Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski
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Why Tara and Johnny are pumped for the Olympics

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Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir have been to the “Happiest Place on Earth,” but for one month, every four years, another city can say they too own that title. This year, that city is PyeongChang, South Korea – home of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games and a place where many athletes are hoping to make their dreams come true.

The figure skating competition gets underway Thursday, Feb. 8 live in Primetime on NBC and NBCOlympics.com. Olympians-turned-analysts Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir can hardly contain their excitement.

Lipinski said in a recent NBC media call that she was as excited about PyeongChang 2018 as when she struck gold at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

“It’s the moment that you walk into an Olympic arena that it feels so much bigger than any other event that I’ve ever participated in, competed in or have been an analyst for.”

Two-time Olympian Johnny Weir has been a broadcaster at three Games, and said every one of them feels special in their own way.

NBCOlympics.com: Watch/stream the team event men’s, pairs’ short program

​”I think it’s a huge honor and privilege to be able to shape the stories of young athletes who compete in these sports that many people only pay attention to every four years.”

Unlike some other sports in the Olympics where people can watch them pretty frequently, this is figure skating’s big stage. All eyes will be on the athletes, this is their time to shine.

Tara and Johnny know firsthand how these athletes are feeling. The nerves, the excitement, stepping out onto the ice for the first time. They’ve been there, done that.

“We’ve been those skaters in the little niche sport that people only watch every four years,” Weir said. “So, for us, it’s a big responsibility and a major honor to be able to craft those stories.”

Now instead of nailing that triple Axel, their responsibility turns to telling the viewers at home the stories behind these athletes, teaching them about the sport and why it is so unique.

“We’re that unique sport where you are judged half on your technical skill and half on your artistic skill,” Lipinski added. “Especially when it comes to something like artistry that can be a very personal preference.”

Not only are Tara and Johnny excited for the competition to get underway, but they are excited to be working with one another.

“That’s why she’s been so great as a broadcaster and as an athlete. She makes me up my game which really means that Tara’s a great partner,” Weir said of his friend and fellow podcast host.

Lipinski summed it up:

“The Olympics are magic, and I can’t wait to be part of it.”

How Arianna Fontana quietly skated into short track history

Arianna Fontana
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Arianna Fontana is silently one of the greatest short track skaters in Olympic history.

Her numbers at the Games speak for themselves; one gold, two silver, and five bronze. Those eight total medals make her the most decorated female short track skater by two medals, and tie her with legends Apolo Ohno and Viktor Ahn for most Olympic medals ever won by a short track skater.

But it is her numbers outside the Olympic stage that really call attention to her Olympic success. She is a 14-time world medalist, which is no small feat, but her podium appearances are spread over a 12-year competitive career. Someone like Elise Christie, for example, has won 12 world championships medals in just five years. And also unlike Christie, Fontana has never won an overall title.

But Christie struggled on the sport’s biggest stage in both Sochi and PyeongChang, and has yet to win her first Olympic medal. Fontana, on the other hand, has become such a consistent podium presence over the last two Games that she almost makes it look easy.

Before retiring from competition, Ohno won 21 world medals, eight of them gold. Ahn, still competing but not one of the athletes invited to competed at the PyeongChang Olympics as an Olympic Athlete from Russia, has to date has won 35 world medals, 20 of which were gold.

Fontana does not come from a short track power like South Korea or China, perhaps another reason why she is not more notorious.

Most of her medals are bronze, which could be used as a strike against her, but just ask Lindsey Vonn how hard she worked to get hers this year.

Fontana’s first medal came at the 2006 Torino Olympics, when she helped the Italian women to bronze in the 3000m relay at just 15 years old. Fontana earned her first individual medal, a bronze in the 500m, four years later in Vancouver.

But in Sochi, she exploded, making the podium in three out of four events: the 500m, where she won silver, and the 1500m and 3000m relay, where she picked up two more bronzes.

“I thought I was going to win a gold medal in Sochi but I still don’t have that,” Fontana said to the ISU in early 2017. “That’s there up in my mind and sometimes it comes out and says, ‘Hey, you still miss me? So come get me!'”.

But after the 2014-15 season, Fontana’s desire for gold was eclipsed by something else: burnout.

“I was pretty tired mentally. My body was ready to race again but my mind was not. It was hard for me. After the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, I had some doubts about whether to keep skating or not,” Fontana said to the ISU. “Maybe it would have been better to take that year right after the Olympic Games off, but I decided to keep going. It is not that I regret it, but I had some hard times that season.”

She stayed active during her time off, learning how to box, which eased the transition back to skating.

Her pursuit for gold was what motivated her comeback, and in 2018 Fontana got what she came back for.

“When I saw I was first, I was just yelling and started crying. I worked for four years and the last four months were really hard for me. I was really focused on getting here in the best shape ever,” Fontana said after earning the 500m Olympic title.

“I was chasing it and finally I got it.”

In addition to her 500m gold medal, Fontana also added a 1000m bronze and 3000m relay bronze.

Fontana has spoken about retirement, but has not made a definitive decision. She will only be 31 years old by the time 2022 rolls around, so she could feasibly add to her medal haul if she competes. What she has made clear is that when she does leave the sport she hopes to become a personal trainer.

Whenever she does retire Fontana should be considered not only one of the greatest Italian athletes or greatest short track skaters, but also one of the greatest Winter Olympians.

How to watch Closing Ceremony of 2018 Winter Olympics

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Another Olympics is in the books.

The PyeongChang Closing Ceremony will cap off the 2018 Winter Games Sunday morning, beginning at 6 a.m. ET / 3 a.m. PT with a live stream of the events.

Jessie Diggins has been named the U.S. flag bearer after an incredibly gutsy performance to take home the country’s first-ever gold medal in Cross-Country.

How, when and where to watch the Closing Ceremony

Stream LIVE on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app: Sunday at 6 a.m. ET / 3 a.m. PT (Stream here)

The live stream will feature all the sights and sounds of the Closing Ceremony without any commentary.

Watch on TV: Sunday at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on NBC (Stream here)

The Olympic figure skating commentating trio of Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir and Terry Gannon will host the Closing Ceremony on NBC in primetime beginning at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT.

“It’s a huge honor and privilege,” Lipinski said. “I’m so excited to embark on this new and exciting adventure and bring the Closing Ceremony to the U.S.”

“This is a glorious and unexpected experience that I can’t wait to get fancy for!” Weir said.

Mike Tirico – NBC’s primetime host throughout the PyeongChang Games – hosted the Closing Ceremony for Rio in 2016 alongside Ryan Seacrest and Mary Carillo.

Tirico and Katie Couric hosted the PyeongChang Opening Ceremony in South Korea two weeks ago.

Sunday night’s primetime edition of the Closing Ceremony will also feature simulstreams on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app. (Stream here)