The 2014 winter games have showcased standout athletes, compelling story lines, and future stars of Subway commercials. But, until Saturday, we had yet to find a real hero. Enter hockey player T.J. Oshie, Team U.S.A.’s shootout specialist, whose incredible performance led America to a 3-2 victory over Team Russia.
Oshie, a NHL player with the St. Louis Blues, scored four times in an eight-round shootout, thanks to funky Olympic rules that I’m not going to attempt to explain. Oshie is from Warroad, Minnesota, which bills itself as the “Original Hockey Town U.S.A.” And after that performance, who are we to argue?
The Russians, on the other hand, are complaining they got rooked after refs called off a goal by Fedor Tyutin at the end of the third period because the net was loose.
Eh, sure, that loose net. The goal would have given Russia the lead, but instead the game went into overtime and Operation Oshie. We know how that ends.
Sure, it’s just the preliminary rounds, and this isn’t quite the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” or a shootout against Iceland in the Junior Goodwill Games, but the stacked teams, the rowdy crowd, Putin’s gaze — it all amped up the tension and the stakes. And it sure felt good to beat a talented Team Russia on its home turf.
So after our blood was pumping from re-watching that hockey game, NBC takes us down a few pegs with its broadcast of the men’s large hill. One U.S. skier was disqualified because his ski suit violated fabric standards, the rest of the Americans failed to qualify at all. So why are we watching this again? Kidding, other countries matter, too.
Japan’s Noriaki Kasai celebrated a fantastic jump and thought he'd won. This guy’s been in every Olympics for the past twenty years, but has a medal drought equally long. He last stood on the podium when he won silver in Lillehammer in '94.
But Kamil Stoch of Poland ousted Kasai from the top spot, and Kasai left with silver again.
Okay, back to America! Two U.S. skeleton lugers, John Daly, who hails from Long Island, and Matthew Antoine, were competing for bronze in the finals of the men’s skeleton. Daly was in fourth place, and oh-so-close, when he had this heartbreaking slip at the start of the race.
He knew, we all knew, it was over. But he had to careen down that whole track on his belly knowing he blew it. Ugh.
Ugh again. Daly fell out of the running, but Antoine was able to snag a bronze for Uncle Sam.
Women’s alpine skiing super-G should really be re-named "death slope," at least when it takes place at Russia's Rosa Khutor. The announcers' spoke of “weird spring snow,” snow that “turns to soup,” “ice having it’s way with her,” and “soft, marble corn snow that’s conspiring against skiers.”
It’s no wonder the ladies had a tough time finishing. Many didn't, including U.S. skier Laurenne Ross.
Random dudes almost skiing onto the course in the middle of your run doesn't help either.
Oh, today was that Olympic thing! Although past U.S. medalist Julia Mancuso, who finished a disappointing eighth, probably wished today wasn't medal day.
Luckily, the warmer climes did not affect Austrian skier and cheetah enthusiast Anna Fenninger. Cheetah enthusiast, you ask?
Yep. Fenninger, who dons a cheetah-print helmet, managed to navigate the hellish super-G and its corn marble snow to win gold for her country and big cats everywhere.
Back indoors for the men's 1500-meter speed skate. U.S. skater Joey Mantia seemed all business pre-race, but ended up 22nd. But we give him style points!
Nope, wrong type of skating. Or, wait a second ...
The Netherlands' Koen Verweij confused us when, after zooming across the finish line, he gracefully let down his flowing blond locks and oh-so-casually unzipped his unitard.
Verweij missed first by a mere three one-thousandths of a second. Sports! Poland’s Zbigniew Bródka won the gold and took his victory lap fully clothed.
Meredith Vieira, in her second night of hosting duties, reminded us that the men’s short-track speed skate is the musical equivalent of heavy metal. It is a rough, rough sport.
Yet no more wipeouts. Just a South Korean skater who tried a weird box-out move on his competitor.
But Viktor Ahn of Russia, formerly Ahn Hyun-Soo of South Korea, owned the narrative of the night. This guy is a darn good speed skater and past gold medalist. He’s also responsible for that notorious fall in the 2002 Olympics that took out Apolo Ohno. Change your name, Ahn, we won't forgot. Ahn did not make the South Korean team, and Russia, seeing an undervalued free agent, wooed him with citizenship and a chance to speed-skate on their national team. The whole situation sounds a little suspect.
Ahn chose his name wisely and won gold, and became the first traitor, I mean man, to earn a gold for two different countries. The crowd loved him. Ahn was clearly pumped at his victory, but the flag-waving seemed a little forced.
We finished off the evening with a guest appearance by Willie Geist. We’re not sure if this was some sort of audition in case NBC needs another stand-in for Bob Costas. If it was, his quip to Vieira of: "Hey Meredith, you know those inappropriate selfies you've been sending me?" probably did not help his cause.
Geist also tried to distract us from the fact that we’re now losing to Russia in the medal count by showing us athletes' selfies and telling us we’re winning on Twitter, whatever that means.
But it's going to be fine. We got Oshie.