The Olympics Sap-o-Meter: Mothers and daughters on ice.

Scenes from the Olympics.
Feb. 24 2010 10:40 AM

The Olympics Sap-o-Meter

Mothers and daughters on ice.

A silver medal for the American team in the men's team Nordic combinedwas overshadowed on Tuesday night by the runaway sap story of these Olympics: parents. The inspirational and tragic parental tales started with a "heartbreaking moment" on the slopes, where Ophelie David's 10-year-old daughter watched her mother crash during the women's ski cross. The night ended when Canadian Joannie Rochette's courageous skate—she was performing just days after her mother's death—left NBC's Scott Hamilton in tears. All those moms did wonders for the Sap-o-Meter, which soared to 50 Sap Points, a stirring turnaround after several days of low-sap broadcasts.

While nobody said the word tears out loud on Tuesday, there wasn't a dry eye in the commentator's box after Rochette's short program. The moment so overwhelmed Hamilton, Sandra Bezic, and Tom Hammond, in fact, that they declared the entire Winter Games moot. "There's no bigger stage than the Olympic Games," Hamilton decreed, his voice breaking through his gentle sobs, "but the skate, and the moment, means much more than the competition."

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In celebrating Rochette's resilience, the network did make one embarrassing gaffe. As the skater got set to perform, the cameras panned to the crowd to show her family. "Her dad, Normand, who has his own grief, is here to lend support," Hammond announced. The problem: The man NBC showed wasn't her father, but rather a grieving friend. (On the network's late-night show, Mary Carillo explained that NBC's producers had been given the wrong seat assignment for Normand Rochette.)

On a night devoted to mothers and daughters on ice, there were several contenders for our Sappiest Line of the Day. Taking silver was Hammond's monologue about American skater Mirai Nagasu's "super mom," who has thyroid cancer. "Mirai says her mom wore clothes with holes in them so she could afford lessons," Hammond noted, "and the battle with cancer hasn't slowed her down at all." But taking gold on this night was Dan Jansen, the speed skater whose sister Jane died of leukemia during 1988's Calgary Olympics. In an interview with Bob Costas, Jansen had these words of advice for Joannie Rochette: "I don't know if you can prepare for the emotions you're going to feel out there. But if you can get through it, you know, there's millions of people supporting you, and most of all skate with your mother in your heart." (Emphasis on sap words is ours.)

Previous Sap-o-Meter entries:

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Josh Levin is Slate's executive editor. You can email him at sportsnut@slate.com, visit his website, and follow him on Twitter.

Jenny Rogers is a Slate intern.

Chris Wilson is a Slate contributor.