Sometimes broadcasters are just as good with what they don’t say as they are with what they actually say. Many announcers were praised for their silence and for letting the scene speak for itself. For example, the noise of the crowd after a big moment or a big win.
On Tuesday night, NBC’s Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir let their silence express their disapproval, their dismay at Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva being allowed to compete in the women’s short program at the Beijing Olympics despite testing positive for a banned substance.
When Lipinski, Weir and Terry Gannon presented the figure skating slate for the evening, both analysts said they believed Valieva should be barred from participating.
“We have to remember that she’s only 15, a minor, and I know more than anyone what it’s like to be in the Olympics at 15,” Lipinski said (via The Washington Post). “But a positive test is a positive test. She can’t skate.
Weir agreed. “If you can’t play fairly, then you can’t play, and that’s a shame because she’s a great athlete,” he added, echoing the sentiments of the figure skating community.
Amid the controversy surrounding her, Valieva put in a stellar performance on Tuesday, compiling a score of 82.16 that gave her the edge over fellow Russian Anna Shcherbakova and Japan’s Sakamoto Kaori in the women’s free skating program at Thursday.
Yet, for most of Valieva’s skating and after she finished her performance, Lipinski and Weir had little to say. They wouldn’t praise someone who shouldn’t have been allowed to compete, nor would they criticize a 15-year-old girl whose use of a banned substance might have been decided by others. others.
For an audience accustomed to effusive praise and sharp criticism from NBC’s star figure skating analysts, their silence was remarkable. And it was certainly effective in telling viewers how they felt about the big picture.
When the two finally spoke, their disapproval was clear.
“All I can say is that was Kamila Valieva’s short program at the Olympics,” Weir said.
“For all the other Olympic athletes competing here, I feel like I have to say again that she tested positive,” Lipinski added. “We shouldn’t have seen that skate.”
“We’re so sorry this overshadows your Olympics,” Weir said.
As Valieva left the ice and waited for her scores, Lipinski said she considered Valieva the best figure skater she had ever seen. But that only made her confused and angry, knowing that the Russian skater used an unfair advantage.
Weir added that all of these circumstances made him uncomfortable both as a skater and as a commentator.
For two star personalities known for their daring commentary, flashy fashion and social media presence, their terse restraint said all that needed to be said in one of the most scrutinized events in recent Olympic history. It was a remarkable moment of broadcast.