And since the Sochi Winter Olympics are fast approaching....I hereby give you Gail's completely biased and non-expert opinion on the US Figure Skating team!
So this was a REALLY interesting year at Nationals. Normally, the US Figure Skating selection committee sends the ladies who have placed one-two-three at Nationals. However, they've always reserved the right to replace one of the top three with another skater who has proven herself through a "body of work". In the past, they've invoked this rule in order to send a skater who was injured and unable to compete at Nationals to the Olympics.
But this year was different, as I'll talk about below.
photo used under a
Creative Commons License;
attributed to David W. Carmichael
Polina Edmunds, who is 15 and just barely age-eligible for the Olympic team, took second at Nationals and earned herself a spot to Sochi. Polina is fun and technically amazing (her jumps are just WOW)! She also has a triple-triple combination, but tends to be a bit rougher on the artistic side. She's like the US's answer to Russia's Julia Lipnitskaya (who is also very young and a fabulous jumper). Polina has very little senior-level international competition experience (so little that I can't even find a creative commons photo of her to use!), but what an opportunity for her to go the Olympics!
And here's where it got interesting...
photo used under a
License; attributed to
David W. Carmichael
photo used under a Creative
Commons License; attributed to Luu
So, why did they pick Ashley over Mirai?
This is the "body of work" thing. See, Ashley's been steadily improving since 2010. She won the National title in 2012 and 2013. She placed fourth at Worlds last year, and was the only US lady who qualified for fall's Grand Prix Final. She's proven she can compete with the likes of Mao Asana and Kim Yu-Na (who are, arguably, the top contenders for the Olympic gold medal).
Mirai, on the other hand, has had a rougher four years since 2010. Despite placing fourth at the 2010 Olympics, she hasn't done as well at Nationals or at international competitions since then. When you add to that the fact that she doesn't currently have a coach, it starts to make sense why the committee chose Ashley instead.
It's not particularly fair, and I can't even imagine how Mirai feels about the entire thing. Then again, how heartbreaking would it have been for Ashley -- after working so hard to build her career over four years and helping the US to earn three spots at these Olympics -- to just barely miss the team for the second time? As a friend of mine said on Twitter, I wish we could just send four women to Sochi!
Stay tuned for my equally biased and non-expert thoughts on the men's team...