With the 2018 Winter Olympics upon us, it’s easy to day dream about our own Olympic aspirations as a graceful, elegant figure skater while we sit and watch the games from the comfort of our sofa. Occasionally, we even think to ourselves that dangerous thought “I could totally do that” while watching the athletes effortlessly conquer spectacular feats. Inevitably our hubris gets the best of us, leading to an embarrassing and painful failure. Left with a sore body and a bruised ego, our only chance for a gold medal is in the Olympics version of America’s Funniest Home Videos.
Some athletic feats, however, are so incredible that even the best armchair athletes can’t imagine attempting it. One such example might be Mirai Nagasu’s historic triple axel. Nagasu landed the triple axel on February 11, and became the first American woman to land the challenging move in an Olympic competition. Few have ever attempted it, and even fewer have managed to perform the three and a half spin jump in an international competition, let alone the Olympics.
Crowds were in awe of her accomplishment, and social media erupted into discussion. We ran a Scraawl report to get an in-depth look at the how Olympic viewers reacted to the historic moment.
[Go back to the 2016 Olympics with our blog Rio 2016: Big Data and a Win for Scraawl]
We ran a Scraawl report on Twitter for tweets including the words “triple axel” OR “olympics” OR “ice skating” from noon on February 12 through February 14th. We first looked at a few key pieces of data, including the total number of related tweets, the top mentions, and the top words, from Scraawl’s Basic Statistics feature.
In the three days after the triple axel, there were 3,600 tweets including the words “triple axel” or “olympics” or “ice skating.” @mirai_nagasu maintained a prominent position in the rankings of the social media response to the Olympics. Nagasu was the second most mentioned account for the entire period. The top word used was “Triple” which occurred 2,800 times.
What we took away from this first read of the report is that we had landed on a successful query that led us to content primarily regarding Mirai Nagasu’s triple axel, which was our goal. We also learned how important our topic was to the overall Olympics conversation taking place on Twitter.
After taking in the basic statistics, we moved on to evaluating two of the Advanced Analytics to get a deeper understanding of the reaction to our query. We chose to look at Topic Modeling and Community Detection. Topic Modeling was a logical choice because it showed how our query fit into the larger conversation, and Community Detection because it allowed us to see which users were the most influential in the conversation and who they were interacting with.
We found 3 main topic groups through the Topic Modeling feature of Scraawl’s Advanced Analytics tool in the 3 days after Nagasu’s landing. A majority of the posts, 80 percent, fell into one topic group during this time. This topic’s top three words were Figure, Skating and Nagasu. We can take away from this topic modeling that Nagasu’s triple axel was extremely important to the overall Olympic conversation. As we drilled down into the raw data for topic 1 we found that most of the posts seemed to be announcing the historic occasion, many with links to news stories, pictures, or videos. Others seemed to be retweeting figure skating related jokes or commentary from a handful of key influencers including @markhoppus, @olyphil, and @21stCenturyTim.
When we looked into Community Detection, we found 578 communities, each with an average size of 6 members. Mirai Nagasu personal account was influential in one of these community. With a community of 215 users, the group of people actively engaged with Nagasu was the second largest group of people talking about the Olympics. There were two other prominent accounts during this three day conversation. @misssaigonus, the official US Twitter account for the show Miss Saigon, congratulated Nagasu on her accomplishment and pointed out that she performed to music from Miss Saigon. @itonyamovie, the official Twitter account for the recent Tanya Harding themed movie, also engaged with the conversation. Tanya Harding was the first American woman, and second woman in the world, to land the triple axel in an international competition. She also made history as the first woman to land two triple axels in one competition. Harding did not, however, perform the triple axel in Olympic competition. @itonyamovie tweeted out a description of a Triple Axel from the cast of I, Tanya. The tweet received 60 retweets, including one from Nagasu. Both @misssaigonus and @itonyamovie have a large number of followers, which increased their prominence in the conversation. @misssaigonus has over 8,000 followers, and @itonyamovie has over 5,000.
Finally, we looked through the raw data to bring you some of the best, and funniest tweets from the three days following the triple axel.
@21stCenturyTim posted this about his growing enthusiasm for figure skating.
Me at 7:00 – “Oh… Figure skating?”
Me at 10:00 – “If they nail this triple twist they’ve got at least 40 in the technical category.”#olympics
— Tim Roberts (@21stCenturyTim) February 9, 2018
@CommonRN expressed her awe and terror for Olympic figure skaters and their seemingly impossible sport.\
Figure skating is HORRIFYING like here’s a trick: grab near your ice blade and spin at mach speed. Let’s toss you up 10’ while you triple spin, oh a helmet?? Nonono that’s not pretty honey. But like goo USA #Olympics #figureskating
— Christine (@CommonRN) February 14, 2018
@j_kenn1 explains how her remarks about figure skaters’ performances change from those of an admiring fan to the pointed, critical statements of a seasoned judge.
Me, before the Olympics begin: Wow figure skating is such an art! I’m amazed by anyone and everyone competing.
Me, during the Olympics: They got a +3 GOE even though they went into their triple lutz out of sync? Outrageous.
— jaime (@j_kenn1) February 14, 2018