Save for Albright, CBS sets up story pretty well, too

February 25, 1994|By Phil Jackman

The TV Repairman:

Even on the nights it can't train its cameras on the skaters, CBS has done an exceptional job sustaining the interest in the competition with a series of previews that come close to matching the real thing.

For instance, last night's report on the injuries suffered by world champion Oksana Baiul and Tanja Szewczenko in a collision during practice carried all the urgency of a Super Bowl quarterback hurting his arm the week of the big game.

Then the net brought in the first team, Charles Kuralt, to tell the story of what 1960 champion Carol Heiss calls "the five sisters," the U.S. women who have captured gold medals since 1956.

There was one flaw in the usually impeccable Kuralt report, however. He was telling the story of Tenley Albright's cutting of her foot to the bone prior to the 1956 Games and the consternation it caused.

The story made it sound as if it was well before the competition when, in reality, it came after the athletes were in Cortina, Italy. Albright's father, a surgeon in Boston, flew immediately to the site and performed the operation necessary to allow his daughter to compete.

Picture it, Connie Chung climbing aboard the plane in Beantown with Dr. Albright, a la the Tonya Harding Watch she's been on.

As for Tonya, in 10th position and out of it heading into tonight's long program, CBS showed her daily tumble to the ice, this one coming out of a simple spin.

Kuralt also handled the tribute to Bonnie Blair and her record five gold medals over the last three Winter Olympics in a unique piece. The career of Blair was rolled backward, beginning with Wednesday's victory and going back to when she was outfitted with skates for the first time at age 2 and said, "I love skating."

* Listening to present-day athletes complain, one suspects they rarely catch a break. But think for a moment about the lads and lassies competing in Lillehammer.

The Bonnie Blairs, Dan Jansens, Katarina Witts and Alberto Tombas of the world are competing either in their fourth Olympiad in a 10-year period or their third in just six years.

Now consider a great athlete coming along in the late 1930s. After both the Winter and Summer Games were staged in Germany in 1936, zip, nothing, zilch until the Olympics resumed again in 1948 in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and London.

What a kick in the pants for so many, who not only weren't privileged enough to compete under the five rings, but probably fought in a war as a reward. And I don't recall hearing anyone of that era complain.

* If Tonya Harding is such a hot-shot fixing cars, why couldn't she do something about her busted axel?

2& * With a couple of days to go, the

medal count of the U.S. stands at 11 and Nick Charles of TNT was gushing yesterday about how we might break our all-time high of a dozen (established in 1980).

There's just one thing wrong with this statistic: there are so many more medals available today compared to past Olympics.

When the U.S. grabbed 11 medals in 1932, there were only 41 on the table. Now there are 180.

* In case you were wondering why announcer Al Trautwig and his producer David Blatt don't get high-profile assignments considering the stupendous packages they put together on cross country skiing, be advised Al's a free lancer, his chief employer being the Madison Square Garden cable network.

* U.S. skiers love to play the part of aggrieved parties when they have a big February and capture a few medals. It's a natural reaction. But folks who do the handicapping and make predictions have to rely on form and, traditionally, Americans don't put up big numbers on the European ski circuit.

Two completely objective experts forecasted two and zero U.S. medals in the 10 men's and women's events, the optimistic one going with Tommy Moe and Julie Parisien.

* CBS achieved the ultimate close-up last night during gold-medal speed skater Cathy Turner's medal ceremony: The picture didn't even include the woman's whole head. Is it really necessary to place a lens two inches from someone's face?

Speaking of short-track speed skating, you'll come across as knowledgeable at a party sometime if you casually mention that's how regular speed skating used to be conducted, match elimination with the final pair going head-to-head instead of everyone against the clock.

* No doubt the best commentary while the ladies were skating Wednesday night wasn't for the massive CBS audience, but for the cozy TNT crowd as provided by in-studio expert Rosalyn Sumners.

The 1984 silver medalist doesn't pussyfoot, describing Harding's effort as "slow and sluggish with her footwork lacking difficulty. Tonya's choreography was basic and, if anything, the judges went out of their way to bump up the artistic marks."

* All thoughts that NBC might be jumping the gun with a recent special touting its coverage of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 were wiped out last night when CBS previewed Nogana, Japan.

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