The full essence of figure skating's most exhilarating moments doesn't always translate on a TV screen, even with high-definition cameras focused on the action while one of the sport's greats describes every detail.
It's up to Scott Hamilton, an NBC analyst and an Olympic gold medalist, to help viewers at home enjoy the same experience of those in the stands, who are watching firsthand as the nation's best glide, leap and spin on the ice.
Not easy, Hamilton said. Impossible, really.
“You try to by talking about their speed, how much ice they carry in their jump, by talking about how much time they're in the air,” Hamilton said. “It's hard to say, well, if you were here live, you would see it.”
The TV audience needs more than that, Hamilton said. Some kind of explanation, but one that won't be so full of technical jargon that it's overwhelming.
Something like pointing out the position of the hips, and the subsequent influence they have on the rotation of a jump. Or a skater's lean, and how it impacts the landing.
“I try to make sure I can describe something in a way that's friendly to someone who's never seen the sport before,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton is one of several commentators who aided in NBC's live coverage of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Omaha during the weekend. Universal Sports Network will re-air portions of the event this week. The Skating Spectacular, which was held Sunday, will be shown on NBC at noon on Saturday.
Most of this NBC broadcast team has been working together for about a decade under the direction of David Michaels, the senior producer for NBC Olympics and the director of figure skating and gymnastics.
Michaels has been covering the sport for about 30 years. Hamilton has, too — he started an analyst career about the same time he turned professional, after winning the gold medal at the 1984 Winter Olympics.
both know the importance of storytelling, but the best performances end up standing alone on their own brilliance — a close-up shot of a skater's elated face, or a slow-motion replay of a devastating fall.
“Sometimes you don't even need commentators,” Michaels said.
Most of the analyst's on-air dialogue comes after a skater's finished, anyway. And if Hamilton can enhance the audience's perspective, he'll try his best to do it.
“I think it's important to allow people to watch the performance and make their own conclusions,” he said. “Skating is a very broad, colorful sport, with a lot of different personalities, styles. It's so diverse that it's just fun to see how (skaters) present themselves.”
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