Asian Slant on 2014 Winter Olympics

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I haven’t seen much of an Asian view on the Sochi Olympics. Back in the day, Asians were complaining that gold medalist Yamaguchi didn’t seem to get as many corporate deals as the third-place Kerrigan, but today a Yamaguchi Special-K box is a $22.50 buy-it-now item (I guess I’ll put mine up for sale…), and she’s the one featured by NBC at Sochi, while Kerrigan’s appearing to talk about the anniversary of getting knocked in the knees. You didn’t need much evidence to theorized there was a conspiracy in there somewhere.

If you missed the opening ceremonies, they are on the NBC Olympics website, but if you want more than a 20 minute freebie you have to have a cable subscription and figure out how to hook it up.  The thing that everyone was wondering was WILL IT BEAT THE CHINESE who really raised the bar with the “how in the heck did they do that” ceremony in 2008. Well the Russians figured out how to synchronize enough projects to cover the entire floor, and how to get parade floats with animated cows to fly across the sky, and how to get an entire village to work upside down. People believed the parody story that the guy responsible for the defective olympic ring died of the usual mysterious “apparent suicide”, but people love it so much they wrote into the closing ceremony.  Judging by costumes, the Russians were bragging they had even more ethnic costumes than the Chinese who outfitted dozens of adorable Han children in various minority outfits.

The biggest Asian scandal evidently drew the loudest complaints from angered PC non-Asians. This from an outfit called “B*tch magazine

If you’d watched Mirai Nagasu’s free skate this past Saturday night at the United States National Figure Skating Championships, you definitely would have believed you’d witnessed a triumphant finish to a figure-skating cliffhanger. Nagasu, who placed fourth at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, had an uneven recent history in competition, with a messy long program at last year’s Nationals and an 8th-place finish at the NHK Trophy in Tokyo, one of the key international competitions that make up the Grand Prix. But she skated two gorgeous, clean programs at this year’s Nationals—the only one of the top-four skaters, in fact, to skate without a single fall—and the smile she flashed toward the end of her long program signaled relief and pride: If the judges’ scores made the decision, she’d be getting a second chance for Olympic glory. Unfortunately, that’s not how U.S. Figure Skating—or the Olympic marketing machine—works. Though until this year the top-three finishers at an Olympic-year Nationals have gotten an automatic ticket to the Games, this year the selection procedure made a historic allowance for other criteria—specifically, the “body of work” of 4th-place finisher Ashley Wagner. She, rather than bronze medalist Nagasu, will be headed to Sochi along with the 1st- and 2nd-place finishers, Gracie Gold and Polina Edmunds. I’m not the only one calling shenanigans.

Interestingly they bring up that part of the “body of work” is already attracting endorsers:

some underdogs, it seems, are better than others. In Wagner’s case, there’s also more invested in them—the skater has contracts with Nike, Cover Girl, Proctor & Gamble, and Pandora jewelry, among others, making herthe most endorsed non-Olympic medalist in skating history. (Nagasu has no sponsorships; Gold is a fellow Cover Girl endorsee, deepening their perceived rivalry.)

As it turned out, the Russian girl Adelina Sotnikova whose routine started out looking like a mime on skates skating to a Paganini violin piece I studied with Vilem Sokol won Russians first ever gold medal (How in the heck does a country like Russia never get a gold medal in skating??)  She unseated “Queen” Yuna Kim who had to settle for #2 despite her flawless performance. The SKoreans seemed so angry that if they were North Koreans, they’d be threatening a nuclear holocaust. Too bad Kim’s publicity team still markets her as Korea’s superhero rather than a world personality or even a Canadian or Catholic personality since that is where she trains, and people were noticing her religiousity the last time around. Interesting that the US has always won 1 or 2 medals every year except for 1964, 2010 and 2014. Skaters of color included Asians Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan, and African American Debi Thomas who I ran into near Stanford is now a  is a practicing orthopaedic surgeon.

Now on the mens’ skating side, it seems to be the world’s best kept secret that after Russia’s Bad Boy pulled out, and everybody complained about all of the stumbles, after the wreckage  4 of the top 5 male skaters were some sort of Asian ethnic group. It’s not going to immediately enhance the stereotype of male Asian heros, but we’re sure to see more Asian boys trying out figure skating just as the girls started coming out after Tiffany Chin blazed a trail in the 80s.

Sochi 2014 Olympics Men's Figure Skating Medalists Yuzuru Hanyu, Patrick Chan, Denis Ten

Sochi 2014 Olympics Men’s Figure Skating Medalists Yuzuru Hanyu, Patrick Chan, Denis Ten

1 Gold Japan Yuzuru Hanyu

2 Silver Canada Patrick Chan

3 Bronze Kazakhstan Denis Ten

5 Japan Tatsuki Machida

It turns out out most Khazaks don’t look anything like Borat, they look like Vietnamese. Not even Wikipedia gave a simple racial breakdown, but I tracked down an  obscure Khazakstan website to see somebody brag that “We are not caucasian, we are 60-70% mongoloid, 30-40% caucasoid. We can get along only with russians among caucasian race”. Ohh Kay…. There were also a lot of stories of Canada’s Chan being buddies with Michael Christian Martinez of the Phillipines who was touted as the first Southeast Asian skater to compete in the winter games. Japan’s NHK featured him in a story of how he stumbled upon one of only two rinks in his nation and begged his mother to let him try and see if he could skate in the Olympics.

At the end, ice  hockey four-time medalist Julie Chu who appeared in at least one commerical with her mother got picked to be the USA flag bearer at the closing ceremony. Somebody picked out the Japanese women’s ice hockey team to be the most adorable, while another guy that made waves was the South Korean skater who was successfully wooed to the Russians.

How Asian nations fared:  (US hasn’t had any Asian American medalists I’ve heard of)

From Google:
China = 8
Sport
Gold
Silver
Bronze
Total
Short Track
2
3
1
6
Speed Skating
1
0
0
1
Freestyle Skiing
0
1
1
2
Japan = 8
Sport
Gold
Silver
Bronze
Total
Figure Skating
1
0
0
1
Snowboard
0
2
1
3
Ski Jumping
0
1
1
2
Nordic Combined
0
1
0
1
Freestyle Skiing
0
0
1
1
South Korea = 7
Sport
Gold
Silver
Bronze
Total
Short Track
2
1
2
5
Speed Skating
1
0
0
1
Figure Skating
0
1
0
1

That Seahawks Superbowl Dominati0n

By the way, I had plenty of Asian friends on my facebook feed celebrating the Seahawks demolishing the favored Denver Broncos.  Denver had a couple of really big guns, and the Seahawks were made out to be a bunch of foul mouthed misfits, but from the first play it looked an awful lot like the staged games of the Harlem Globetrottters who always ran rings  around their hapless opponents. The best tweet I saw was the one that said to order a pizza with code “manning” and when the pizza comes to your door, a Seahawk lineman will snatch it and eat it in front of you.

It reminded me of the US Navy performance in the WWII Battle Off Samar when the Japanese Imperial Navy pulled a fast one on Admiral Halsey by tricking him into  leaving his back door open for the biggest battleship in the world to blow by a toy escort ship fleet, except the desperate teamwork of undergunned Americans who were determined to fight impossible odds and so confused and flabbergasted that they turned around leading the “tin can sailors” from the ships that were sunk to remark “dang it boys they’re getting away”

About the Author

MIT electrical engineering computer science graduate has written conservative columns on politics, race / culture, science and education since the 70s in MIT The Tech and various publications in including New Republic and National Review.