U.S. Olympians embarrass themselves

By STEVE TILLEY, QMI Agency

Attention, U.S. Olympians Scotty Lago and Michael Phelps: Asian girls don’t all look alike.

If snowboarding bronze medallist Lago and Summer Games swimming sensation Phelps had considered that, they might have avoided coming off as doofuses on Friday night’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! and on website TMZ.com.

Instead, they’ve earned the eternal scorn of Canadian gossip queen and eTalk correspondent Lainey Lui, wrongly rumoured to be the mystery girl biting Lago’s bronze medal in controversial pictures posted online.

The U.S. Olympic Committee and U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association asked Lago to leave Vancouver just a few days into the Winter Games, after TMZ.com posted photos of an attractive young Asian woman posing with Lago’s bronze medal while it dangled in front of his crotch.

Friday night, Lago suggested to both Kimmel’s audience and the TMZ cameras that the mystery girl was a reporter who’d also been trying to “make out” with Michael Phelps in Vancouver. According to Lago, Phelps recognized the girl in the picture and passed the information along to Lago through a friend.

While Lago didn’t identify Lui by name, TMZ.com followed up by posting side-by-side pictures of the Vancouver-based Lui (pictured with Phelps) and the mystery girl nibbling on Lago’s medal, posing the question: Same girl?

Um, no. Ignoring for the moment that Lui and the mystery girl bear little resemblance to each other, the confusion seems to have sprung from an on-air challenge issued by MTV Canada’s Dan Levy and Jessi Cruickshank last week. The duo dared Lui to get her photo taken with Michael Phelps (which she did), with bonus points if she got him to kiss her cheek (which she did not – Lui says Phelps’ handlers nixed the kissing idea outright.)

Lui figures this somehow translated in Phelps’ mind to a crazy Asian reporter trying to stalk him for smooches — and that Phelps then passed the information along to Lago.

“It wasn’t like there was this clandestine plan to bring down these athletes,” Lui said yesterday from Vancouver. “Like I would actually want to punk a bronze medallist and not a gold medallist.”

Lui, who is part of CTV’s team for the Winter Games and runs the website laineygossip.com, cleared the air in a segment on Saturday’s Olympic Morning program, in which she accused Phelps of “racial profiling.”

But she says she’s more amused than annoyed at being mistaken for Lago’s medal masticator.

“There are different levels of humour in this,” Lui said. “I’m usually the one talking smack to other people, and this time I’m suddenly the subject by virtue of being Asian.”

But the only people who should be embarrassed here, she says, are Phelps and Lago.

“I think it’s actually really funny that Scotty Lago did something inappropriate, and is now grasping at any excuse or any reason to absolve himself.”

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It’s not quite the Super Bowl, but Sunday’s Canada-U.S. gold-medal hockey showdown stands to make a pretty penny for CTV, who will be charging advertisers a premium to flog their wares during the sportscast.

On his www.truthandrumours.net blog, veteran sports columnist William Houston says CTV will be charging advertisers a whopping $365,000 for each 30-second spot during the game, more than four times the standard rate of $90,000 that was charged during the Canada-Russia quarterfinal. It’s probably worth every cent, though: CTV says Friday’s Canada-Slovakia game netted a staggering 9.7 million viewers, and the gold-medal final is certain to trump that.

So every time one of those wretched Chevrolet talking car commercials comes on — or, even worse, that horrific Source yogurt song-and-dance number starring what one wag on Twitter dubbed a “Shakir-alike” — take solace in the fact that they’re paying mad stacks of cash to drive us up the wall.

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MTV website www.bestweekever.tv has compiled a gallery of what it calls the 40 most sexual photos of the Olympics. (What? Somebody has to do this stuff.) Not surprisingly, all but four of the pictures are from figure skating, although some are stretching the definition of “sexual” a tad. Check ’em out here: http://bit.ly/sexy40

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Now that Canada is on the top of the heap in the gold-medal standings, it seems Own the Podium has conveniently come to refer to the number of gold medals won, rather than the number of medals overall. Especially since the U.S. and Germany are so far ahead in overall medals, Canada has little hope of catching up.

But does anyone else think that the main problem with Own the Podium is not how much money is being spent or whether or not the program is succeeding, but the name of the federally funded program itself? “Own” is a loaded word — heck, just ask any video gamer (although a gamer would be more likely to call it Pwn the Podium). It suggests complete dominance over your foes, and sets you up for mockery if you fail.

Hence headline-friendly puns like “disown the podium,” “moan the podium,” “d’oh-in’ the podium.” Although that last one might be a bit of a stretch.

To avoid more fun-poking or hand-wringing in 2012, I suggest we change the name of Own the Podium to something more humble and Canadian. Like, Let’s Try Our Best And See How It Goes, Eh?

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Steve Tilley is following the Olympics experience on TV and on the web throughout the Winter Games. You can e-mail him at steve.tilley@sunmedia.ca or follow him on Twitter at @stevetilley.

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