The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi seem like they took place a decade ago.  Two of the brightest American stars of the most recent Olympiad were former athletes turned broadcasters – figure skaters Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski.  It took several months, but the pair is being rewarded for their work there.

Weir, Lipinski, and Gannon have received the promotion to NBC’s #1 figure skating announcing group.

The three were tasked with delivering live daytime figure skating coverage for the first time ever at an Olympics.  The trio proved to be a revelation as they made an immediate connection with viewers and became the darlings of Sochi as the network’s #2 figure skating broadcast team.  That work has led NBC to move them into primetime and to become the lead voices for the sport beginning next month.

Details via the Chicago Tribune:

After their work at the Sochi Olympics drew widespread praise, Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir have been promoted to be NBC’s primary figure skating commentators, according to Tribune sources familiar with the situation.

Lipinski, the 1998 Olympic champion, and Weir, a three-time U.S. champion, will be teamed with Terry Gannon, as they were at the Olympics, when they did commentary of NBCSN’s live skating coverage.

Their first telecast together will be at Skate America in Hoffman Estates the last weekend of October. NBC will do two hours of iive coverage Sunday, Oct. 26.

What will happen with NBC’s current top figure skating broadcast team of Tom Hammond, Scott Hamilton, and Sandra Bezic?  Hamilton confirmed in a text to the Tribune that he was done in the lead analyst chair after many years.  Bezic wished Lipinski and Weir good luck on Twitter.  It looks like their days are done.

The trio were a revelation doing live coverage in Sochi.  If there’s one question for NBC it’s this – can they do the same in primetime for the 2018 Winter Olympics?  The strength of Gannon, Weir, and Lipinski was their ability to analyze the figure skating competition in real-time.  Even for someone who can’t tell a triple lutz from a triple axel, they were able to help explain the thought behind the programs and what the skaters were doing well or not so well.  Lipinski and Weir were actually willing to provide critical analysis for a sport that doesn’t offer it very often while also being extremely likable.  And Gannon’s work as the ringleader of it all was insanely underrated.

Will they have the ability to make the same impact in taped primetime coverage with the manufactured drama ratcheted up infinity notches and their commentary elbowed out of the way by pre-produced packages?  For figure skating fans, hopefully the answer is yes and they’re given the freedom to make that same connection as the new #1 broadcast team for figure skating for the Olympics and all the other competitions that will take place until then.

There’s no question that Weir, Lipinski, and Gannon deserve this promotion.  It’s refreshing to see a network reward a group based on merit and be willing to break from the years-long status quo.  It’s not an easy decision to break from network stalwarts that have been the face of your coverage for a particular sport for years.  Weir, Lipinski, and Gannon are more than ready to take the torch, though.  With their critical analysis, chemistry, and relatability in the broadcast booth they very well could be the best figure skating broadcast booth, well, ever.

[Chicago Tribune]

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