Sochi 2014

NBCUniversal celebrates 100-day countdown to Sochi Olympics with increased promotion (videos)

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NBC Olympics and the networks for NBCUniversal will increase Sochi Olympic programming to coincide with the 100-day countdown to the Winter Games on Oct. 29.

A new phase of multi-platform marketing will be highlighted by a 20-channel promotional Roadblock in the 8 p.m. ET/PT hour on Oct. 29. In addition, NBC Sports Group and the networks of NBCU will participate at the kickoff of the USOC’s Road to Sochi Tour in New York City’s Times Square earlier in the day.

“The 100-day mark is the moment when our considerable Olympic campaign kicks into another gear,” said John Miller, CMO, NBC Sports Group. “For Sochi, we will use the full force of America’s largest media company to market the biggest Winter Olympics ever, being hosted by the biggest country in the world. As a Symphony priority, it’s invaluable to have so many parts of the company — 20 channels, 65 websites and the full strength of Comcast — playing together with singular focus to make our campaign come to life and make the Sochi Olympics a massive television event.”

Coverage of the Olympic Winter Games will begin one night before the Opening Ceremony with the start of competition in Sochi — men’s and women’s snowboard slopestyle, women’s moguls and team figure skating.

Here are more highlights of NBCUniversal’s promotional plans from Oct. 29 leading up to the Olympics:

  • The NBC Peacock “bug” with the Olympic rings will appear on NBC and other NBCU networks, including NBCSN, with more frequency.
  • Locally, NBCUniversal will work with its family of over 230 local broadcast affiliates to air locally-focused spots leading up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, as well as air local news coverage and specific promos about local Olympic athletes and events in their regions.
  • NBCUniversal will air spots that aim to help demonstrate the breadth of digital streaming coverage for the upcoming Sochi Games, and how customers of MVPDs and other distributors of NBCUniversal’s Olympic networks can access that content both in and out of the home on multiple platforms.
  • Comcast, NBCUniversal’s parent company, will use its wide breadth of digital and cable access to reach its customers in over 22 million homes to distribute Olympic-related promotional materials, as well as direct mailings, video guides and video-on demand features all related to NBC’s coverage of the Games.
  • In the final three and a half weeks leading up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, NBCUniversal will prioritize its Olympic promotional ads across its 18 cable channels. NBCUniversal will air spots to push audiences to the first primetime broadcast on Feb. 6 and the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 7.
  • Leading up to the Games, Olympic promotion will be featured in 14 different out-of-home networks across 18 different outlets, increasing viewer reach by 50% versus the out-of-market delivery for the 2012 London Summer Games. Shoppers and commuters will begin seeing NBC Olympic promotional spots via out-of-home marketing, which will be featured in national retail stores, including Costco and Walmart, in-dining networks, New York City taxi cabs, and PATH trains.

The push toward 100 days out began last weekend with the debut of four Olympic spots narrated by “Revolution” and “Breaking Bad” star Giancarlo Esposito.

“I’m a longtime athlete and have never been a professional and never played sports in school,” Esposito said. “So when I was a young boy the highlight of my life was to watch the summer Olympics, and you had to wait those four years … and then to see the winter Olympics, it was one of the biggest highlights of my life because I always wanted to be able to compete that way.”

You can view the four spots below:

Care

“What I love about the Olympics is that they’re people who are the common man and woman, everyday people who have the opportunity and the chance to prove to themselves that there is something inside them, a dream that can be fulfilled, and to me the Olympics for America is everything,” Esposito said. “I’m a big runner, a big cyclist and in the things that I do, I hear the Olympics music year round in my head … when I’m running in the park around Ladybird Lake here in Austin, Texas. ”

Trade

“I became a skier from watching television and watching skiers, and Lindsey Vonn has become one of my favorites as has been Bode Miller,” Esposito said. “Some of what Bode Miller is — a skier who I can relate to because he was never perfect — he was unorthodox and he could hit a gate and would be on … go from one leg to the other. There was never any opportunity for him to win that race a few years ago (2010 Olympics super combined), but the physical ability that he had not to crash and to get down that course, to me was everything, so even in his failure I was inspired.”

The Same

“To meet guys like Franz Klammer, the winningest skier in all of history, who you just don’t know how he could get his body to move that way and a guy who is just so lovely,” Esposito said.

Dream

“I just can’t wait to watch and be inspired again,” Esposito said.

U.S. Olympic Trials broadcast schedule

World Figure Skating Championships pairs preview

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Volosozhar and Trankov couldn’t do it. Neither did Shen and Zhao. Nor Gordeeva and Grinkov.

Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford can win a third straight pairs world title next week, a feat not seen since Irina Rodnina and Alexander Zaitsev of the Soviet Union won six in a row from 1973 through 1978.

But they don’t feel like favorites.

“We’re coming in a little more under the radar,” Radford said.

They lost their two most recent international competitions — third at the Grand Prix Final in December; second at the Four Continents Championships in February.

Duhamel and Radford are seeded fifth by best international scores this season going into the world championships in Helsinki (broadcast schedule here).

“Sometimes it feels like worlds last year was so long ago,” Radford said.

Last year in Boston, Duhamel and Radford had the performance of their seven-year partnership in the world championships free skate. They tallied a personal-best 153.81 points, more than seven points clear of their previous best.

It was easily enough to overtake Chinese short-program leaders Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who were relegated to silver behind the Canadians for a second straight year.

This season, Duhamel and Radford haven’t come within 13 points of their 2016 World Championships total. Duhamel went through “an unforeseeable circumstance” in her personal life in November that she chooses not to reveal.

They implemented the throw triple Axel, but Duhamel fell three times in a four-event stretch this fall. They lost by nearly 13 points at December’s Grand Prix Final, which ended with a Duhamel backstage meltdown.

