Goodbye, Rio: Olympics GIF Wrap Up

The 31st Olympiad has come to a close and it lived up to everything the Games are supposed to be. It was inspiring, heart-wrenching and downright bizarre. We quite literally laughed, cried, and learned about life every single day of the Games. In two weeks we saw children perform almost superhuman athletic feats – and we saw a few adults old enough to be their parents do the same. We marveled at the way a talented competitor can affect society beyond the bounds of mere sport. We saw international friendships form and international scandals break. Zac Efron was there. Leslie Jones was there. As always, the Olympics were a display of athleticism, drive and international cooperation that simply defied words. But where words fail us, gifs do not. Let’s look back at the Rio Games with the clips, quips and reaction shots that will come to define your tumblr dash in the weeks to come:

The pride of Brazil, Gisele Bunchen, showed off her walking skills at the opening ceremony. And then she danced with the commoners in a gold, sequined jumpsuit, because that’s what they do in Brazil

First of all, these people on bikes leading each of the countries in. It’s next level Ms. Frizzle. Second, this is the most recognizable flag bearer in the world – Oiled Up Dude From Tonga. He became so popular that he even made a second appearance in the closing ceremony by dancing on stage.

For the first time, a team comprised of refugees from around the world competed in the Games, and what you can’t see in this gif is us letting out the first of many tears shed throughout the Olympics.

Best cauldron ever?

#Teammates

tfw when you lift a shit ton of weight & manage to not smash it on your head

Argentina’s Juan Martín del Potro unexpectedly gave Britain’s Andy Murray a run for the gold, but the four hour match ended in favor of the Brit, leaving underdog del Potro in tears. It was heartbreaking.

Super underdog Monica Puig, who ranked 34th in the world, managed to win gold in women’s tennis – and the first gold for Puerto Rico. Add a notch to the cry count.

As soon as we work through the language barrier, our girl Fu is gonna be our next best friend.

Simone Manuel became the first black woman to win a gold medal in an individual swimming competition in the history of the Olympics and this moment when she found out she won the 100m freestyle will forever go down in my favorite Olympics moments ever. She was an underdog and came from behind, but more importantly, she now stands as a hero to all black swimmers, in a sport which was rooted in racism in the U.S.

Katie Ledecky slayed so hard, her closest competition barely fit in the same shot.

This is going to be one of those memes that will resurface again in a wave of nostalgia in about two and a half years.

Well.

Oblig Michael Phelps Section

It’s no leaking goggles disaster of ’08, but it’s still pretty stressful. In the middle of the 4×200 relay, Phelps’ cap breaks into two, forcing him to borrow teammate Connor Dwyer’s cap (he went first in the relay). What’s most fascinating to me is that when it broke, you could tell he said, ‘DANG IT!”. I can think of at least 5 other curse words I’d say in succession if that ever happened to me.

#Phlochte

You’ve seen this already. See it again.

And this is why Michael Phelps leaves the trash talking out and does work inside the pool. Suck it Le Clos.

*Look at where you are. Look at where you started.*

These three rivals may have tied for silver (after being edged out by a young whippersnapper) but they win the gold in the most awkward hand holding medal ceremony ever. Seriously, the history between these three is epic. Look it up.

Ryan Held. Sweet cinnamon roll. Enjoy it bud.

GOD BLESS THIS CAMERA MAN.

For some reason err’body was proposing to their loved ones at this Olympics, including this Olympics volunteer who proposed to her Brazilian rugby player girlfriend after the first-ever rugby game was played at the Olympics. If you can’t tell, she tied a ribbon around her finger, so that’s officially my fave proposal of the Games.

This Chinese diver also got in the action by proposing to his GF after she won a diving medal of her own. This is the most reserved ‘Yes’ I’ve ever seen in my life.

Japan’s Risako Kawai won the gold medal in wrestling and if you thought she was tired after winning – she wasn’t. She flipped her coach in celebration. Watch the vid to see what she did next.

Any time I see athletes from North Korea doing not so well in the Olympics I get nervous for them and their return home. But in this moment, I felt nothing but pride an unity as two gymnasts from North and South Korea stopped to take a selfie during competition. This is what the Olympics is all about, folks.

Oblig Final Five Section

New patron saint of this blog: Laurie Hernandez

Also our new mantra we’re telling ourselves in the mirror each morning.

Lynn & Rick Raisman, never change.

CRY COUNT: WHO KNOWS ANYMORE.

It’s almost as if we CGIed this.

MAYBE MY FAVORITE THING TO COME OUT OF THESE OLYMPICS.

After the gymnastics competition is over, they have a gala, which is basically an exhibition of gymnasts who won medals, but also showcased possible events like synchronized trampoline and Tokyo 2020 sport, karate. The gala is known to be way more casual – enter American Danell Leyva, who won silver on the parallel bars. He decided to go all Magic Mike on the crowd and did this. Where my Brazilian Reals at to make it rain on him???

Ok, not a GIF, but if you’ve ever wondered how the field athletes get their various items back (discus, shotputs, javelins, etc.), a remote control car is used to zoom across the field. It is wild.

No, this Japanese pole vaulter’s junk was not the reason he couldn’t clear the bar.

Allyson Felix lost out on the gold by a mere dive across the finish line.

JK this might be my favorite story from the Olympics. When an American track runner falls and a New Zealand competitor stops to help her up. And they cross the finish line together. They even got a rare medal of sportsmanship from officials, so there’s another cry count for the books.

Fierce women sweep their way up to the podium.

Oblig Usain Bolt Section

Friendship goals

And then a Malaysian diver did this. Oops.

Brazil had the most epic win at the Olympics, and even though I care not for soccer, this brought me to tears multiple times.

Gold medal for most supportive American athletes : superstars of the basketball team. They were spotted in the stands to cheer on Michael Phelps and Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross, among others, and always looked so incredibly hype and proud of their fellow athletes.

The U.S. Men’s basketball team scored yet another gold medal, and this is why I need to be friends (slash date) every single one of them. Deandre Jordan, I’m looking at you.

the time when the prime minister of japan lit’rally popped up from a mario tube to help introduce Tokyo 2020. We are ready for Japan.

and of course, this guy.

 

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The Proper Age To Give Up On Your Summer Olympic Dream

In 2014 we discussed your Winter Olympics dreams and when you should let them die (short answer: already):

Remember watching the Olympics when you were a kid? There was a whole world of possibility! You could watch any sport and wonder whether maybe you had some innate gift for it and would be competing for your country in 20 years.

As you moved through your later childhood and teen years, your dreams had to die bit by bit. You’d realize that you weren’t even the best hockey player on your school’s team, or you’d fail to qualify for regionals in track. Maybe you shot up to a stocky 5’10 and realized you wouldn’t be much of a gymnast. Or maybe you didn’t get that far — maybe, by age 12 or so, you came to realize that you’re just … not athletic.

And yet, every two years – at the summer and winter Olympics – I start to get a little ahead of myself. Just like when I was five years old, I watch the events and wonder if maybe it’s not too late.

Well, friends, I’m here to kill those dreams. I’ve done a little research, and it looks like if you haven’t started most Winter Olympics events by a certain (usually young) age, you’ll never be using “next-level Tinder” in the Olympic village or wearing your country’s weird Cosby/teacher sweater in the Parade of Nations.

Obviously, there are exceptions to all of these. There really are savants who can take up a sport and be at a competitive level right away. There are also some people who are so preternaturally athletic that they’ll excel in any sport you throw at them. Of course, if you’re already skilled in a closely related sport, it’s also not that hard to take up a new one. 

We figured it was time to kill our Summer Olympic dreams, too (I’m almost 30 years old and really more into exercise than athletics). In case you were wondering, here’s when you should turn your dream into a dream deferred, focusing on individual sports for practical purposes:

Archery

Maybe it’s time to dust off that bow that you impulse-bought back in 2012 when you were really into the Hunger Games. Archery has one of the longest age ranges of any Olympic sport, with competitors reaching into their 50s. Sure, it’ll take some time, but if you show natural aptitude for it and practice a lot … maybe!

Canoeing

I have a kayak and it’s a really fun and easy activity. Olympic canoeing is maybe a bit more intense than my local rivers and streams, though? It also looks like so much fun. Most competitors are in their mid-20s, but some are a bit older. It’s probably easier and more enjoyable to canoe or kayak just for the fun of it, but there’s no harm in researching the (fairly intense) qualification system if you’re really good.

