Gymnastique) rules must be more murky regarding tiebreakers, because its gave He Kexin the victory over Liukin. This ruling prompted outrage from many in the States, including gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi. He spoke with Bob Costas after the event was shown in primetime, in which he brought up a rather familiar concept…

“This is just adding to the already brewing controversy and frustration in the hearts of the athletes and including the viewers. This new scoring system generated a murky situation which nobody understands, clearly…obviously, first of all taking away what was the trademark of (this) gymnastics, the perfect 10, is gone.”

“And I believe the latest is this: which is introducing and accepting a tiebreaking procedure which is totally unfair. And is absolutely ridiculous. At a time when this very Olympic Games can’t give out medals for winning athletes at the same position, two gold, two silver, two bronze, in gymnastics (it) cannot be done? In gymnastics (it) is refusing the general idea of the Olympic spirit.”

Karolyi also felt that because of the overall nature of the Chinese gymnastics team being underaged that they shouldn’t have been allowed by FIG to qualify for the Beijing Games. Something tells me that his response to the 2008 controversy involving He and Liukin would’ve been different if FIG’s tiebreaking procedures led to Liukin being awarded gold and not He.

The 2008 Beijing snafu was a clear case of “don’t hate the player, but hate the game”. This time in the Sochi Winter Olympics of 2014, a scenario occurred where the top two finishers happened to finish with identical scores—leading to a spot where two individual gold medals and no silver was awarded.

Sound familiar, or not?

Realists, we wonder what Karolyi would think of the decision to award the double golds to Maze and Gisin given his impassioned remarks concerning what happened in 2008 with Kexin and Liukin. The concept of multiple (or even no) winners has been frowned upon as the sporting equivalent of kissing one’s sister. But, both Gisin and Maze had the exact same time, and by virtue of that, both earned gold medals, just as Kexin and Liukin earned golds in Beijing. The difference is Gisin and Maze got theirs—not the case for both Kexin and Liukin as Liukin had to settle for silver.

In the end, this happened of course because of the governing rules within the two respective sports.

But, who knows. If Gisin can sing, she may have earned herself a featuring role on Maze’s next album.

Oshie’s Story

Even relatively casual hockey fans had to know the names of some of the hockey stars participating in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Johnathan Quick, Patrick Kane, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Miller, Phil Kessel,…

T.J. Oshie.

Realistically, because of the fact that Oshie plays for the St. Louis Blues, trying to get ESPN to mention him even a few times is somewhat like trying to pull Excalibur from its rock.

More on Oshie later…

The United States’ men’s hockey team is one that has been looking forward to the Sochi Winter Olympics ever since what happened during the last Winter Games in Vancouver. The US faced Canada in the gold medal game and came close to beating Canada on Canadian soil.

Or, should I say, Canadian ice.

But Sidney Crosby and Team Canada would have none of it as they made their homeland fans happy by prevailing on their ice, in their country, in Canada’s national pastime.

Coming into these Olympics, the United States was looked at as a favorite to reach the gold medal game once again, possibly in a rematch against their next door neighbors north of the border. The Stars and Stripes got their Eagles’ claws started on the right foot with a 7-1 victory over Team Slovakia.

Then, they had to face host nation Russia. Of course, we all know about the hockey history between these two squads. It was 1980 in Lake Placid when the U.S. men’s hockey team made history. In the same year that the United States and President Jimmy Carter eventually boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow due to the Cold War, Team USA “believed in miracles” with a stunning upset of the Soviet Union’s team. Al Michaels gave us his famous, “Do you believe in miracles…Yes!” call that year.

Tensions have since eased between Russia and the United States (we think) and their hockey teams have become considerably better, especially the U.S’s.

Pavel Datsyuk drew first blood for the Russians as they assumed a 1-0. Cam Fowler then tied the game while the Americans were on power play. 1-1.

Going into the final period in regulation, Team USA and Team Russia were tied at one a piece, before Joe “The Big” Pavelski put the Americans back in front midway through the third period. 2-1 USA. With only 7:16 remaining in the third, and with the Russians on power play, Team Russia scored courtesy, once again, of Pavel Datsyuk.

American hearts were in the their throats when it appeared that Fyodor Tyutin had put Team Russia ahead by a score of 3-2, but the goal was waived off due to a dislodged net.

This led to the 2-2 score holding throughout regulation…and overtime.

Then came the shootout. Datsyuk had the Russians leading 2-1, before both Jonathan Quick AND T.J. Oshie came through in the clutch to pull the Americans to a 3-2 victory over Team Russia. Oshie had four goals in the shootout period.

Let the memes begin, and did they ever on this internet. Oshie’s Wikipedia page was edited to say “T.J. Oshie is an American hero”. Oshie memes have been created saying he’s more American than the Bald Eagle, George Washington, Rocky, baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevy combined.

Oshie, thankfully, is taking it all in stride. When asked about all of the stuff floating around the internet talking about how he’s become the new “Captain America”, he said that he wasn’t an American hero—that those wear camo.

Brilliant.

We Realists are looking at everyone from Detroit down to Houston and New York to LA going crazy over Oshie over a shootout in the preliminary round of the Sochi Olympics. If this happened in a gold medal game over Canada or Russia, probably. What he did was great and all, but we’re somewhat jumping the shark. When Oshie’s girlfriend and fiancée, Lauren Cosgrove (who gets an A+ for looks from The Realist), is being used as a focal point for a story on Good Morning America for an Oshie shootout in the preliminary rounds, the press has officially hopped about the crazy train.

