UPDATE, 9:52 PM: There were dual delays in her XXIII Winter Olympics debut but when it came to actually hitting the slopes, Mikaela Shiffrin took the gold tonight.
The American’s Women’s Giant Slalom victory from the PyeongChang games came around 12:40 AM ET, almost two hours out of primetime for ratings conscious NBC. Nonetheless, with weather issues finally out of the way for Shiffrin, the network hit social media with preplanned posts almost as fast as the skier did on her risky second run:
It’s a gold in giant slalom for Mikaela Shiffrin! #BestOfUS pic.twitter.com/Xgh5H3wWVX
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 15, 2018
With pretty stunning time of 2:03:15 in her giant slalom second run after coming second in the first run earlier Wednesday live from South Korea, the 2010 shalom gold medalist picked up her second top Olympic medal in the early hours of Thursday on the East Coast.
Pushed as a marquee Team USA name by the network, the trying weather conditions on the slopes of the 2018 Winter Olympics seemed set to push Shiffrin and NBC way off course. Which meant, going into competition that wasn’t even her primary or best event, the expectation was subtly a bit lower – an incorrect assumption it turns out. Also rescheduled due to weather, Shiffrin kicks off a second night of NBC primetime on Thursday with the slalom, which she won four years ago in Sochi.
“Normally on the World Cup circuit, we’re racing back-to-back races, so that unto itself isn’t so much of a challenge,” Shiffrin said after her Giant Slalom win. “But the challenge comes in when you know we’ve had those races postponed and the mental energy we’re spending just trying to be race ready every day,” the skier added. “We had this race today, that’s definitely given me some extra boost, a little adrenaline and hopefully I can take that into tomorrow.”
Clearly, and perhaps beyond.
PREVIOUSLY, 6:22 PM: Somewhat unintentionally laying on the hype like P.T. Barnum or a 1990s hip hop sideman, NBC tonight finally got to have Mikaela Shiffrin make her debut at the XXIII Winter Olympics with what could be the start of some sports history. The twice delayed skier’s primetime premiere on what was described as “the busiest day of the Games” was then followed by the network speaking to the high school shooting this morning.
A now captured former student of the Parkland, Florida facility went on a rampage on Wednesday that has seen at least 17 Americans dead.
After two extreme weather postponements to her first event of the PyeongChang games, the 2014 slalom gold medalist whipped down the slopes in South Korea in the first of two runs in the giant slalom event. Kicking off NBC’s live primetime coverage on Wednesday and beginning her first run at 8:10 PM ET, Shiffrin found herself in second position.
Having been in the net’s spotlight even before the Opening Ceremony of February 9 (which Shiffrin did not attend), the Vail, Colorado-born skier made it down today in 1:10.82, just two-tenths behind Manuela Moelgg of Italy.
A result NBC wasted no time celebrating as it surely hoped a healthy set of eyeballs were tuning into for Shiffrin’s 2018 start:
Do your happy dance, @MikaelaShiffrin! She’s landed herself in second place after her first run.
See more women’s giant slalom on @nbc or via stream here: https://t.co/KX4CHncv2t pic.twitter.com/5R8QlsRvzW
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 15, 2018
On-air, the network was a little bit reserved in its initial response to one of the marquee names for Team USA and the ratings seeking Comcast-owned outlet “Not the kind of run that she was capable of but certainly enough to put her in contention,” said NBC skiing commentator and past Olympian Bode Miller after Shiffrin’s first run this evening. “Again you can’t win the race on the first run but you can set yourself up or too big a deficit to try to overcome on that second run.”
“It’s the Olympics, you go for gold,” a matter-of-fact Shiffrin herself said at the bottom of the slope as she prepped and planned for run #2.
Also competing in her signature event the slalom tomorrow and, you can see, a storm more over the next week, the Ms. Marvel clad Shiffrin could prove the dominant Olympian for these games.
Deep into the fifth day of official competition at the PyeongChang games, NBC also made sure to then pivot to fatal events Stateside. Of course, that was once the highly promoted skiing’s first run was over. There was nothing about the school shooting in the Sunshine state when primetime host Mike Tirico first appeared on screen just before 8 PM ET to lay out this evening’s schedule.
“We welcome you inside our studio, all of us very mindful of the tragic school shooting that happened earlier today in South Florida,” said Tirico when he re- appeared on NBC around 30-minutes after the net’s primetime Olympics coverage began. “It’s in the thoughts of every American over here, half a world away in South Korea,” he added from the anchor desk. “But as the Olympics go on, so to will we with our business,” Tirico continued before going right back into sports mode.
In that sports business mode, Shiffrin is scheduled to be the second to last skier in the second and medal deciding run of the Giant Slalom later this evening at around 12:30 AM ET– which you can be damn sure NBC will be all over even if it is outside of the primetime ratings zone.
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