“We never fell like that at home [in practice],” Duhamel said on the IceTalk podcast. “It started to shake us up a little bit.”

They replaced the throw triple Axel in their program. Without it in February, both skaters had trouble with jumps at Four Continents at the 2018 Olympic venue and finished nearly 13 points behind Sui and Han.

“We kind of went back to square one, to the drawing board after Four Continents, reassessing what’s gone on this season, why are we underperforming, why are we not succeeding in competition the way we are training,” Duhamel said.

They made program changes, notably on their throw and jump entrances and overhauling the footwork in their short program.

Duhamel adopted a rescue dog from South Korea. Radford, who had surgery over the summer to remove a cyst from his ankle bone, leaned on a sports psychologist.

“I personally feel a lot more relaxed and seemless,” Radford said. “That feeling has come a little bit later this season.”

Five pairs could take gold in Helsinki in perhaps the most wide-open event.

Germans Aliona Savchenko and (French-born) Bruno Massot won both of their fall Grand Prix events but missed the Grand Prix Final after she tore an ankle ligament. They returned to take silver at the European Championships in January with the best score of their two-year partnership.

Young Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov stepped up to win the Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual competition, and then the European Championships. But free-skate struggles have dogged them this season.

Another Russian pair, Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, are perhaps the biggest wild card. They missed the fall season due to Stolbova’s left leg injury, but then beat Tarasova and Morozov in their season debut at the Russian Championships. Stolbova fell on their throw triple flip in both programs at the European Championships in January, and they finished fourth.

Then there are Sui and Han, looking to break through for a first senior world title in their sixth try (though Sui is just 21 years old, and Han 24). They missed the fall season after Sui underwent right ankle and left foot surgeries last spring. They returned at Four Continents and posted personal-best free skate and total scores, ranking only behind Tarasova and Morozov for the season.

U.S. pairs Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim and Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier have both missed significant time due to injury in the last two years. They are behind the top pairs from Canada, China and Russia.

The U.S. hasn’t put a pair in the world championships top five since 2006, and that doesn’t figure to change next week.

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MORE: Ashley Wagner knows pressure’s on her at worlds

NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

Ashley Caldwell will win or lose Olympic aerials gold with triples

AP
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PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — As a teenager, Ashley Caldwell never had problems hanging with the boys when it came to doing the biggest flips off the aerials ramp. Now in her 20s, she sees no reason for that to change.

Caldwell will make or miss her third U.S. Olympic team, then potentially win or lose the gold medal in South Korea, by doing triple flips off the kicker while most of the women are doing doubles. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition that sets the bar high, and sends a certain message, regardless of whether she finishes first or last.

“It’s not just about trying to be there by myself,” Caldwell says. “It’s about maybe inspiring some younger girls to say, `I should be able to push to whatever I’m capable of doing, not necessarily what people say my gender is capable of doing.”‘

Caldwell never shirked from joining the teenage boys when they started moving to the bigger kickers and adding an extra flip to the doubles they did as kids.

Triples are the price of admission for the men, and while not unheard of among the women, the list of athletes who will try them is short: Jacqui Cooper, Alla Tsuper and Xu Mengtao are among the few who have tried them over the years. They’re also among the best to ever fly off a ramp.

At the Sochi Olympics, Lydia Lassila of Australia became the first woman to land a quadruple-twisting triple flip on snow in training. The next night, she brought it to the medals round, and though she touched her hand to the ground on the landing, she won a bronze medal anyway and stole the headlines.

“That’s who I’m inspired by,” Caldwell said that night. “She’s trying to push the sport so that girls are jumping like the boys, and she’s doing it, and it’s really impressive.”

At freestyle world championships earlier this month, Caldwell sent her message when she became the first woman to cleanly land that same triple-flipping, quadruple-twisting jump in competition (video here).

“It was the first time I had every coach come up to me and shake my hand before the score even came up,” said Todd Ossian, who works with Caldwell as head coach of the U.S. aerials team.

And yet, Caldwell was oh-so-close to not being able to even try that winning jump.

Aerials competitions go through a series of qualifying and elimination rounds that include only one jump each. Consistency is rewarded, and most women train a variety of double flips to make it through the rounds, then bring out their most intricate jump – more often than not, also a double – for when the medals are awarded.

Caldwell doesn’t go that route. She tries triples every time she steps onto the hill.

It adds extra – some might say unnecessary – risk to the early rounds. When the field was being cut from 12 to nine at world championships, for instance, Caldwell didn’t land her triple flip. She was able to squeak into the top nine and advance only because her degree of difficulty for the triple was so high.

“I’m OK sacrificing some good competition results to increase my consistency on the triple,” says Caldwell, giving a nod to the reality that training days on snow are precious and she needs to use them to focus on the jumps she’ll be performing when the contests start.

The recently ended season tested the limits of how much Caldwell was willing to sacrifice. In meet after meet, from Moscow to Minsk to an Olympic test event in South Korea, difficulties with the triple kept her far away from the podium. In the World Cup standings, Caldwell finished 10th.

To her, that’s more a badge of honor than a sign of failure. In a sport that oddly transforms daredevils into conformists, and rewards consistency over risk-taking, Caldwell plans to keep pushing anyway.

In doing triples, her mission is as much about winning as bringing others along for the ride.

“I want the crowd to feel like they know who won,” Caldwell said. “I want it to be impressive. I just want people to say, `That’s sweet. That’s what’s deserved.’ If a lot of girls are doing triples up there and I fall, there would still be a lot of girls who would do well. I’m cool with that. If I mess up, that’s OK. But I want the sport to look good.”

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VIDEO: Top U.S. aerials skier crashes hard at World Cup