Cycling

Cycling seems like a sport that you could begin later. I mean, I’ve known how to ride a bike without training wheels since I was 4 and I think I can go pretty fast. It turns out I’m not quite wrong. Cycling is a sport that you can specialize in fairly late, and you can remain at an elite level throughout your 30s. The average age pro cycler is 28, but unlike some other sports many of the athletes weren’t competitive wunderkinds at age 15.

The great news is that cycling can be a lifelong activity and if your heart isn’t set on competing at the Olympics, there are road races for every skill level. I think an athletic, talented person could get a number of non-Olympic gold medals with the right drive and preparation. Go ahead. Hop on that bike and dream a little.

Equestrian

Here’s the thing about equestrian. You can keep doing it for a long time, but you also probably have to start fairly young, if only from a logistics standpoint. With all of the time, money and equipment involved, an adult simply is not going to start at learning how to hold onto the reins and work their way through the many competitive levels.

If you’re already good at riding horses, great! Don’t kill your dream – there are equestrian competitors in their 40s and 50s. If you’ve never been on a horse, maybe some amateur-level horseback riding classes and trail rides would be more fun.

Gymnastics

Did you know that Simone Biles, inspiration to millions, gold medalist widely considered the best gymnast of all time, was actually a late starter to gymnastics?

She was six.

If you’re old enough to read this, say farewell to your Olympic dreams. And if you’re already in gymnastics but you aren’t in elite training and competition by your early teens, forget it.

There’s a specific body type that’s optimal for gymnastics – short, muscular, flexible, light – and even if you’re really dedicated and talented, you’ll probably stall out if you get too tall to fly through the air with the greatest of ease.

Marathon

Good(ish) news! Marathon runners are thought to peak in their late 20s and early 30s, and since super long distances can have negative health implications for young teens, it’s not as though most competitors were running full marathons since they were 12 or anything. Let’s say you’re already a runner, maybe did cross-country for a while, make great times and are willing to train. There is the time and lifestyle thing, of course: if you’re in your 20s or 30s you might not be able to center your schedule around intense runs. But don’t let your age stop you – in Beijing, the US Women’s team was lead by two 35-year-olds. 

Eventually your joints will probably fail you and your aerobic capacity will decrease. However, like cycling I’m going to say that this is a sport where it’s okay to dream a little. There are so many marathons and half-marathons out there that if you’re talented and hard-working, you might find yourself qualifying for some of the big-name races even if you’re in your late 20s, 30s or 40s. Remember, an 84-year-old qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon.

Shooting

Maybe you’re a skilled hunter or live for your weekends at the shooting range. Are you Olympic-level good? Dream big, Annie Oakley. There are shooters in their 40s and 50s competing this year. Granted, it’s not incredibly easy to qualify – or easy at all – but if you measure yourself against the top shooters and can tell that you’re just as good, you might as well acquaint yourself with the International Shooting Sport Federation.

Swimming

Want to swim? You have a tad longer than some other sports: most swimmers get their feet wet as elementary-school kids at the YMCA or JCC, but a number of competitive swimmers didn’t start swimming seriously until high school or even college. Talent will not always show itself until a swimmer is much older: USA Swimming cautions that a fast 10-year-old will not always be a fast 18-year-old (nor a slow 10-year-old a slow 18-year-old). While not all swimmers are tall, most of them are, so if you’re short with a small wingspan it’s a good idea to put your dream to sleep before it suffers too much.

You can start late as a swimmer if you’re naturally talented and athletic, but don’t expect to stay in the sport forever. Did you hear the NBC commentators marveling that Michael Phelps could hoist himself from the swimming pool between gold-medal races? That’s because a 31-year-old swimmer isn’t the norm. Well, partially. It’s mostly because the NBC commentators are terrible.

Tennis

The great thing about tennis is that you can start playing as a tot and keep at it til you’re one of those old men with the tiny shorts on the public courts (seriously guys, why always such small shorts?). There are some anecdotal claims of college-level or competitive tennis players who started at age 11 or 15, so that’s heartening. Still, if you haven’t started some kind of training as a kid or teen, have fun on the courts but forget about the Olympics.

Trampoline

My personal love affair with the trampoline died around 1995, when I was doing that popcorn game where you sit down and let other kids bounce you … and I was the skinny kid … and I flew off the trampoline and broke my nose. I think a lot of trampoline dreams died the same way – backyard accidents before trampolines had all of the safety features they do now. If you somehow escaped broken limbs or stitches during your childhood and think Olympic trampolining is the life for you, I have some news you won’t like. Those fancy acrobatics are the result of years of gymnastics training, and the athletes cap out in their early 20s.


We kid about killing your dreams, of course — the only person who can kill your dreams is you. The great thing about most of these individual sports is that you can take them up at any age and even compete at a non-elite level. And if you want to motivate yourself by imagining Olympic glory while you practice? A little daydream never hurt anybody.

 

Real or Not Real? Olympic Sports Edition

I’m assuming like most of the world’s citizens, we’re not experts on any of these Olympic sports, but any time we ever spend more than an hour watching something like synchronized diving, we immediately consider ourselves at-home-commentators who’ve suddenly become qualified to literally judge the sport from our couch.

But we know the truth. I forget synchronized diving is a thing people train for a month after cheering for David Boudia as he wins a silver medal. I forget synchronized diving is even a sport all together! So while all of us couch potatoes are obviously on the verge of becoming professional athletes, there are some sports that we might need to brush up on. Canoe Slalom? Rhythmic Gymnastics? Croquet? JK That last one isn’t a real sport. But can you tell the difference between these real and fake Olympic Sports? Time to brush up on your athletic knowledge.

Softball

Softball: the sport that is for women! Because we can’t possibly handle a smaller ball to hit with a bat!

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Softball is… not an Olympic sport! Not anymore. It WAS when the Olympics began in 1936, but in 2005, the IOC decided to discontinue Softball and it was played for the last time in 2008, when the gold medal was won by Japan. This was the only time the U.S. did not win the gold, and ended up with silver. There are a lot of theories as to why the IOC decided to pull the plug on softball, and one of them is that the U.S. was simply too dominant in the sport and were like, ‘um forget it. We can’t keep handing these gold medals to the Americans.’

Golf

Fun fact: I used to be super into golf. The PGA Championship was held in Rochester one year, and I went and saw Tiger from afar and other pro golfers in the flesh. Then I randomly got into it and would spend my Sunday afternoons with a tournament on the TV. What I’m saying is that I’m actually a pro-golfer and I’ve been lying about my other job this entire time.

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Golf… IS an Olympic sport! The Rio Olympics are the first time Golf has been played since 1904. And before that, it was only played in 1900. Golf at the Olympics are set up as an individual competition, so it’s none of that Ryder Cup group mentality. It’s every man and woman for themselves. Interestingly, a bunch of the world’s top golfers, like many anthletes, decided to pull out of the Olympics because of Zika. They’ll just continue to be bit by mosquitoes everywhere else.

Rugby Sevens

Rugby is cool. It’s popular in New Zealand, it’s more intense than American football, and you pass backwards. The offsides rules make no sense. There’s normal rugby, and there’s rugby sevens – 7 players vs 7 players with 7-minute periods. (I briefly dated a doofy rugby player when I was like 20, it is what it is).  The players from NZ do cool chants.

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Rugby Sevens… IS an Olympic sport! And 2016 is its debut year. I happened to be home when a women’s rugby sevens match was on this weekend and it was actually really, really fun. Men’s finals are on Thursday and the women’s competition is over. It was Australia v New Zealand which we bet is a big rivalry!

Trampoline

My word association with trampolines:

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Trampoline… IS a sport! The moves from Saved By the Bell’s Hot Sundae music video are not the same thing they do on the Olympic level.

Equestrian Vaulting

Did anyone ever watch that move Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken? It sounds like a slogan that would be on a t-shirt from Forever 21 along with a photo of, you know, a wistful girl in a flower crown, but I promise that it’s real. It’s about a girl who used to be a horse diver – like, took a living horse to the top of a platform and dove into water in the 1920s when that passed for entertainment – until she went deaf from horse diving. Or maybe the horse did. In any case, that’s how I imagine Equestrian Vaulting – a horse jumping over or from a tall thing.

