Wagner makes Olympic team despite placing 4th at nationalsThe U.S Figure Skating Association, overlooking the results of its own national championships, ignoring tradition and inviting second-guesses as the 2014 Winter Olympics near, Sunday selected Ashley Wagner as one of three women to represent the nation next month in Sochi.
By: Frank Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia Inquirer
BOSTON — The U.S Figure Skating Association, overlooking the results of its own national championships, ignoring tradition and inviting second-guesses as the 2014 Winter Olympics near, Sunday selected Ashley Wagner as one of three women to represent the nation next month in Sochi.
What made that newsworthy was that Wagner, who finished fourth after two subpar performances at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, leapfrogged third-place finisher Mirai Nagasu.
The snub was historic. It is unusual for top finishers at the championships to not be named to the Olympic team and replaced. In at least four previous instances, it has occurred only because of an injury to top skaters such as Nancy Kerrigan, Todd Eldredge and Michelle Kwan.
Wagner, who is a two-time national champion at 22, will be joined in Sochi by 2014 champion Gracie Gold and 15-year-old runner-up Polina Edmonds.
Nagasu, the only one of the four with previous Olympic experience, was not immediately available for comment. She will be the first alternate.
Wagner’s selection, just 13 hours after a performance she termed “embarrassing,” was the focal point of a day in which 15 Americans — three women, two men, three ice-dance and two pairs teams — were named.
In the other three disciplines, performance at these championships was rewarded.
Jeremy Abbott, who won a fourth national title Sunday, and 19-year-old runner-up Jason Brown will represent the men.
The ice-dance contingent will include six-time national champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Olympic silver medalists in 2010; Madison Chock and Evan Bates; and Maia and Alex Shibutani.
In the pairs, Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir and Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay are Sochi-bound.
USFSA president Patricia St. Peter insisted that in choosing Wagner, the selection committee simply adhered to its guidelines.
“This competition,” she said, “is not the only event that U.S. Figure Skating considers in selecting its team. ... Looking at Ashley Wagner’s record and performances, she’s got the top credentials of any of our athletes.”
Wagner, who spent an uneasy night fearing she might narrowly miss a second straight Olympic appearance, got the good news via a text message as she watched warm-ups for Sunday’s men’s free skate.
“I was terrified that I was again going to be having regrets,” she said, clutching a tear-soaked tissue. “I’m just so grateful that the federation was able to look past one poor skate.”
Wagner admitted that she succumbed to nerves at nationals, both Saturday night and in 2010, when in a year in which only two U.S. women were Olympic-eligible, she came in third.
Asked if Olympic pressure wouldn’t be even more intense, she said she didn’t think so.
“It’s a different type of pressure,” Wagner said. “At nationals, the pressure was just overwhelming for me.”
She fell in both her short and long programs and finished a distant 29 points behind Gold, eight behind Nagasu.
The committee also chose to go with Edmonds, the 2013 junior champion who will be making her initial international appearance as a senior skater in her mother’s native country.
“How many girls get to say that their first major international event was the Olympics?” Wagner asked. “Not many.”
According to the committee’s guidelines, the results of nationals, while significant, can be supplemented by other factors to ensure that the United States can “select the best athletes.”
In her defense, Wagner finished fifth at the most recent world championships and won the bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final. She had a first and second in two Grand Prix events and won at nationals last January.
Nagasu, 20, was third and eighth in two 2013 Grand Prix events and seventh at last year’s nationals. But unlike Wagner, she has skated at an Olympics, finishing a surprising fourth — the best U.S. finish — at Vancouver.
Sunday’s announcement provided another layer of controversy and confusion to a sport that, with its history of judging disputes and a complex new scoring system, has had its share of both.
U.S. Figure Skating Squad
Jeremy Abbott; Jason Brown
Gracie Gold; Polina Edmunds; Ashley Wagner
Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir;
Felicia Zhang andNathan Bartholomay
Meryl Davis and Charlie White;
Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani;
Madison Chock and Evan Bates