PyeongChang can prove the transformative power of Olympics

AP
0 Comments

The location of next month’s Winter Olympics couldn’t be more apt, NBC Olympics president of production and programming Jim Bell writes in USA Today.

“The most heavily fortified border in the world, abutting one of its most isolated regimes, and with two countries still technically at war, should bear witness to the most peaceful, unifying event the planet has to offer,” Bell wrote.

“The Olympics have never been merely about sporting events; they’ve also been a powerful reminder of what the world can be: citizens of the planet, coming together, to experience different cultures devoid of judgment or hatred.”

North Korea and South Korea had their first formal dialogue in more than two years on Tuesday. It was about the Olympics.

It resulted in the North planning to send a delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Games, which start Feb. 8 on NBC.

The details could be hammered out at a proposed Jan. 20 meeting among officials from both Koreas and the International Olympic Committee.

It’s a marketed change from 30 years ago, when South Korea hosted its first Olympics, the Summer Games in Seoul.

“Roughly a year before those Games, South Korea was reborn as an open society and democratic state, with its first directly elected president, and a new range of social norms, from civil rights to a free press,” Bell wrote. “The Olympics introduced this new South Korea to the world and now, 30 years later, the Olympics are returning.”

North Korea boycotted in 1988.

But athletes from the two Koreas since showed solidarity at major international sporting events.

The nations marched together under the blue-and-white Korea “unification” flag at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Opening Ceremonies in Sydney and Athens.

In Rio, North and South Korean gymnasts posed for a selfie together. And North Korea did compete in the two Asian Games hosted by South Korea in the last 30 years, in 2002 and 2014.

There will be many other highlights from these Games.

U.S. stars like Mikaela ShiffrinNathan ChenLindsey Vonn and Shaun White. International stories like the Nigerian women’s bobsled team. And others uncovered as competition plays out.

“Cynical detractors can often outshout thoughtful critics, and the Olympics make a convenient target,” Bell wrote. “Perhaps this winter, as the world returns to this critically important peninsula, there will be a de-escalation of tensions and a renewed emphasis on hope and cooperation. Warts and all, the Olympics may turn out to be the best vehicle for such an essential transformation.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Breakdown of NBC record hours of PyeongChang programming

Scotty James wins fifth X Games snowboard halfpipe title

Scotty James
Getty
0 Comments

Scotty James doesn’t have Olympic gold, but he remains king of the X Games halfpipe.

James, the Australian snowboarder who took bronze and silver at the last two Olympics, earned his fifth Aspen gold, repeating as champ of the biggest annual contest under falling snow in the Colorado Rockies. Only the retired Shaun White has more X Games men’s snowboard halfpipe titles with eight.

Nobody on Friday night attempted a triple cork, which was first done in competition by Japan’s Ayumu Hirano last season en route to the Olympic title. Hirano placed sixth Friday.

“It was a tough night, pretty interesting conditions,” James said. “Had to adjust the game plan. The show goes on.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression over the course of a three-run jam session for the entire field rather than scoring individual runs.

Earlier, Olympic gold medalist Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand repeated as women’s snowboard slopestyle champion, passing Olympic bronze medalist Tess Coady of Australia on the final run of the competition. Sadowski-Synnott, the only snowboarder or skier to win Olympic, world and X Games slopestyle titles, capped her finale with back-to-back 900s.

The competition lacked 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion Jamie Anderson, who announced her pregnancy last month.

Canada’s Megan Oldham landed the first triple cork in women’s ski big air competition history to beat Olympic silver medalist Tess Ledeux of France, according to commentators. Oldham, a 21-year-old ex-gymnast, was fourth at the Olympics.

Eileen Gu, the Olympic champion from China, did not compete but is entered in halfpipe and slopestyle later this weekend.

ON HER TURF: U.S. freeskier Maggie Voisin on grief, loss, finding motivation

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Isabeau Levito wins U.S. figure skating title at age 15, followed by comeback stories

0 Comments

Isabeau Levito won her first U.S. figure skating title at age 15, cementing her status as the new leading American woman to open the new Olympic cycle.

Levito, the world junior champion, tallied 223.33 points between two strong programs in San Jose, California. She distanced two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022 and scored 213.12.

Tennell was just two hundredths behind Levito after Thursday’s short but had multiple jumping errors in the free skate.

Levito followed her as last to go in the free and nailed the most pressure-packed performance of her young career, including the hardest jump combination done of the entire field. She didn’t receive a single negative mark from a judge for her 19 technical elements in her two programs.

Moments later, she was in tears backstage.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

“I was just so proud of myself for staying so calm and staying so focused, doing exactly what I aimed to do,” Levito, who hasn’t finished off the podium in more than 20 events dating to November 2016, said on NBC. “I’m ready to start bouncing off the walls.”

Amber Glenn, 23, placed third and will likely become the oldest U.S. women’s singles skater to make her world championships debut in at least 45 years. Glenn botched her 11th attempt to join the list of U.S. women to land a clean triple Axel (tally according to Skatingscores.com) but still moved up from fourth after the short program, passing Starr Andrews.

Last year, Glenn entered nationals as the fourth-ranked U.S. woman and a hopeful for the three-woman Olympic team. She placed 14th in the short program, competing unknowingly with COVID-19, then tested positive and withdrew before the free skate.

In 2021, Glenn was the U.S. silver medalist, yet passed over for a spot on the two-woman world team in favor of the more experienced Karen Chen, who finished 35 hundredths behind Glenn at those nationals.

Levito, Tennell and Glenn are expected to make up the team for March’s world championships, decided by a committee.

Gracie Gold, a two-time U.S. champion who was fifth after the short program, popped a pair of planned triple Lutzes and dropped to eighth.

None of the three 2022 U.S. Olympians competed. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell retired. Chen is a student at Cornell and might not return.

Nationals continue Saturday with the free dance and pairs’ free skate, live on NBC Sports and Peacock.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!