by Farah Sayed
Earlier this month, America’s National Figure Skating Championships took place in San Jose. This competition was not an Olympics trial, but the results did heavily impact who U.S. Figure Skating wanted to send to Pyeongchang in February.
In pairs, America only has one spot in the Olympics, so the national champions, Alexa and Chris Knierim, were a logical choice. None of the teams had a particularly outstanding competitive resume during this season, and since the Knierims placed in the top ten at Worlds in 2017, the decision was very straightforward. Selecting three teams in ice dance was also very clear, since Shibutani/Shibutani, Chock/Bates, and Hubbell/Donohue have all made podium finishes at Nationals for the past few years. At the Olympics, it will be interesting to see which team will medal since all three have strong international prominence.
Mens is where it gets a little more complicated. The results are as what follows: Nathan Chen (gold), Ross Miner (silver), Vincent Zhou (bronze), and Adam Rippon (pewter). Nathan was the easiest to put on the team since he was the 2017 National Champion, placed fourth at Worlds, won the 2018 Grand Prix Final, and defended his national title this year. Although Adam might have placed fourth, he performed strongly at international Grand Prix events and came in fourth at the Grand Prix Final. His resume for the season before Nationals was enough to convince the Selection Committee that he belonged on the team, but that also meant one of the top three finishers would be left off. Deciding between Ross and Vincent was where most of the controversy lay. Vincent’s gold medal at Junior Worlds is what gave him an edge over Ross, but leaving a Nationals silver medalist off the team for third and fourth place finishers seemed unfair in the eyes of many.
The Ladies results came with drama, mainly because of Ashley Wagner’s surprising fourth place finish. Ashley is currently the most decorated American Ladies competitor, with a Worlds medal, an Olympic medal, and three National Championship titles, but she was not placed on the team. None of the ladies, including Ashley, had a particularly ~standout~ season, so the Selection Committee primarily relied on Nationals to make their decision. Looking at the selection criteria and factoring in her fourth place finish, leaving Ashley off the team makes a reasonable amount of sense, but there’s speculation as to whether she was judged fairly. Judges marked her lower than usual on her program components, which reflect the more artistic side to skating. Ashley has historically been known to shine in this area, so it was unusual for her to be marked so poorly. Some of the other skaters’ scores also seem to have been inflated, but it’s hard to say for certain, since this portion of the judging can be very subjective. Whether or not scoring might have been fair, the Olympic Selection Committee chose Bradie Tennell, Mirai Nagasu, and Karen Chen to represent the U.S. in Pyeongchang next month. It’s then when we’ll see if the right decisions were made.