As the planet deals with the pandemic and the crisis involving the spread of COVID-19, the world of sport watches and waits alongside the global population.
This Saturday, March 21, will be the first of five weeks of programming at CBC Sports which will showcase some of the memorable moments from the most recent editions of the Olympics.
The first week features figure skating from the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. They turned out to be competitions where Canadian skaters excelled. The Canadians won four medals, more than any other country, including a gold medal in the hotly contested team competition.
LISTEN | Tessa Virtue on Player’s Own Voice:
There were plenty of skating highlights on South Korean ice, not the least of which was the electrifying ice dance final featuring the Canadian flag bearers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
The duo ended up becoming the most decorated Olympic figure skaters of all-time as a result of their dramatic victory over Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France with a riveting performance before a packed house in the rink and countless millions watching around the world on television.
“If the Canadians had played to an empty arena, the French surely would have won,” Brenda Irving reflected. She called play-by-play of figure skating for CBC at the Games alongside four-time world champion Kurt Browning, and international coach Carol Lane.
‘I could feel the excitement’
“The audience, in my opinion, played an immeasurable role in the eventual win by Virtue and Moir,” Irving continued. I could feel the excitement, electricity, or whatever you want to call it, in the air when the Canadians skated. When they landed in their finishing pose, I honestly felt the judges would have no choice but to succumb to the will of the people.”
LISTEN | Scott Moir on Player’s Own Voice:
The other Canadian medals in figure skating were produced by two-time world champions and veteran skaters Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford who claimed bronze in the pairs competition.
And then there was Newfoundland’s Kaetlyn Osmond who rose to the occasion by calmly earning bronze in the women’s, singles, event as she competed against the talented teenagers from Russia.
“Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva were on fire in the practice before the long program, triple combos with multiple jumps over and over again,” Carol Lane reminisced.
“Meanwhile Kaetlyn Osmond went quietly about her business, not doing much at all, but not getting distracted, and I thought, she’s going to do it. She will get that bronze medal. And she did.”
Osmond would go on to defeat Zagitova, the Olympic gold medallist, a month later to become world champion in Milan, Italy.
Also included in the first “Olympic Games Replay” is a rare English language interview with Japanese superstar Yuzuru Hanyu who won a second consecutive Olympic championship in Pyeongchang. Hanyu became the first male figure skater to repeat as Olympic gold medallist since American Dick Button had won in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 1948 and Oslo in 1952.
“Winning back-to-back Olympics, especially in singles, is an extraordinary feat but one that almost did not happen,” said Kurt Browning referring to Hanyu capitalizing on an early failure by American teenager Nathan Chen.
Chen was 17th after the short program but won the free skate by a wide margin, landing an astonishing six quadruple jumps to finish fifth overall.
“His low point in the short program did not keep him from stealing all the attention in the long, something he has not stopped doing since,” Browning said.
Over the course of the interview, which was conducted in advance of the cancelled Montreal world championships, Hanyu speaks of his emotional and single-minded journey to become arguably the most celebrated and beloved men’s figure skater of all time.
“I never feel that I’m the champion but always the challenger,” Hanyu admitted. “I’m always hunting the other skaters and challenging myself. The achievement of people’s expectations gives me motivation and a meaning to my skating.”
The first edition of Olympic Games Replay features three hours of figure skating competition from Pyeongchang 2018 and will air Saturday, March 21 on 3 p.m. ET, streaming on CBCSports.ca and across the CBC television network. Check your local listings for the broadcast time in your region.