By Sarah D’Alto ’20
Sarah D’Alto ’20 recaps 2018 PyeongChang Winter games with Jill Jaraz and Alison Brown of the podcast “Olympic Fever” to discuss everything from “meme-worthy” moments to their favorite sports to watch.
Sarah (S): Jill, you are the host and executive producer of the immensely entertaining podcast, “Olympic Fever,” and Alison you are the co-host. Tell me about when each initially became fascinated by the Olympics, and how it evolved into the creation of your podcast.
Jill (J): “My fascination with the Olympics began when I was a kid. Even though I likely watched a few before this, the LA Olympics in 1984 had me glued to the set. I was on a swim team, and I loved watching the swimmers. That just bled into watching other events.
I love talking about the Olympics, and I don’t always have a ton of people who I can geek out with. I also love podcasts, so that seemed like a good idea. Luckily, Alison was game to do it with me, and our adventure began!”
Alison (A): “I first fell in love with the Olympics in 1976 with Nadia Comaneci. [After that, I liked] The Winter Olympics in 1980, which, as far as I remember, were in Lake Placid, New York–that was exciting because it was so close to home. It was something I shared with my family; we all watched it together.”
S: Many people find the Summer Olympics to be far more captivating than that of the Winter Olympics. What do you think makes the Winter Olympics interesting and unique?
J: “The Winter Olympics are interesting and unique, because not everyone has access to snow and ice. It also has a lot of sports that unfortunately we rarely see on TV, so it’s fun to watch sports that you don’t hear about all the time.”
S: Was there anything about the location of PyeongChang that differentiated the ‘18 games from the Winter games back in 2014 in Sochi?
A: “PyeongChang was definitely colder. It seemed to run more smoothly. There was less commentary. There was more praise for the facilities, and the athletes seemed to really enjoy being in Korea. In Sochi, there was a lot of complaints about things not working: bad food [and] travel difficulties. There were no complaints on logistics in Pyeongchang. It seemed like the athletes were better able to focus on their competition, not if their toilet worked.”
S: What is your favorite Winter Olympic sport to watch as a fan and why? How does this differ from your favorite sport to discuss on “Olympic Fever?”
J: “I love to watch biathlon, because it’s so exciting, and you never know who’s going to win a race. Some [crowd] favorites and heavy-hitters could have a bad day on the shooting range, and their race is sunk. Sometimes an athlete will miss a couple of shots and then ski like crazy and place well. I also love watching bobsled and luge–they look like so much fun! And I like figure skating, because it’s beautiful and amazing to watch these athletes defy the laws of physics. Oh, and ski jumping is so cool too! I could go on…..I like watching pretty much any Olympic sport–or at least I will give it a really good try. We do try to talk about every Olympic sport on the podcast, at least a little bit, because we want to give every sport its due.”
A: “My favorite sport to watch is figure skating, because I know a lot about it, and I’ve been watching it a very long time; but I [also] like talking about the sports I don’t know as well, like biathlon and ski jumping, because I learn about them. [Jill] totally has gotten me turned on to biathlon. I did enjoy watching biathlon this time–mostly because I could talk to Jill about it.”
S: What are some of your favorite moments from the 2018 games; any meme worthy moments (i.e. McKayla Maroney’s “I’m not impressed” face from the 2012 London Summer Olympics)?
J: “Ester Ledecka winning the alpine super-G would be meme-worthy. [Also], Pita Taufatoufa at the ceremonies, of course (who doesn’t like a shirtless Tongan?). [And] anything with curler Matt Hamilton’s mustache.”
A: “I didn’t think there were a lot of meme moments, but the mascot itself, Soohorang, was meme-able itself. So cute. He is a cartoon, white tiger with a very sweet smile…and a big head. Cute and cuddly and adorable. I would also say that it was the best dressed Olympics, so the outfits for the medal assistants, and the opening ceremonies were just gorgeous. They were gorgeous, I love them. Matt Hamilton is on the US men’s gold medal winning curling team, and he just has this big ginger mustache.”
S: What do you prefer to talk about on the podcast: the athletes playing the sport or the sport that the athletes are playing?
J: “I don’t have a preference, to be honest. I like understanding the nuances of a sport better, because I appreciate that. I like talking to athletes because I can learn what it takes to compete at that level.”
A: I like talking to the athletes about their sport, because they can share their excitement and their knowledge.”
S: There were lots of remarkable achievements made by women in this year’s Winter Olympics. What were some that you think are notably commendable, and how do these achievements impact Olympic history?
J: “Favorite moments:
-South Korean Women’s Curling team winning the Semi-Finals
-Ester Ledecka winning 2 gold medals
-Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall winning gold
-Mirai Nagasu landing a triple axel
-Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs winning silver
-U.S. women’s hockey team winning gold
-Anytime a South Korean won in Short Track Speedskating (the crowd went nuts)
Two words: Marit Bjoergen. [She’s] 37 years old, and at Pyeongchang, she became the most decorated Winter Olympic medalist: fifteen medals overall, eight gold. [Of those, she won] four medals, 2 of them gold, just this year. A-maz-ing.
Oh, so many more!”
A: “Bjoergen is now the most decorated Winter Olympian ever; she has won more Olympic medals than any other Winter Olympian- male or female. She is the Michael Phelps of the Winter Olympics. For the U.S., more medals were won by women than men at the Winter Olympics.”
S: Teenagers, like snowboarders Chloe Kim and Red Gerard, won gold medals in Pyeongchang. Do you think these young athletes (or any of the other teenagers that competed in the games) are destined to be super athletes with long-lasting careers, like Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White?
J: “Totally. A bunch of athletes at Pyeongchang were in their 3rd, 4th, and 5th Games. Chloe and Red could definitely be around for many more, if they stay healthy and have the drive to do so.”
A: “Both women who won the gold and silver in figure skating were also teenagers, and I hope they stick around, because they are both beautiful skaters. As for Chloe Kim and Red Gerard, I think Red Gerard is more likely to have a long lasting career, because he is keeping a lower profile, and is more focused on his sport. Chloe Kim is doing a lot of press and media right now and fashion and ads–she cannot sustain that kind of fame while doing the training that is needed to be a gold medalist.”
[photo credits: https://www.theverge.com/2017/3/28/15098364/nbc-tape-delay-winter-olympics-2018-live-broadcast-pyeongchang]