Japan's figure skating star Mao Asada had a tough day, too. The Vancouver silver medalist finished 16th. That was big news back home, where broadcaster NHK began showing skating warmups just before midnight Tokyo time, and stuck with the competition live until 4 a.m. Thursday.
With Japan six hours ahead of Sochi, many of the high-profile events are shown live overnight, although NHK rebroadcasts much of it the next day. The Japanese broadcasters rely heavily on former athletes for Olympic coverage, with former figure skater Shizuka Arakawa, former tennis star Shuzo Matsuoka and Nordic combined gold medalist Kenji Ogiwara all in Russia.
Japan's national broadcaster televised the men's and women's giant slalom final live in prime time on Wednesday, along with the women's 5,000-meter speedskating.
Canada's national obsession was evident Wednesday, when the prime-time telecast opened with 40 minutes on the men's hockey team's tense 2-1 victory over Latvia to reach the gold medal game, even though many Canadians stopped work to watch it live during the day.
"What a game," the CBC's play-by-play man Jim Hughson said. "It wasn't supposed to be this hard."
"Never in doubt," commentator Glenn Healy joked.
The CBS also CBC devoted 40 minutes to the women's bobsled, where that country's team of Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse came from behind to win gold. About half of that time was spent on a studio interview with the two-time Olympic champions, who talked about patching up a previous falling out.
"What a day it was!" Canadian commentator Ron MacLean said as the camera showed Humphries holding flowers. "The sweet smell of success. Congratulations. Blew them away."
The focus was on the bobsled finals was different across Canada's southern border, where the silver medal-winning U.S. duo of Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams's fall from first place coming in to Wednesday was detailed in slow motion focus. "This is like a train wreck," analyst John Morgan winced. NBC had been touting Williams' bid to win gold in the winter after she did so as a sprinter in London's summer games.
Play-by-play man Leigh Diffey took comfort in U.S. teams winning silver and bronze.
"They may not have gotten the gold," Diffey said, "but it was quite the night for the stars and stripes."
NBC airs some live competition on TV during the day in U.S. time, and all of it online. The vast majority of U.S. viewers tune in during prime time for a curated selection of taped highlights.
Besides the bobsled and figure skating competition, Wednesday's focus was on the giant slalom ski race won by Ligety. Host Bob Costas interviewed Ligety as the night was winding to an end. Meanwhile, Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen's achievement, a gold medal that made him the most decorated winter Olympian ever, merited him a sentence on NBC that night.
NBC often ends each broadcast with the medal ceremony for decorated U.S. athletes. On Wednesday, it was snowboarder David Wise's turn to stand as "The Star-Spangled Banner" played.