The reality is so much better. Equestrian vaulting is “gymnastics or dance on horseback” – like dressage, but where the human is the one doing the fancy stuff. That is so hardcore. There are so many equestrian events that equestrian vaulting as an Olympic sport sounds entirely plausible.

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Equestrian Vaulting is … not an Olympic sport. But it was in 1932 when people were still really into doing weird things with horses, and if dedicated vaulters have their way, it would be back. We support this motion.

Lacrosse

Was Lacrosse a really big sport at everyone’s high school or was that just in like, Western New York?

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Lacrosse… is NOT an Olympic sport. It was only a sport in 1904 and 1908, and both times Canada won. There were demonstration events at three Olympics, but those net sticks haven’t helped anyone win a medal in over 100 years.

Tug of War

Yes, THAT Tug of War that you played in elementary school gym and had rope burns on your hands for the rest of the day.

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Tug of War… is NOT an Olympic sport. But believe it or not, it definitely used to be! And it lasted longer than both Lacrosse and Golf, as it was a team event between 1900 and 1920. Tug of War in gym class would make so much more sense if we could’ve been building up to be Olympic athletes

Roller Hockey

When I hear Roller Hockey, I think first of all of children from the 1990s wearing neon kneepads playing on roller blades in a driveway with a net in front of a garage door. (I think this because that happened in my childhood.)

Then, I think second of Roller Derby, and surmise that there are sassy nicknames, lots of fishnets, and more than a little violence.

Upon further research, roller hockey is played by athletic adults on four-wheeled skates with sticks more resembling field hockey sticks. It seems legit enough to have sneaked into an Olympics or two.

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Roller Hockey is … not an Olympic a sport. But at was in 1992 in Barcelona, which is apt because it is the most 1992-sounding sport I can think of.

Water Skiing

Weird water sports are an Olympic favorite, and skiing is hugely popular in the winter games. Water skiing conjures images of synchronized human pyramids and music videos featuring The Go-Gos. Without checking, I would almost guarantee that it is not an Olympic sport because most sports don’t use things like engines.

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Water skiing is… not an Olympic sport. However, it WAS a “demonstration sport” at the 1972 games in Munich, which is way closer than I thought it was to being an Olympic sport. There was FIGURE SKIING.

Cricket

Here are the things I know about cricket:

  • It’s like worse baseball.
  • Whenever my brother, who writes for an online outlet, does an article about the cricket tournaments in India he gets like a bazillion hits.
  • They play it in this one episode of Road to Avonlea, an early 90s CBC show about Canadian children from the 1800s.
  • It’s not croquet, which is different.
  • They play it in Great Britain and India, mostly.
  • Named after a friendly bug.
Sport or not a sport? 

Cricket is…. not an Olympic sport.

It was featured in the 1900 Olympic games, cricket proponents would like to bring it back, but cricket hasn’t been an Olympic sport for over a century.

Canoe Sprint

Canoeing – kayaking’s chilled-out older brother – can get fairly intense. It can involve small teams, like a bobsled race. There can be a cool outdoor venue and inspirational athletes who have competed since childhood. All of that points to sport.

My Google research tells me that canoe sprint can actually involve canoes OR kayaks, and is conducted on smooth water. It kind of resembles smaller-scale rowing.

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Canoe sprint … IS an Olympic sport! An Olympic Sport taking place next week. It actually looks really athletic and fun and is one of the last remaining sports that I can pretend that I could still take up.

Flonkerton

Is Flonkerton even a word?

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Flonkerton … is NOT an Olympic sport! It’s not even a real sport! It’s a fake sport from the fake Office Olympics on The Office. And at the Opening Olympics, it kinda looked like they were playing Flonkerton!

Things We Need to Revisit From Super Bowl 50

Last night, millions of Americans tuned in to watch Beyonce take over the field the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers. The Super Bowl is the U.S.’s most unofficial national holiday, but to me, it’s a free concert surrounded by some football riff raff. But, since I’m not a quitter, and have a bit of FOMO, I still “watched” the game from the comfort of my work office. There were definitely some highlights and lowlights of the Super Bowl, so it’s only fitting that we do a post-mortem on it and revisit a few things that need to have our attention again. And it’s worth noting that surprisingly, a majority of these things have absolutely nothing to do with football.

Tom Brady Lit’rally Missing the Mark

Because it’s the 50th Super Bowl, the NFL had to be all nostalgic and whatnot, so before the game, they had a ceremony honoring the 43 game MVPs of the past. Among them was New England Patriots QB and polarizing athlete Tom Brady. Deflategate and all. First of all, each MVP had to come out, stand on the yellow dot on the field, wave to the crowd then join the others on the side. Tom lit’rally missed the mark and just walked out and waved then joined the MVPs. To make things worse, he got booed by the crowd of Broncos and Panthers fans. I have a lot of friends from New England, so I’m not going to comment (I also have no opinion, really) but I mean, yikes.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose

Hey, remember when Scott Porter (Jason Street) posted this FNL reunion pic from one of his football parties and everyone freaked out? I feel like we also need to freak out about this picture of Street and Lance/Landry from yesterday’s game. Dear people who run next year’s Super Bowl (NFL, I guess? lol), stage a FNL reunion at the game and you’ll get a lot of publicity. I mean, not like the Super Bowl needs it, but still.

SLAYDAY GAGA

Believe it or not, there are still people who aren’t aware that Stefani Germanotta is actually a really great, trained singer and not just a woman who wears a meat dress to the VMAs. So for those expecting her to look ridiculous and make a spectacle of the National Anthem were shit out of luck because Gaga showed off her impressive vocal talents and didn’t go over the top with her runs. It was pretty much perfect, so just watch the entire performance again.

Is This Not Grease 2: Live

This fellow’s name is Jonathan Stewart and when he scored a touchdown for the Panthers, his dance involved the hand jive. For those of us who were tweeting #GreaseLive all of a week ago, we had hope Aaron Tveit and Vanessa Hudgens would suddenly appear at the Super Bowl.

That Independence Day Trailer

The trailer for the Independence Day sequel aired during the Super Bowl, and props to the marketing team for this one – the first shot is an aerial shot of a crowded football stadium and someone is singing the National Anthem (a female pop star?) in the background. Then havoc ensues. Too real. I got chills.

Stealth The Wire Reunion

No, Idris Elba wasn’t involved, unfortunately. This Wire mini-reunion is from S2, the dockworkers played by Pablo Schreiber and Chris Bauer, who use a Prius as a getaway car after robbing a bank. So, like, the same thing as The Wire.

Salty Brother

I’m not a football aficionado or anything, but here’s the situation as I know it. Peyton Manning, QB for the Broncos played in the Super Bowl for what could be his last game before retiring. His younger brother, Giants QB Eli Manning was not playing in the Super Bowl, but watching from a box with his family. They cut to the Manning family after Peyton made some kind of successful play, and Eli didn’t look thrilled. Personally, I think he just looks stressed on behalf of his brother, but others are thinking he’s hating his life and jealous of his bro. Whatever you want to believe.

Super Bowl Babies

Just, no. I don’t like this. Is it even a thing? Or did the NFL just make it up? But they got people to talk about it, so mission accomplished.

Live Your Best Life

This guy doesn’t know who Coldplay is, doesn’t know who Mark Ronson is, doesn’t know who Bruno Mars is. Vaguely familiar with Beyonce because she’s been on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Beyonce and Friends

Here’s one thing I know about the Chris Martin and Coldplay – they must be REALLY REALLY nice, kind-hearted people to invite Beyonce on stage to make an appearance at their headlining half-time show at the Super Bowl, because the moment she walks on stage, it’s the Beyonce and Friends show.

Bow Down Bitches

Beyonce. Shuttin’ it down. Getting the fuck back up again. All day. Every day. Watching on loop.

Confused Cookie

Oh Taraji. She was just living her life, enjoying the Super Bowl as one does, and accidentally thought Coldplay was Maroon 5. It’s fine. She realized her mistake and deleted the tweet. We all make mistakes. all white people look alike anyways.

