Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Speed and figure skating takes center stage at the Olympics.

Well, if you were looking for drama and/or very awkward situations, then you could not go wrong with last night’s Olympic coverage. We found drama in both the speed skating and women’s ice skating and we found the very awkward situations at the press conference after the men’s speed skating.

First the women’s ice skating, as I said I am not an ice skating guy, in fact I usually run screaming from the room if it appears on a TV. With that being said, I really like the Olympic ice skating. I look at it as one two week period every four years that I can calm my urges to flee long enough to enjoy it. I also like to see the wipeouts, that is the big thing.

Last night there were no wipeouts, at least that I saw. What I did see was US figure skater Sasha Cohen rocket into first place after her performance to put the US in the lead. I also thought that Emily Hughes did very well and has an outside shot at a medal. I did not see Kimmie Meissner, but she stayed in first place for a very long time. Meissner is now fifth and Hughes is seventh.

This event is the linchpin of NBC’s Olympic coverage and I believe it provided all the drama and excitement that was promised. I thought that Losing Michelle Kwan would hurt the telecast, at least ratings wise, but I think these young skaters will be a breath of fresh air. I will be interested to see how last night’s Olympic telecast stacked up against American Idol. I believe Idol still won the ratings battle, but I bet it is a lot closer than it was last Tuesday night. Thursday night’s four minute program will provide even more drama and give Americans three women that have a chance of claiming Olympic medals. I will be watching and not running.

The speed skating was even better. Shani Davis won a silver medal in the men’s 1500m skate last night and in doing so he knocked “teammate” Chad Hedrick to 3rd to finish with a bronze medal. Davis and Hedrick have been battling all week long and it has made for some very tense moments. This was a surprise added bonus for NBC. I’m sure this feud has brought some viewers in that ordinarily would not watch speed skating.

The feud started when Davis, who is African-American, bowed out of the men’s relay and Hedrick, the captain of Team USA, was very upset. Some would say that he was more upset because Davis more than likely cost him a chance at five medals by not racing in the team event. Davis claimed he never practices with the team and pretty much does not associate with anyone on the team and felt no obligation to race with them. He wanted to focus on his races and he did and he won a gold medal in the race he was focused on. Well the two sniped at each other throughout the week and then came last night’s event, the men’s 1500m, a race in which they both would be competing in. For more info on the feud, click the link.

After last night’s race, everything seemed worked out and things were at least civil. At the end of the press conference, Davis threw this out, "It would have been nice if after the 1,000 meters, he could have been a good teammate and shook my hand, just like I shook his hand – or hugged him – after he won the 5,000 meters.” Davis then got up and left. I thought that showed that Davis has no class and is probably not a very pleasant person to be around. Hedrick just kind of sat there stunned. He then talked about how he felt betrayed because Shani did not compete in the team event and did not speak with him about the situation.

The way I see it, both of these two are pretty selfish individuals and I do not believe that either of them buy into the team concept. Which is fine because as I see it, speed skating is not a team sport and to potray it as one is shading the truth a bit. Davis seems to be the “loner” of the team and does not care that it seems no one likes him. He seems to be a miserable sort of person, but a very good skater. Hedrick I think only wanted Davis to skate on the team so he could win 5 medals, which was his goal going into the Games according to many. So he doesn't seem as genuine to me as he portrays himself in the media. Both are gold medal jackasses.

While I think both of them are acting like grade schoolers, US speed skating and NBC must be eating this stuff up with a spoon. How many times is the sporting world focused on speed skating? How many times do you hear speed skating discussed on ESPN Radio, PTI, or Around the Horn? That’s right, never. In this case there is no such thing as bad publicity for a sport that is used to no publicity at all. While both men look childish and bitter, speed skating has found its 15 minutes of fame.

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