The experiences of gymnast Simone Biles and tennis player Naomi Osaka last summer were fresh on the minds of NBC critics, and the online feedback has been fierce.
Mikaela Shiffrin raced in the shortest technical event as a four-time world slalom champion and gold medalist at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. PA
New York: NBC offered a full-throated defense of how he covered skier Mikaela Shiffrin’s shocking Olympics outburst, going so far as to suggest there’s sexism involved in criticism that he was cruel in his portrayal of his emotional response.
NBC the cameras focused on Shiffrin for the majority of the time as she sat sadly on the course with her head bowed for more than 20 minutes. The network aired a raw interview where she fought back tears and said she questions everything she’s done for 15 years.
For the second consecutive Olympics, the emotional health of athletes performing on the biggest stage has become a topic of discussion. The experiences of gymnast Simone Biles and tennis player Naomi Osaka last summer were fresh on the minds of NBC critics, and the online feedback has been fierce.
As one response on Twitter said: “Show empathy.” NBC, said another, “shamed” Shiffrin – “tortured” her. “The relentless hype machine”, wrote one reviewer, “has claimed another victim”.
No – NBC was doing its job, said Molly Solomon, executive producer of NBC’s Olympic coverage.
“We have an obligation at this time as the broadcaster of the Olympics to cover the moment,” Solomon said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday night. “There’s no script when there’s a wipeout on the slopes or a fall in figure skating. We’re watching real people with real emotions in real time and we’ve done everything we were supposed to.”
Shiffrin’s performance was huge news, she said – the biggest Games story so far.
“I’ve thought about that a lot, and if Joe Burrow or Matthew Stafford stays on the sidelines 22 minutes after the Super Bowl on Sunday, you can bet the cameras will stay on them,” Solomon said.
“It’s 2022 and we have a double standard in women’s sports coverage,” she said. “Women’s sports should be analyzed through the same lens as men’s. The world’s most famous skier hasn’t completed her best two events, so we’ll show her sitting on the hill and analyze what went wrong. worked out. You bet we are.”
As much as fans like to rejoice in triumph, disappointment in sports — or any other endeavor — is often the most compelling story. “More people relate to heartache than anything else,” ESPN Tony Kornheiser said in “Pardon the Interruption” on Wednesday.
It was evident in an interview Shiffrin gave to NBC after losing her mind in her first race at the Olympics, how much it weighed on her. She apologized to viewers: “I’m sorry this was the performance I did today,” she said.
Talk with NBC Todd Lewis after Wednesday’s race, Shiffrin’s eyes filled with tears.
She questioned, she said, “the past 15 years, everything I thought I knew about my own skiing, slalom and racing methods.”
At the same time, critics questioned NBC role in putting pressure on Shiffrin, who was anointed as one of the presumed stars before the Games even started. In a segment aired before her second race, former ski racer and now NBC Analyst Lindsey Vonn said “this is a must-do situation for Mikaela. The stakes couldn’t be higher.”
After the race, Vonn tweeted that she was “disgusted for Mikaela Shiffrin but that doesn’t take away from her storied career and what she can and will accomplish in the future.”
Biles, the star gymnast who emphasized mental health in athletics in Tokyo last year when she pulled out of several events, tweeted heart emojis directed at Shiffrin on Wednesday.
She also retweeted a comment by writer Charlotte Clymer, who said “shaming people just because they didn’t perform well at the Olympics seems like the opposite of why we supposedly have the Games. Olympics in the first place”.
NBC pointed out that Shiffrin was a world-class athlete enriched by sponsorship deals with her face sporting billboards.
If NBC was playing a waiting game, it wasn’t the only one.
“Let’s all remember that Mikaela Shiffrin is a professional athlete who has won 73 times and (a) three Olympic gold medals,” Solomon said. “She’s one of the greatest female alpine skiers of all time. She’s 26 and she’s incredibly accomplished. So for all of us, of course, she’s going to be one of the showpieces of the Games. I think ‘she would want that.”