Gotta Get That Free Pizza Tho

I don’t know enough about this friendship, but why is Papa John of Papa John’s one of the only people Peyton reaches out to hug right after winning the Super Bowl? I’m as confused as Taraji.

 

Everything I Know About Soccer, I Learned From The Big Green, Ladybugs, And Full House

Last night, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team gave America one heck of a late birthday present, crushing Japan to soar into World Cup victory. While I’ve never been a soccer person, I am weirdly emotional about televised sports so it was very exciting. Plus, I love America, and I enjoy when my country has a good birthday weekend.

But as a non-soccer person, it’s hard to know exactly what is going on. I’ll admit it: my trough of soccer knowledge is filled with ’90s children’s entertainment. Namely, the 1995 Disney movie The Big Green, the 1992 Rodney Dangerfield vehicle Ladybugs, and this one episode of Full House. All three proved very useful as I got surprisingly into the World Cup over the last week or so.

Sometimes, Own Goals Will Happen

During England’s semifinal match against Japan, powerhouse defender Laura Bassett had the opportunity to block Japan’s kick at a critical moment. Instead, the ball deflected into her own goal, scoring one for Japan.

You know who has been there? Michelle Elizabeth Tanner of San Francisco, California, that’s who. Yes, a fictional 8-year-old from 1994. A lot of us learned about sportsmanship, life, and disappointment when Michelle triumphantly drove the ball down the field – into the wrong goal. So yeah, Michelle actually headed toward her own team’s goal, while Bassett was just doing her job but miscalculated a bit. Also England was playing in the World Cup and Michelle was playing in a rec league coached by Uncle Joey, a grown man who lives in his friend’s basement and does impressions of 50-year-old cartoon characters.

But here’s where we learn our lesson about mistakes. Michelle’s own team taunted her like a bunch of poorly-raised brats, effectively kicking off two decades of negative stereotypes about millennials. I’d expect that from Aaron, but DEREK? Not Derek. Never Derek. He’s the Yankee Doodle Boy. He’s better than that.

But in 2015, social media rallied around Bassett, who is by all accounts an amazing player who had a bad moment that could have happened to anyone. So our lesson here: sometimes, mistakes will happen, but it takes a real adult to be nice about it.

Americans Are Actually Pretty Great At Soccer

In The Big Green, an English teacher ends up in Elma, Texas, a town where all of the children are variations on the Ugly American stereotype. With the help of the town sheriff – because in tv and movies, Texas is like 50% cowboys, 49% sherriffs, 1% Tim Riggins – the kids win the championship. Yes, the AMERICAN kids. From TEXAS even. All they needed was a British schoolteacher to believe in them.

Last night, America systematically beat out every other participating country to win the World Cup. Basically the same thing. See, Americans CAN do it! Of course, those of us who checked The Big Green out at Blockbuster Video in fourth grade already knew that.

You Don’t Need A Boy On The Team

In an all-new REALLY?! With Seth And Amy, Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler shut down Andy Benoit, a man who writes about sports and decided that no women’s sports are worth watching. What an Aaron, am I right?

But Andy Benoit was born the same year as me, which means he probably grew up on Ladybugs, a movie about a girls’ soccer team coached by Rodney Dangerfield. Well, a girls’ soccer team that included one boy (Jonathan Brandis in the worst blonde bob wig in the world) pretending to be a girl named “Martha.” Yet, after Martha fessed up, you know who scores the winning goal? Kimberly. A girl.

So. Ladybugs is not a good movie. However, Andy Benoit should still know that the Ladybugs never needed Jonathan Brandis to be a winning team. The point is, maybe we just need to stick Andy in a screening room and make him  watch Ladybugs on a loop until he comes around or goes completely crazy, whichever happens first.

Maybe A Ragtag Team Of Misfits Can Play Soccer After All
RgEIp (1)

Because it wouldn’t be a 90s kids’ sports movie without this boy.

The Big Green and Ladybugs showed us that nonathletic losers- with grit, enthusiasm, and some uniforms – can become soccer stars. While in the World Cup, we saw that athletic, highly motivated, well-trained people – with grit, enthusiasm, and some uniforms – can become soccer stars. This is not the same thing. I think these movies seriously overstated how easy it is to become a reigning soccer champ. But those of us who watched the World Cup from our sofas, only half-understanding what was going on, pretty much already knew that.

Kentucky Derby Winner Based on Name Alone

It’s hat fanatics’ favorite holiday on Saturday, that’s right it’s the 141st annual Kentucky Derby, where people dress up and horses race a bit and gamblers lose money. To be honest, I know nothing about the Kentucky Derby. My sports knowledge is limited to begin with, so when it comes to horse racing, it’s pretty much nil. So clearly I have no business giving my opinion on what’s going to happen/who’s going to win the coveted prize (of a… huge wreath?) but I’m going to give you it anyways. Based on science. Actual science. Science called ‘judgement’.

I frankly don’t care who crosses the finish line first, however, I do care about the ridiculous names that jockeys and owners give the horses that could make headlines ’round the world for a first place win. Again, using SCIENCE, here’s who is probably going to win the Kentucky Derby. I’m gonna go put some money on this right now, because that’s how confident I am in my predictions.*

*This is completely bullshit – if you lose money based on my list, pls refer to this.

10) Firing Line

Is Firing Line supposed to be intimidating? Like, if you go up against him, is the threat of death by gun enough to make you go slower in the race?

9) Materiality

In full disclosure, I had to research if ‘materiality’ is a real word or not. Turns out it is. And it means ‘the quality of being relevant or significant’. I feel like just having the quality of being significant isn’t enough. It’s like, believe in yourself, horse. You are Significant. Signif. That’s your new name.

8) American Pharoah

Per our post from Tuesday, you know that we were/are theatre nerds. I was in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and if you’ve never seen it, just know that the Pharoah of Egypt is Elvis. Or like an Elvis wannabe. So although the Pharoah in Joseph is from Egypt, for some reason when I hear the phrase ‘American Pharoah’, I think of Pharoah Elvis from Joesph. Does that make sense? I mean Pharoah Elvis doesn’t make sense, so it’s fine.

7) War Story

Do you think War Story has a secret rivalry with War Horse? Not the movie/play War Horse, Jimmy Fallon’s War Horse.

6) Mubtaahij

Besides the fact I have no idea how to pronounce this horse’s name, I think his chances are higher because of its trainer’s name: Mike de Kock. I’m 12.

5) Mr. Z

Ok, so if War Story ISN’T related to War Horse, there’s gotta be a slight possibility that this horse was either inspired by/owned/trained by Jay Z, which means I’m putting at least a dollar on him winning. Tidal aside, Jay’s got a good streak with business ventures.

4) Keen Ice

This horse just sounds cool, yanno what I mean?

3) Itsaknockout

#Itsaknockout #KentuckyDerbyWinner #ItsACelebrationBitchez#WeDoinShots  #ImGoingToDisneyWorld #EatMyDustMubtaahij

2) Metaboss

Apparently Metaboss can only compete if there’s a defection in the top 20, whatever that means. So basically he really doesn’t have great odds of winning, but honestly, with a name like Metaboss, it’s pretty clear who the real winner is.

1) Ocho Ocho Ocho

Is it because his name is in Spanish? Is it because Ocho is used thrice, because one Ocho wasn’t enough? Is it because I lived on the eighth floor dorm freshman year of college and we called it The Ocho? Is it because I think OCHO OCHO OCHO CROSSES THE FINISH LINE would sound really awesome? Or is it just because I have a gut feeling about him winning? All of the above. Buena suerte Ocho Ocho Ocho! Espero que gana!

Honorable Mentions:

Frosted, International Star, Firespike, Carpe Diem

Live Blog: Ladies’ Figure Skating Final – Sochi 2014

Well, it’s the big day for figure skating, and everybody’s ready. Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski are wearing matching gold headbands. Lipinski looks like she has serious plastic-surgery face – like that cat woman you see in gossip rags sometimes – but it’s just the result of some over-aggressive contouring makeup from the folks at NBC. She’s a pretty girl. They could let up on the bronzer.

I’m not watching the Hunger Games, but I feel like I’m watching the Hunger Games. Weir does an admirable Claudius Templesmith, but Lipinski’s Effie Trinket could use some more drama in the hair department. Let’s start this thing.

