Olympics Buzz: Is the amalgamation of medals more important than the gold standard?

Olympics Buzz: Is the amalgamation of medals more important than the gold standard?
U.S. figure skaters Alexa Scimeca Knierim, left, Chris Knierim and Maia Shibutani celebrate after receiving their bronze medals for the team event. (Andreas Rentz / Getty Images)

This is your daily infusion of information and news that you might have missed. The really big stuff you’ll find in other stories.

In the last edition of Olympic Buzz, we examined why the United States seems fixated on total medals while the rest of the world bases success on the number of gold medals. Even NBC, through which 99% of America experiences the Games, uses a table based on total medals.


The unofficial answer, of course, is that the U.S. usually does better in total medals.

The effort to make things look good, no matter what, for Team USA was brought to amusing life with a breaking news alert from the U.S. Olympic Committee on Monday.

The headline: “Team USA Defends Figure Skating Team Bronze”

The first paragraph: “Team USA successfully defended the bronze medal it won in team figure skating four years ago as the event concluded Monday morning at the Gangneung Ice Arena.”

Now, this isn’t to diminish the accomplishments of the U.S. figure skating team. They did some remarkable things and also got to visit NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker on Monday night with their medals in hand. But, think about it. The goal was to repeat as third-place, bronze-medal champions?

How about this from the Dodgers, if they should lose again in the World Series:

“The Dodgers successfully defended their runner-up (silver medal?) position of a year ago as the World Series concluded Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.”

And the Lakers could have sent this out after last year’s draft lottery:

“The Lakers successfully defended their spot of getting the No. 2 pick for the third straight year as the NBA Draft Lottery concluded Tuesday in New York.”

This is not meant to criticize the well-intentioned writer or even the alert, because journalists who throw stones from glass houses often end up chewing glass. This is all about the mindset, and finding the most silver (or bronze?) lining in any prevailing cloud.

Or as the slogan almost says: “Go for the Bronze.”

Paging Hans Brinker

Given that NBC has about a gazillion hours of programming over several platforms, there are bound to be some missteps. But, hey, no one is going to give them a pass. Folks in the Netherlands are still chuckling over Katie Couric’s comments during the opening ceremony. She said the Dutch were so good at skating because when the canals freeze over people skate on them as a way of getting around.

Wasn’t Amsterdam’s red-light district originally built so skaters could see better at night? And who can forget the skate racks that sit outside the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank’s house?


The chief commercial officer of the Dutch Olympic Committee, jokingly tweeted: “Sure … Just like most Latvians use a bobsleigh to get to work & Austrian kids ski jump to school.”

And speaking of ski jumping

The women got their chance Monday on the normal hill for only the second time in Olympic history. They still aren’t allowed to compete on the large hill. No surprise that Maren Lundby of Norway was the winner. She won seven of the 10 World Cup events this season. Sarah Hendrickson was the top American, finishing 19th of 30 jumpers.

It does harken back to 2005, when female ski-jumpers were trying to gain entry but Gian Franco Kasper, president of the International Ski Federation, opposed letting women in, saying: “Seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.” What he meant is the landings would be harmful to women’s reproductive organs. That was only 12 years ago.

Speedskater Brittany Bowe from Ocala, Fla., finished fifth in the women's 2,500, the first of her four events.
Speedskater Brittany Bowe from Ocala, Fla., finished fifth in the women's 2,500, the first of her four events. (Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images)

Speedskating hotbed

Ireen Wust of (where else?) the Netherlands won the gold in the women’s 1,500 meters. It was her fifth career Olympic gold medal. She won by 0.20 seconds after losing the 3,000 on Saturday by 0.08 seconds.

But more interesting is the fifth-place finisher, Brittany Bowe, from the speedskating hotbed of Ocala, Fla. (Kids growing up there tried skating to school and work, just like the Dutch, but the lifeguards got tired of rescuing them.)

Monday was the first of four events for Wust. She was in Sochi but never got into the top five. Bowe, skating in the seventh pair, held first place until after the 11th of 14 pairs skated.

Biathlon back to normal

Martin Fourcade of France put the biathlon world back on its normal axis by winning the men’s 12.5-kilometer pursuit. He has now won six Olympic medals, three of them gold. But it was his eighth-place finish earlier that had everybody talking. Tim Burke, in his best individual finish in three Games, was the top American, 18th out of 60 competitors.

Laura Dahlmeier picked up her second gold of the Games for Germany by winning the women’s 10-kilometer pursuit. She was fourth in the world coming to Korea but was without a medal in Sochi. The top U.S. woman was Emily Dreissigacker, who was 47th of 58.

Oh, Canada

Canada won its third consecutive gold in men’s moguls. Mikael Kingsbury was the guy atop the medal platform. He was one rung down for silver in Sochi. Casey Andringa of the U.S. made the final group of six, but finished fifth.

In progress …

The first two runs of the women’s luge are done and Germans are in first, second and fourth place with two runs to go on Tuesday. Erin Hamlin of the U.S. is fifth.

Quote of the day

On NBC’s “Today” show, Kotb and Roker were wandering around Olympic Park and spotted U.S. figure skating legend and commentator Scott Hamilton. They started yelling at him. Nothing. Yelled some more. Nothing. Roker says: “Scott Hamilton ignored us.”