The Olympics Sap-o-Meter: Courage, determination, and passion at the ladies' figure skating finals.

Scenes from the Olympics.
Feb. 26 2010 8:26 AM

The Olympics Sap-o-Meter

Courage, determination, and passion at the ladies' figure skating finals.

For NBC and a good portion of the Olympics audience, all the skiing and the curling are mere prelude to the ice princesses. Thursday night's main event didn't disappoint, with Kim Yu-Na skating flawlessly for gold in the ladies' figure skating finals. Nevertheless, the Korean superstar didn't hog the spotlight: Japan's silver-winning Mao Asada nailed her triple axels, sentimental favorite Joannie Rochette earned the bronze, and young Americans Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu performed well in falling just shy of the podium. It was a night of courage, determination, and passion—a delectably saccharine brew that saw the Sap-o-Meter register a stout 44 Sap Points.

As Kim Yu-Na took the ice, always-excitable color commentator Scott Hamilton reported that his "heart just started beating a little faster." The Sap-o-Meter, too, began to tingle as Sandra Bezic enthused that the long-limbed skater, her coach, and her choreographer "made magic" on the ice. When Asada followed with a strong performance of her own, Hamilton transformed from a broadcaster to a doting parent. "What courage to come out after that and to throw those jumps," he said, adding moments later, "I'm so proud of her."

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And then came Canada's sweetheart. The Sap-o-Meter, rarely one to commend NBC for restraint, must note that the network's coverage of Rochette's mother's tragic death has been commendable. On this night, when Rochette thrilled the home crowd with a third-place finish—and brought Hamilton to tears for the second time in three days—our Sappiest Line of the Day didn't even feel over the top. OK, maybe a little over the top. "A kiss to her father, a performance for her mom," crowed Bezic. "I've never seen such a superhuman amount of courage, determination—what an inspiration," added Hamilton. Play-by-play man Tom Hammond got the last word: "Under these circumstances, it is the stuff of Olympic legend." (Emphasis on sap words is ours.)

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Josh Levin is Slate's executive editor.

Chris Wilson is a Slate contributor.

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