Park So Youn

Country: South Korea

Costume

Really feeling the midnight blue skating dress thing with ice blue sequins. Not so princessy. Kind of a “Frozen” thing?

Music

Classical music, but the dramatic kind, not the dreamy kind.

Skating

Is watching figure skating to see if someone falls the same as watching Nascar for the crashes or hockey for the fights? But I’ll admit: I hate watching people fail. Nothing would make me happier than a figure skating competition where every person is at the top of their game and the winners and losers are separated by fractions of a point.

The Good: Graceful, ballet influences? Pretty arms. The floaty non- jump parts. This one really gorgeous spin.

The bad: A few of those landings weren’t awesome; fell once.

Brooklee Han

Country: Australia (LOL no)

Screw this, Han was born and raised in the U.S.  Not Australian. I repeat: Not Australian. Our first carpetbagger of the night. I wonder if she can she compete for US after this in other Olympics, if she qualifies?

Costume

The red thing looks a little adult, like a weird abbreviated evening gown from 1994. It’s the v-shaped jeweled choker element. I know the French braid is a figure skating classic – reminds me of watching Nancy Kerrigan back in the day – but I like how clean it is.

Music

This music – it reminds me of the Anne of Green Gables soundtrack.

Weir: A lot of people chose “pretty princess” music.

Lipinski, paraphrased: People play songs on repeat if it gets them going for jumps, etc.

Weir: What was that song you used to play?

Lipinksi: Pulp Fiction.

LOL.

Skating

Fun fact: Brooklee is a violinist and an equestrienne, and now I feel inferior.  For lack of better way to put it, she’s a very emotional skater. You can tell she’s a musician because she really seems to get inside the music, though Weir feels like she’s just connecting jumps. Fall count: 1, I think?

Gabrielle Daleman

Country: Canada

Costume

The costume is very  Jasmine from Aladdin. I like it, even if it sort of reminds me of the middriff-baring prom dresses that people wore in the early 2000s. It’s a nice color. Sort of a peacock feather thing going on.I don’t know how I feel about this thing where the tights go over the skates so it looks like you’re barefoot but with enormous, deformed bladed feet. I sort of want them to bring back the classic white skates a la Sonja Henie. But I also know that if your feet and legs are the same color you get a longer line – that’s why so many short women are told to wear flesh-colored shoes – so I get it.

Music

Polynesian Dances

Skating

It’s her first international event as a senior skater. Yet, she has an older feel than a lot of the skaters out there. No, she doesn’t look old for her age, but she looks more athletic and less willow-y and gawky than some of the kiddos out there. Gabrielle does NOT look happy with that performance. Just noticed she had jewels at the corner of her eyes. Cute.

Should we count how many times they say “kiss and cry?”

Elisaveta Ukolova

Country: Czech Republic

…however, she was born in Russia. Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?

Costume

Lipinski: She’s starting with a very pretty dress.

And she is, really – floral beading. A nice change. But talk about old-school – I spy a scrunchie! Wow. I think scrunchies have survived in skating, dance and cheerleading long after they died in the real world. I’m not even opposed, but I don’t like the red scrunchie with the dark blue dress.

Music

It starts with a really fun swing number, but then it transitions to a slower classical thing. It was a weird transition and frankly I’m not feeling it. One or the other, you know? It was fun to start with something up-tempo and a little different, like Polina did in her short skate (which I loved). Then it transitions back into swing. Hmmm. I see why she did this for figure skating purposes but I’m not into it.

Skating

Elisaveta fell on the triple loop. “Most beautiful technique” as she bursts into the air on her jumps. But, “sort of tripping,” says Lipinski. She fell again, and had trouble getting going after it (to me anyway). Very “meh” says Weir, because with her music she should be more ebullient. I agree. “A rough skate,” says Lipinski.

Anne Line Gjersem

Country: Norway

Why are people from Scandinavian countries so good-looking? Is it the high standard of living and healthy food? Seriously this kid is so pretty. First skater from Norway in 50 years, which is surprising to me on account of all of their ice.

Costume

I love this! It’s sort of magenta and pink, and looks very youthful and modern, for a skate costume. It’s sequined all over, but doesn’t have so many patches of heavy sequinning. With West Side Story the obvious choice would have been a white dress like Maria wears in I Feel Pretty, but the bright young number is kind of evocative of the red/pink the character wears in a lot of productions.

Music

West Side Story “Everyone is expecting to see some West Side Story, and it’s just not happening.” – Lipinski. “She’s putting it to use, but there’s no connection between her face, her body, and this music playing over the loud speaker.” Personally, I’m just excited to hear a musical score that’s not Les Miserables.

Skating

I loved some of her quicker transitions between moves. She’s “really struggling on the flying camel spin,” according to someone who knows. “A little skirt ruffling, Johnny.” “A little cha-cha.” Felt like watching her work, instead of a performance, according to Weir.

Nicole Rajicova

Country: Slovakia (by way of USA)

Okay, but just so we’re clear, Nicole is from Long Island. So, I’m pretty sure that whoever wins, America really wins. However, my grandmother was Slovak and you really only hear about Slovakia during the Winter Olympics, so I like this girl. Nicole is totally trying to up her Slovak factor by changing her name from Rojik to Rojikova (in Eastern Europe surnames are gendered, but obviously once families immigrate to English-speaking countries, they drop this for logistical reasons).

Costume

Sort of a black and red Flamenco thing, complete with red flower in her hair. Dramatic, not what I’d have chosen with her coloring, but I like that she didn’t go with the classic “I’m an angelic ice princess” look.

Music

Sassy classical? A little bit of a tango thing going on maybe? It’s different but not SO different. I like it.

Skating

She fell early on (they all seem to fall on that first big element, if they’re going to fall), but otherwise she had a lot of really graceful and clean landings. I think there was another wobble in there. Lipinski and Weir thinks she’s too in her head about it, thinking about what she has to do next. I do NOT like this one move she does when she just sort of picks up one foot to waist level for a second, like “hey, look at my heel!” Lipinski and Weir were NOT into it.

Kaetlyn Osmond

Country: Canada

“Skating is so popular in Canada, it’s amazing there haven’t been more champions,” the commentators say. “Every girl figure skates, every boy plays hockey.” If we’re playing the Canadian Stereotypes game, after all of the ice sports they then all go to Tim Hortons, where Mayor Ford is mid-crack binge, pay with a few loonies and toonies, then drive their snowmobile home to catch a few episodes of Degrassi. And they do it all so politely.

Costume

She is “portraying Cleopatra, if it wasn’t apparent”, according to Weir. It wasn’t, so thanks. Still, it’s a nice maroon dress with a lot of gold happening on the back.

Music

The kind of heavily horn-sectioned classical that seems like it’s from an epic movie soundtrack.

Skating

She does a few Cleopatra-ish hand things, so that’s cool. There’s one fall, but also a lot of beautiful soaring elements. The choreography is more narrative and sassy than a lot of what we’ve seen so far.

Hey. What if we all just settled on one spelling of Caitlin and everyone had to use that from now on? Could we all just do that?

Elene Gedevanishvili

Country: Georgia

Underdog country! But, she’s lived in Russia, Canada, the US, etc to change coaches, although she was born in Georgia. Elene moved to Russia to skate but her mother was deported after Georgia-Russia tensions escalated.

Costume

It sort of looks like an ethnic Eastern European costume you’d see on a figure skating version of a Madame Alexander doll. Black brocade bodice, red skirt. Nice.

Music

Evidently Elene carefully selects her music. Unsurprisingly, it falls into the “dramatic classical” category.

Skating

I really like the quickness of this piece. Just, really strong balletic connections between elements. However, the commentators feel like she “checked out mentally” after her first fall. I do not like how she came out of her last spin. They don’t like her attitude.

Kim Haejin

Kim Haejin actually has a normal number of legs.

Country: South Korea

Costume

Black, silver sequins, not the most interesting but pretty. She was doing a “black swan” thing so it worked, but could have been more dramatic. Evidently since the movie, more skaters are skating as the black swan than the white swan. Cool.