Possibly Ozzy Osbourne’s himself.

Also, as a surprise to this Olympic Realist, Russian television showing the game didn’t show Oshie’s game winner actually being saved—or him missing it altogether. Someone’s asleep at the wheel in Sochi or Moscow.

Oh, by the way, Team USA also won its third game of prelims, this time over Slovenia 5-1 to advance to the quarterfinals. Phil Kessel scored a hat trick. Ryan Miller had a shutout going until 17 seconds left when Marcel Rodman (of course, no relation to Dennis) got one hockey puck past Miller.

Russia had themselves in another shootout situation in their preliminary matchup against Slovakia. They won 1-0 thanks to Ilya Kovalchuk.

No T.J. Oshie on Team Slovakia, obviously.

Bode Gets Emotional

How many times have we heard the name “Bode Miller” in association with the Winter Olympic Games. More than we Realists can count.

But it was special this time for Bode given that he’s now 36 and is coming closer to the end of his competitive career. These have not exactly been the best of Olympics for American skiers (hopefully Mikaela Shiffrin can change that), particularly with its biggest star in Lindsey Vonn on the shelf on serving as an analyst for NBC. Plus, the highest profile of them all up to this point has been lambasted in the American press as a washed-up has-been who ought to be hanging up the ski equipment by now.

It’s been a long time since he won a race, which is why virtually no attention was given to the Olympic veteran as was given to Vonn, who was expected to compete for several medals before she pulled out with her own knee injury.

His previous events didn’t produce the results he had hoped for either—until he competed in the Super G. That was the Bode Miller that his fans over the years had come to know and love—and that his detractors had come to know and doubt he could pull off again.

He finished eighth with a time of 2:06.75 in the men’s downhill, almost a full second behind gold medalist Mathias Mayer of Austria (2:06.23). His time in the men’s super-combined downhill was 1:54.67, almost two seconds Kjetl Jansrud of Norway, who won gold with a 1:53.24. That earned Miller a twelfth place finish.

He also finished seventh in the men’s downhill slalom with combined total on his two runs of a 2:46.60, also almost nearly two seconds behind eventual gold medalist Sandro Villeta of Switzerland, who ended up with a 2:45.20 on his pair.

In the Super-G, he came through with a tie for bronze with a 1:18.67, 53 seconds Jansrud, who again won a gold medal as he did in the super combined downhill. Canada’s Jan Hudec also had the same time as Miller with his teammate, Andrew Weibrecht earning a silver medal with a 1:18.44.

Here are the results for the top ten from that event:

Kjetl Jansrud (Norway) 1:18.14 (gold)

Andrew Weibrecht (USA) 1:18.44 (silver)

Jan Hudec (Canada) 1:18.67 (bronze)

Bode Miller (USA) 1:18.67 (bronze)

Otmar Streidinger (Austria) 1:18.69

Max Franz (Austria) 1:18.74

Aksel Lund Svindal (Norway) 1:18.76

Peter Fill (Italy) 1:18.85

Ondrej Bank (Czech Republic) 1:19.11

Morgan Prindy (Canada) 1:19.19

But, what is receiving about as much attention as Miller’s co-bronzing was how he broke down after the interview.

“Thanks for all the support, today was one of the most emotional days of my life. I miss my brother.” –@MillerBode on Twitter

This was a reference to his late brother, Chelone, who died last April in his late 20s related to a seizure, which was linked to a brain injury sustained in a motorcycle accident nearly a decade ago. Reporter Kristen Cooper and NBC were roundly criticized for attempting to continue an interview when Bode Miller was at his most emotional of moments.

Cooper asked a question related to his late sibling, and Miller was overcome with emotions. She knew that there was no way Miller could continue to do any interview with thoughts of his brother in his head, but NBC’s cameras zoomed in on Miller as he broke down and wore his emotions on his sleeves.

If NBC wanted emotion, if anything, the questions should have been relegated to how emotional a moment it was for him athletically given how his previous races seemed to indicate that he was finished as an Olympian. That would’ve got emotion because the Games elicit that perhaps more than any other sports event.

The first question about his late brother, the Realist can understand because it is part of a backstory. The second question about his late brother is where Cooper probably went over the top. That is precisely why athletes get nervous in front of cameras—the press makes them nervous because they’re out to get stories that the public in general could care less about and are irrelevant to the subject at hand.

Cooper said “sorry” shortly after her last question as she immediately recognized her mistake. She corrected it. NBC didn’t as they zoomed in on Miller as he broke down in tears. Realists, NBC is the issue, not Kristen Cooper.

$4.6 billion over to broadcast the Games until 2020 got us that. Talk about putting money where the mouth is.

No doubt that Miller earned his bronze, and he proved that he’s still “got it”. Congrats.

Medal Count

Netherlands—17 (5 gold, 5 silver, 5 bronze)

Russia—16 (4 gold, 7 silver, 5 bronze)

United States—16 (4 gold, 4 silver, 8 bronze)

Norway—14 (5 gold, 3 silver, 6 bronze)

Canada—14 (4 gold, 6 silver, 4 bronze)

Tags: Bob Costas Sochi 2014

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