Why Fourth Place Is Good Enough to Make the Olympic Figure Skating Team

Ashley Wagner will represent U.S. women, along with Gracie Gold and Polina Edmunds

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Jared Wickerham / Getty Images

Ashley Wagner acknowledges the crowd during the medal ceremony following the free skate program during the 2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at TD Garden on Jan. 11, 2014 in Boston.

It’s not a decision that fans of figure skating will likely understand, much less agree with, but the U.S. Figure Skating Association (USFSA) named fourth-place finisher Ashley Wagner to the Olympic team.

Wagner, along with the remaining ladies’ members and the pairs and ice dance Olympians, got the good news in the only way that matters – by text. The USFSA nominates the team, which the United States Olympic Committee must approve.

Wagner, who won the national championships last year, had two bad skates on Thursday and Saturday at this year’s event, which also serves as the Olympic trials. She was fourth after the short program, and remained in that position after an error-filled free skate in which she fell on two triple jumps and omitted one jump in a combination. “I danced with danger last night, and I never want to feel that uncomfortable again,” she said after having a good cry of relief over earning a ticket to Sochi.

Wagner vaults over third-place finisher Mirai Nagasu, who scored eight points more than Wagner and finished fourth at the 2010 Olympics, for a place on the Sochi Olympic team. Placements at nationals are not the sole factor in choosing Olympic team members. The USFSA selection process also includes consideration of an athlete’s body of work and performance over the past season. Wagner finished third at the International Skating Union’s (ISU) Grand Prix Final, while Nagasu, who finished eighth and third at her two international events, did not qualify for the final (only the top six scorers are invited to compete).

“The deliberations are confidential, but I can vouch for the fact it was a fair process. The discussion was fair, all the results were analyzed,” said USFSA president Patricia St. Peter. “Mirai’s placement at the 2010 Olympic was not a factor in our selection guidelines.”

Wagner won last year’s nationals over Gracie Gold, this year’s new ladies’ champion, with a similarly flawed free skate, but held on to the top position since Gold was too far behind after the short program to make up the difference. Wagner seemed to be aware of her habit of letting nerves get to her during high-pressure events. “I was definitely disappointed because I didn’t really show up when the world was watching, and skating really needs someone to show up when the world is watching,” she said. “I was terrified I was going to have something to regret, something I was going to go home and mull over and figure out what I did wrong.”

Joining Wagner in the ladies’ event will be Gold and newcomer Polina Edmunds, whose ethereal but technically difficult free skate won both the audience and judges over. Just 15 (she turns 16 this year, which meets the age minimum for competing at the Games), Edmunds made her debut at a senior-level competition at these trials, and her first international competition at the senior level will be at the Olympics. But that didn’t seem to phase her, at least not yet. “Even though it will be my senior international debut, I think I am senior level,” she said. “So it doesn’t matter if it’s my debut or not. I think all season I have been kind of proving myself with international competitions.” Edmunds is the U.S. junior champion and her finishes at international events at that level qualified her for the ISU Junior Grand Prix final, where she finished fourth.

There was less controversy on the ice dance and pairs side, with the top three teams from the ice dance event – Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, and Maia and Alex Shibutani – being nominated to the team. Pairs skaters Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir and Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay were also nominated. Based on U.S. pairs’ standings at past world championships, only two teams can compete in Sochi.

The men’s team will be announced after the free skate on Sunday.

7 comments
Johnfembup
Johnfembup

“I danced with danger last night, and I never want to feel that uncomfortable again,” she said after having a good cry of relief over earning a ticket to Sochi.

Piffle.  Mirai Nagasu earned something.  Ashley Wagner did not.  

But Ashely has shown herself to be a self-absorbed little princess who feels it's worth a good cry to be given something she did not earn in fair competition.

Now let's watch and see how Shaun White reacts when the IOC declines to award him the Bronze Medal  for his "body of work"

SusanMeyer
SusanMeyer

What kind of msg is the USOC sending to athletes?? It's okay to screw up in the finals as long as you do well the rest of the time. We'll overlook it and still reward you. How will they feel when they go to the Olympics and don't get the same treatment as they did in the US? I feel badly for the skater who finished 3rd. I would have contested their decision. Maybe if she had been a cute little caucasian blondie....

Thatsnotfair
Thatsnotfair

If  you  think this situation   is unfair how about this ?

Where you resided /trained was   Region   you were to compete  in at that time frame  ....but again not  for someone that goes against the rules.

There  was an  Ice Skater that resided / trained  in an  Eastern State  USA and knew competing in that Eastern Region with  the many   Ice Skaters   same level  they  never had a chance in the wind there   SO what  did  they do for several years they pulled a fast one signed up as residing in West Region  then  arrived in  Western   Region but  only at time of Regionals and Sectionals  to compete  never ever saw this skater at any other time of each year while   taking away a slot  that belonged to an Ice Skater that resided / trained in the Western US  Region.

This is absolutely true and went on several years  do  you think the  Ice Skaters  in Western US Region  appreciated this unfair act ?Same Old Same old




Zombie
Zombie

I'm sure Wagner will rise to the occasion when it's the Olympic. She did poorly at the Nationals not because she couldn't handle the pressure but because she knew she had a guaranteed spot to Sochi.

ScottBrennan
ScottBrennan

I think that is wrong on all levels. If the girl finish ed third she should go. If she pulled it together and did better, the place shouldn't go to someone else who choked...... She should have her chance. She proved herself and should be given the opportunity to compete.

KirkMac
KirkMac

If Wagner chokes at important events when the pressure is on, why would the Olympic committee feel she is a better choice?! The pressure will be the greatest at the Olympics.

Thatsnotfair
Thatsnotfair

@KirkMac

Its   favoritism front , center  she could have fallen  several more times it  made no difference to them  she was already their favorite  also aware  what they were up to  before skating.

I bet they were sick when they saw G.the   Goldie  skate .

Cant help but hope she gets to check out the ice below her  several more times  .