Music

Swan Lake. “Her idol, Yuna Kim recommended it for her.” Guys, I want to talk about Yuna. She sounds like such a good supporter of the other South Korean skaters – really positive and encouraging, like a figure skating Amy Poehler. I like her. Like, Yuna doesn’t sound like that girl who would say “oh, that music would be GREAT for you” or, I don’t know, “your ass looks AWESOME in those jeans,” when it’s not true, just to sabotage you.

Skating

One really, really bummer fall where she hits the boards. She recovers well, and seems like a really athletic skater. Beautiful spins.

Kanako Murakami

Country: Japan

The Japanese skaters seem to have a really nice camaraderie. Kanako wore a blazer from teammate Mao Asada, an idol of hers, to her high school entrance ceremony. This is what I love about figure skating, Kerrigan-Harding stuff aside. Unlike in team sports, members of each country’s team are in essence competing against each other, so it’s heartening to see this level of support. You even see skaters from other countries commending each other’s performances on TV and twitter.

Costume

The one black mesh arm is fine, actually. Love the violet and black. Love the lightly sequined back. Do NOT love the odd crucifix/dagger/saber thing that’s sequined onto the waist. At all.

Music

Very typical string-heavy classical. Hey, if it ain’t broke…

Skating

She does a “smack and nod” on the boards before going out to skate. Cute. “Nicely done,” according to Lipinski, and I agree. It was a mostly clean skate, very graceful. The judges agree. One spin looked under-rotated, but closer examination revealed that it wasn’t.

Zhang Kexin

Country: China

Costume

I guess black and red are THE thing this year? A little gray in there too. No complaints. A lot of sequins, but I really like that during spins.

Music

It’s the floaty, stringy classical again.

Skating

WOW her jumps are beautiful. They look really high for someone who looks like a pretty short lady. She does a few slower spins, and I don’t know if those fare as well as the speedy ones in scoring, but it’s lovely. The commentators think she sort of “throws her arms around,” so I guess she’s more of an element skater and less of a dancer. You get bonus points (there’s a more technical word for it) for jumps in the second half of the program, and she gets them. They think she’s “too relaxed” and “marking her program, not performing it,” and I do see what they’re saying but I also really like her looseness and ease. In a classic Weir analogy, he says the performance is like “eating cavier every day” because you get accustomed to the amazing jumps. She seems a bit under-scored.

Mao Asada

Country: Japan

Costume

My personal favorite! A blue/violet/indigo/magenta feathery number.

Music

Piano-heavy classical.

Skating

Asada was supposed to be a contender, but is 16th place going into this skate. This may be her farewell performance. It’s a great one to go out on. “She has a quick snap about her today,” says Lipinski. Mao triple axels like a boss. It’s just so FUN to watch her skate. Everything she does looks easy, even though today I was struggling just to make it across an icy parking lot without falling so clearly it isn’t. THIS is what I was talking about when I said that I like watching people succeed. It’s just so satisfying to watch everything go right. She hits every jumping pass. Crowd goes wild. She looks heartbroken, because even this perfect skate can’t make up for yesterday’s. If you’ve missed it, Asada has the ultimate human interest story in the skating event. She lost her mother while she was out of the country and couldn’t make it back home in time.

Break

During the long resurfacing break between the second and third sets, I switched over to the Women’s Hockey final. Go USA! I almost started to tear up a bit when one of the hockey players talked about her disappointment when she realized that women didn’t play professional hockey, and her resolve to become an Olympic hockey player instead. Ughhh.

Apropos of nothing: when I was a little kid, I wanted to be the girl who skates around after a figure skating competitor, picking up the teddy bears and flowers that people throw onto the ice. I always did know how to dream mediocre.

Li Zijun

Country: China

Costume

You know, since this is the first cotton-candy girly pink skate dress we’ve seen, it looks really pleasantly surprising. She’s skating as Coppelia, so it’s fitting.

Music

Coppelia, of course.

Skating

Zijun is selling the theme routine, because before they announced what she was doing, I saw her stiff arm movements and thought “hey, she’s doing Coppelia!” She’s a good jumper and very sprightly and girlish on the ice. The commentators would like it to build a bit more through the program – a bit bigger and more exuberant. She is a touch restrained.

Mae Berenice Meite

Country: France

Why does the English name Bernice sound so blah, when the French Berenice is so pretty?

Costume

Oh my goodness! This whole time I’ve been wondering “what if somebody just showed up in pants?” And then Mae did it! Leave it to a French lady to show some sartorial restraint. Didn’t Surya Bonaly compete in pants one time too? It’s actually a bit risky because judges don’t love when skaters go off-book. Weir loves the shoulders and thinks the pants work on her. Sort of a “Lady Gaga/Beyonce” structure to the body suit, according to Lipinski. I think she has the first funky nails I’ve seen, too. I like this lady.

Music

The kind of smooth electric guitar that would play in the steamy scene of a tv movie from the early 90s. ZZ Top ends up in there. A potentially distracting number of music edits, say the commentators.

Skating

Mae falls on a triple loop. The music goes into a more rock-ish, clappy section, and the skating picks up a bit. Mae has some sassy choreo in there, and some high jumps as well. I’ve never seen a skater look so casual about landing such beautiful spins.

Akiko Suzuki

Country: Japan

Costume

Pastel, flowery, heavily sequined bodice. It’s gorgeous.

Music

Very music box sounding. Perfect with the costume. It picks up into a rapid violin/ orchestral movement, then that unmistakable Phantom Of The Opera riff and a flowy string rendition of ‘Think of Me.” Phantom is probably second only to Les Mis as the most-used musical score in figure skating.

Skating

Akiko is a delicate, graceful skater. Her jumping passes don’t go so well – she falls once. Akiko is very expressive and does an excellent job of coordinating her face, and the amount of force with which she skates, to the music. Some of these skaters seem more like artists and some seem more like athletes. Akiko is a dancer. Her closing spin is fantastic.

Valentina Marchei

Country: Italy

Costume

Diaphonous black number with a ruffly neck. The skirt is slightly longer and it’s more adult than a lot of what we’ve seen. You know how Italian ladies (as in from Italy, not Italian-American) look so great when they’re in their 40s and 50s? Like, it’s a good thing there to look like a grown adult instead of a girl? Valentina’s definitely Italian in her wardrobe choices here. There are barely-detectable sparkles in her tights, which is a nice touch.

Music

Nyah by Hans Zimmer

Skating

To go along with her costume, she starts with some moves that are … oddly sultry, for figure skating? I like that she sticks to the theme throughout the program. You see a lot of skaters open their program on some thematic choreography, only to drop it for a series of jumps later on. Marchei is definitely a performer. She’s more fun to watch than some of the flashier skaters.

Fun fact: at 27, this is Valentina’s first Olympics – how unusual is that in this sport? She has background as a speed skater and a gymnast, as well. The older I get, the more I root for the older figure skaters because it might be their last chance. Older is relative, of course — our oldest ladies are only  27 and 28.

Polina Edmunds

Country: USA
Costume

Flowy, asymettrical hemlined number in powdery-tealy-blue, with a nice jeweled neckline. It does a good job of making Polina look willowy and graceful – she has that look of a tall girl who only recently shot up and is still sort of gangly and gawky, but she can look pretty and lithe in the right clothes. She tends to go with more gussied-up hairstyles, but keeps it really sweet with pearls and jeweled flowers. I like it.

Music

I can’t identify the first piece, but it segues into Vivaldi’s Spring movement from the Four Seasons. It feels cliche but I can’t remember the last time I actually heard it. She’s so young and innocent looking that it really suits her.

Skating

She starts off with a triple lutz-triple toe and some other combination that I can’t remember, except that it was beautiful. I can’t imagine being 15 and getting on the ice and doing anything other than puking (and falling, of course) but I see no nerves from this girl – until she takes a little tumble. Otherwise, she looks great. Her stage mom trained her well.

Does she remind anyone else of Emma Nelson from the earlier seasons of Degrassi?

And do this many people usually fall? It used to seem like a disaster that happened once in a great while, but it doesn’t even seem serious now – almost everyone has.

Nathalie Weinzierl

Country: Germany

Costume

A vivid, indigo-blue dress. The color seriously suits her.

Music

Rhapsody in Blue? Yes! I like this! I get what she was doing with that costume. Some dude on the twitter feed calls it “the United airlines song” and I’ll take his word for it. I fly a lot of Southwest and Jet Blue, myself.

Skating

So, the jumps were a little glitchy, but the girl can spin. Weir thinks she has an “old-fashioned” jumping technique, and I’ll take his word for it. It was sort of just okay.

Yulia Lipnitskaya

Country: Russia

Costume

Red coat, because… well, you’ll see when we get to music.

Music

Schindler’s List. There we go.

Skating

After a disappointing short skate, Yulia has to bring it here. I think this girl really deserves the buzz. I obviously don’t know much about skating, but I know who is and isn’t fun to watch. She isn’t just technically talented, she’s graceful and expressive as well. The crowd erupts when she lands the jump she missed in the short program. Oh no… she takes a heck of a tumble toward the end of the program. As always, she’s the best spinner out there. This was good, but not like what we saw from her at the team competition. I feel guilty, in a sort of a Hunger Games-y way, for getting entertainment out of an event that’s so much pressure on such really young kids. Her face when it ends just kills me. I know the skaters are here because they WANT to be here, but still.

Not gonna lie, Lipinski sounds a touch relieved that her spot as the youngest gold medalist might be safe. Yulia is first after her skate, but there is some big-time competition coming up.

Carolina Kostner

Country: Italy

Costume

Like her Italian compatriot, Kostner wears a sleek black number that says “I am a 27-year-old grown-ass woman. Move over children.”

Music

Bolero. Whatever, I love it.

Skating

That was a hell of a skate to go out on! She keeps landing these jumps coming down on angles where I think she can’t possibly nail it, but she does every time. There’s a great joy and musicality to her program, especially after the jumping passes are out of the way. I don’t know what it is about this performance over the other ones, but I almost tear up a bit because you can see that she’s just out there pouring everything into this, and enjoying it. Damn, girl. Ya did good.

Fun fact: Carolina’s father was an Italian hockey player.

NOPE. As she leaves the ice her coach says “now do you believe in yourself?” and at this point the tears are real. She takes the lead and beats her personal best.

Adelina Sotnikova

Country: Russia

Costume

Dusty lavender with gold. A sort of Downton Abbey color combo. There’s some weird geometric stuff going on with the sequins.

Music

Slower violins, moving into a rondo.

Skating

As we move further into the competition, you can see why these top skaters – Costner, Gold, and yes, even Sotkonikova – are the ones we keep hearing about. There’s just such a distinct difference between these later sets and the earlier ones. Less falling, for one thing. But more than that, these higher-scored skaters are so skilled at combining rhythm, grace, expression, story AND fancy jumps. It’s not just a string of lutzes. Adelina falters a bit after one jump but overall it is one heck of a satisfying program to watch. Her rotations are so darn quick! It’s even more fun once the jumping passes end and she can showboat a little, even seeming to encourage the crowd to clap. Adelina, like Carolina, is having fun out there. You can see it. The hometown crowd loves her. Holy crap, Adelina is only 17.

The lead is hers now. MAN. I think in the last group of skaters we can just get used to a lot of turnarounds. Do I think she was THAT far ahead of Costner? I guess I don’t know enough to judge that. There could be a home-court advantage, though Adelina was certainly good.

Gracie Gold

Country: USA

Costume

The girl knows what works for her. The ice blue and silver sequins, with her blond hair, is the perfect figure skating Grace Kelly look.

Music

Sleeping Beauty

Skating

Gracie Gold – who, as every news outlet must note, has the best possible name for a figure skater – is graceful. Again, very easy to see the difference between this performance and the lower-scored competitors. But SHOOT. She falls. “Ouch,” says the commentator. “Ouch,” says the audience. “Whatever,” says Gracie, who continues to skate beautifully after it. But after the last two skaters, it’s clear that the fall is going to keep her out of the top spot.

Ashley Wagner

Country: USA

Could Ashley Wagner look any more like an Ashley? Man.

Costume

Wagner has said that she likes to skate as a character, and she’s going as Delilah. She explained that she went with yellow because it’s the most eye-catching color, and that it is. She’s a bit more “adult” than a lot of the kiddos out on the ice, so the skimpier costume works for her.

Music

Samson and Delilah

Skating

By this point you probably heard that, if the US Team had been selected based on the Nationals (as it usually is), Wagner wouldn’t be on the team. There was some talk that Wagner was chosen because she’s a crowd favorite with some pretty serious endorsements, but the official line is that she was chosen because, other than Nationals, she was the strongest skater in the US. I really really want them to be right, so I hope she does awesome out there.

It’s good. The jumps are good, the spins are good, the character is evident, and it seems like Ashley’s having a blast. It’s not quite as clean as some of the other performances we’ve seen, but very good. She’s in 6th. Not as good as I’d hoped, but I’ll never be 6th best in the world at anything. But I bet when you are the sixth best in the world at something, all you can think is how close it is to first, but also how far.

Yuna Kim

Country: South Korea

Costume

A two-tone maroon (oxblood? magenta?) and black number. It’s nice, but not distractingly so. I like the clean, high neckline.

Music

Piano-heavy jazzy classical. Some accordion (???) later on.

Skating

Beautiful. Even the Russian crowd is into it, and it’s seemed like they were trying to hold back their enthusiasm after Adelina skated so well. So clean and crisp! I have not seen anyone transition so quickly between jumps. The commentators say that it was “tight,” and once again I’ll take their word.

Okay — not enough for gold. The crowd is going insane. Our medalists are:

(1)Adelina Sonokava

(2) Yuna Kim

(3) Carolina Kostner

I cannot even be disappointed that the United States didn’t medal. All of the medalists were amazing. Adelina was a bit of an underdog after Yulia’s strong showing in the team competition. Yuna Kim proved why she is considered one of the best in the world. Carolina Kostner was possibly my favorite to watch – a really joyful skater.  The first ever Russian gold in ladies figure skating – in Russia. That was awesome.

The Proper Age To Give Up Your Winter Olympic Dream

Remember watching the Olympics when you were a kid? There was a whole world of possibility! You could watch any sport and wonder whether maybe you had some innate gift for it and would be competing for your country in 20 years.

As you moved through your later childhood and teen years, your dreams had to die bit by bit. You’d realize that you weren’t even the best hockey player on your school’s team, or you’d fail to qualify for regionals in track. Maybe you shot up to a stocky 5’10 and realized you wouldn’t be much of a gymnast. Or maybe you didn’t get that far — maybe, by age 12 or so, you came to realize that you’re just … not athletic.

And yet, every two years – at the summer and winter Olympics – I start to get a little ahead of myself. Just like when I was five years old, I watch the events and wonder if maybe it’s not too late.

Well, friends, I’m here to kill those dreams. I’ve done a little research, and it looks like if you haven’t started most Winter Olympics events by a certain (usually young) age, you’ll never be using “next-level Tinder” in the Olympic village or wearing your country’s weird Cosby/teacher sweater in the Parade of Nations.

Obviously, there are exceptions to all of these. There really are savants who can take up a sport and be at a competitive level right away. There are also some people who are so preternaturally athletic that they’ll excel in any sport you throw at them. Of course, if you’re already skilled in a closely related sport, it’s also not that hard to take up a new one. Generally, though, there are timelines for these things:

Alpine Skiing, Freestyle Skiing, Ski Jumping

I guess with most downhill and … I don’t know, fancy, jump-y?… skiing events, it’s less the exact age that you start, and more that (1) you begin fairly young, and most importantly (2) you ski regularly when you’re young, not just on a once-annual ski vacation. Most Olympians started skiing – at least regular, bunny hill skiing – by the time they were six or seven. A skier could theoretically start later, but most Olympians came from skiing families and their parents weren’t going to wait until they were 11 to put them on the slopes.  Coming from a family that skis means that you got to ski regularly during your childhood – and definitely teen – years. A kid whose parents maybe took them to the slopes in sixth grade, then went once a year or so after that, just isn’t going to develop the necessary skills.

Cross Country Skiing, Biathlon, Nordic Combined

The great thing about cross-country skiing is that even very young children can start. It’s tougher than it looks, and competitive-level cross country skiing has massive energy demands and uses pretty much every muscle group. That being said, a very athletically inclined, very fit person could probably begin cross country skiing and move up the competitive ranks even if he or she started in early adulthood – if they were the very rare case, and put a ton of time and effort into it. If you’re interested, the US Ski Team website can point you to USSA Clubs that will introduce you to recreational and competitive Nordic skiing. At the very least, you’ll pick up a fun hobby and work on your fitness.

Bobsleigh

If you’ve followed the US bobsled team this year, you know that track star Lolo Jones joined the team after beginning training just last year. Of course, she falls into the “preternaturally athletic” category, so … you know. But I bet you’ve also seen Cool Runnings, right? If not, what were you doing in the 90s? Find it on Netflix or get it at your local library. Please. Those guys were from Jamaica – so, you know, not the snowiest – and began practicing on dry land. However, like Miss Jones, these fellas were pretty athletic to start with. The real problem with bobsled (bobsleigh, I guess?) is opportunity. You probably don’t have the equipment, training, climate, or local interest to start. But if you can get together all of those things, and are already a strong, fast person, and ideally have citizenship in a country that’s not very competitive about winter sports, you just might make it.

Curling

Curling is the one sport that all of us can look at and think “yep, I can do it.” Truly, you could start curling at a pretty advanced age and make it to the Olympics. It’s not a sport that relies on the sprightliness of youth, and the physical demands don’t require years of conditioning. Nevertheless, there is a certain skill to curling, and it will take a while to develop the knack for it. If you join a local curling club and get serious about it, curling is a sport that doesn’t necessitate childhood training. That doesn’t mean that anyone can do it – just that if you’re going to be good at it, you can start as a grown-up.

Figure Skatingtumblr_n0sqxsYNw41rtfj70o4_400

Are you old enough to be reading this post? Like, your mom isn’t reading it aloud to you because you’re still getting Hooked on Phonics? Then you’re probably too old for this one. Most figure skaters took to the ice by – at the latest – upper elementary school (and that’s only if they’re really, naturally good at it). It’s a sport that can put a lot of wear on you, which is why you don’t see a lot of figure skaters competing after their late 20s or early 30s. By their teens, most serious figure skaters are putting in early mornings on the rink, and possibly getting home schooled. True story: when both my sister and I expressed interest in figure skating, my dad brushed us off with “okay, but you’d have to move to Texas to do it.” Why Texas? Who knows. We only wanted to skate for fun, but if you’re a serious competitor, you could easily move cities or states for the sport once you’re in high school. The only scenario I could see where someone could start figure skating in late childhood or early teens is if they already were already a very solid regular skater, and were skilled in dance, acrobatics, or gymnastics besides. And frankly, even that is a stretch.

Ice Hockeytumblr_mjc9a6Ttru1qzlfumo1_500

Take it from someone who lives in the cold, white north: most competitive hockey players get really serious, really young. Most hockey players start to skate when they’re really little, and are on teams by the late-single digits. Frequently, hockey players will join competitive regional club teams rather than their high school team. Of course, there can be exceptions. A very good team athlete – maybe at field hockey or soccer – who also knows how to skate very well could maybe join their high school team and get pretty good. That would be a rare case indeed, though. A kid will usually be competing pretty seriously by junior high. However, most of those rag-tag kiddos in The Mighty Ducks hadn’t put on skates before, and they were competing against the best hockey teens in the world, so who knows?

Luge and Skeleton

Sad yet true sign of my misspent college years: while watching the luge competition, I thought to myself “hey, this is just like an ice luge! But with humans!” Then I realized that I’m an idiot. According to the United States Luge Association, there are many levels of team participation, with hundreds of athletes trying out every year. It is best for kids to start luge by age 10, and it generally takes about 8-10 years to develop skills to compete at the international level. British athlete Lizzy Yarnold recently said that you cant start bobsleigh or skeleton until age 16. Evidently skeleton star Amy Williams didn’t begin until she was 19 or 20. The skill set just isn’t as fine-tuned as that for luge.

Snowboard

What I said of skiing is basically true for snowboard. Most athletes start young and practice regularly. The only difference here is that, at least in the past, a lot of snowboarders would start with skiing as kids, then go into snowboard later in their teens, already having developed the center of gravity to, um, get down a mountain okay. That’s changed a bit, and more and more people have begun snowboarding in childhood. Still, a very talented skier could begin boarding as a teen, turn out to have a gift for it, and be at international level by their 20s. In theory. Sometimes. Once again, hitting the slopes twice a year will not get you there.

Speed Skating

In countries where speed skating is a big deal (Hello, Netherlands. You’re made of canals), kids start on the ice practically right after they learn how to walk. If you’re from a less speed skating-heavy country, and are already a darn good skater thanks to figure skating, hockey, or just lots of practice and natural talent, you could put off competing until a little later. Speed skating is a sport of the young, though – the “masters” level starts at age 30. Ouch.

In conclusion, at least there’s still curling, right?

The Worst: Olympics Fashion Through the Years

THE OLYMPICS START TOMORROW! THE OLYMPICS START TOMORROW!!!

Here’s a little known fact I don’t think Molly nor I have ever touched upon in this blog: we love the Olympics. Like straight up obsessed. In fact, the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics (read: Apolo Anton Ohno) was one of the bonding experiences we had in high school. Needless to say, we’re excited about the start of the Sochi Olympics on Friday.

So to prep you for the next couple of weeks, here’s a guide on what you will probably notice first whilst watching the Opening Ceremony on Friday: the official outfits.

For example: This is what you have to look forward to from Norway in the coming weeks:

Say hello to the Norwegian curling team. No, this is not a joke. Yes, those are their real uniforms.

Don’t believe me?

This is what the team wore when they won their silver medal in Vancouver in 2010. Like, they went up on the podium like that as they were handed the world’s second best prize in men’s curling.

But this is just the beginning.

Unfortunately, the Norwegians aren’t the only ones who are forced to wear hideous attire as they represent their homelands. And while it may hurt our eyes while we watch the athletes parade around the Olympics, it’s totally worth it to see what kind of getups the folks are wearing these days.

Like this outfit volunteers in Sochi have to wear:

I know Russia can be a little behind the times and all, but this looks straight up from a 1992 TGIF sitcom

And America, doing it big with Ralph Lauren:

So before we get our first glimpse of what ‘hot Olympic fashion trends’ are like during the Opening Ceremony tomorrow, here’s a look back at some of the absolute worst throughout the years.

USA {Rome 1960}

1960: The year we were really into barbershop quartets. Specifically the hats.

 

Canada {Sapporo 1972}

Listen up, Canada. We get that you like to tout the fact that -30 degree weather is like your summer, but put some damn pants on.

 

USA {Sarajevo 1984}

Nothing says America like dressing up the athletes in cowboy outfits that looks like Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain. They wore almost the exact same thing four years earlier in Lake Placid. I DON’T KNOW HOW TO QUIT YOU, SHEEPSKIN JACKETS.

 

Australia {Barcelona 1992}

Yup, that’s 1992 alright.

 

Canada {Barcelona 1992}

Come on Canada, you’re better than this. Bonus for the fanny packs though. ’92’s opening ceremony looks totally rad.

 

Canada {Lillehammer 1994}

Well, apparently Canada is NOT better than this. I think the designer thought they were making uniforms for athletes in communist Russia.

 

Japan {Sydney 2000}

Do Japanese people have pride parades? If so, that’s probably where they got these outfits.

 

Japan {Athens 2004}

I mean, could you BE anymore Asian.

 

France {Beijing 2008}

Uh, can you can be more Asian. What’s up with the sumo belts, Frenchies?

 

Poland {Beijing 2008}

Fun Fact: All of Poland’s athletes from this Olympics were rhythmic gymnasts.
Another Fun Fact: The preceding fact is false.

 

Hungary {Beijing 2008}

To me, these outfits scream, ‘DON’T FORGET US. WE’RE A REAL COUNTRY TOO’. Shhhhh Hungary. Shhhhhhh.

 

Czech Republic {Vancouver 2010}

If you stare at the pants long enough it turns into a Magic Eye illusion

 

Ukraine {London 2012}

Ukrainians: We’re two wild and crazyy guyyssss

 

Great Britain {London 2012}

The Brits secretly stole these from ABBA’s costume museum in Sweden.

 

Czech Republic {London 2012}

What I’ve learned from this is that the Czechs basically need a new designer. Who thinks, ‘You know what would make these better? BLUE PATENT LEATHER BOOTS!’