It’s time to review and recap last week’s European Championships, but here’s the problem: I’ve watched about 17 of the top finishers, and was trying to draw parallels between that event and U.S. Nationals (particularly since I’m not really done commenting on the latter yet). Simultaneously, my Twitter feed was becoming increasingly littered with “inside reports” that Plushenko would be the one announced later this week as the recipient of the sole men’s spot on the Russian Olympic team (reports that have now been made official). This after months of speculation, followed by bonus weeks of even more speculation when Plushenko himself failed to win Russian Nationals.
The national title instead went to Maxim Kovtun, an 18 year-old who first posed a threat when he won the 2012 Junior GPF, then did well enough in this year’s Senior GP to make it to the finals (finishing 5th). But you know where else he finished fifth? Last week’s Euros... with both his Russian teammates Sergei Voronov and Konstantin Menshov surpassing him with their free skates, finishing 2nd and 3rd overall, respectively, behind Javier Fernandez.
Where did Kovtun skate his best, possibly of the whole season to date? Nationals, where one might think it counted the most...
But one might be mistaken, as Kovtun has officially been left off the team.
And now there’s only one Russian/U.S. parallel that seems worth writing about.
There are more than the usual share of ironies hanging in the air with each new competition of late:
--Best overall competitor of the past 10 months turns in worst overall performances in years (Ashley Wagner, at U.S. Nationals).
--Most unpredictable competitor of past four years finally delivers when it counts, only to find it did NOT really count (
Nationals). And component scores in the Ladies event—the decidedly more
subjective scores; the ones we tend to think should rise gradually as a skater
matures and develops their “artistic side”—were indeed griped about by skundits (skating pundits), but the
target was no longer 18 year-old Gracie Gold (last year's recipient). The talk of “junior-ish skating”
shifted from that teenager to an even younger one in 15 year-old Polina
Then at Europeans... well, let’s start the irony bus with the fact that Plushy—He Who Has Made The Biggest Stink About Being In Sochi—couldn’t be bothered to attend this always-critical event. Then we have both Voronov and Menshov coming out of season-long (some might say career-long) shadows at the 11th hour to make fairly convincing arguments that they’re as worthy of that Olympic spot as anyone. And finally, young champion Kovtun buckled under the pre-selection pressure and turned in possibly his worst set of performances all season. (Which is to say he double-3’d out of one quad jump, doubled the second one, and badly doubled the third. The rest of the jumps, including two triple axels, were spot-on... but it wasn’t nearly enough to carry the program.)
and Russia have
been stuck with the same difficult question in the past few weeks: Who do you choose? Russia always takes
its time selecting the skating representatives, but being limited to only one
man and two ladies for Singles makes the choices that much tougher. On the
other hand, the U.S.’s three ladies spots provided more flexibility than it’s
had in years—more irony, anyone?-- yet they had a trickier time of it than even
back in 2008, when three out of the top four ladies were too young to compete
at Worlds. The very top lady back then? Nagasu, of course. (Whoa... and now the
irony has come full circle.)
One of the biggest problems I have with the Plushy decision—besides him, that is—is the fact that
has been hunting tooth and nail for “the next one” for soooo long. Finally,
here he is, everything they’ve been looking for: young, fresh, deep jump
repertoire, capable of delivering under intense pressure (if competing against
Plushy head to head at Nats in an Olympic year isn’t intense, I don’t know what
is). That’s more than what Kovtun can be; it’s what he already is. Yet this is how they reward him?!
Meanwhile, the biggest problem I have with the USFS decision is... the USFS decision. If that sounds like a cop-out, read on:
First off (as several of you pointed out in your comments on my previous post), they were inconsistent in their rationale when measuring the ladies choice alongside pairs. In other words, if you reward Wagner a spot for her “body of work” as they best-performing
lady of the past year, you need to do the same for Denney/Coughlin’s role as
the best-performing U.S.
pair of the past year. Or at least the past 6 months (since there was an injury
As for the ladies: Edmunds felt overscored to me, particularly in the SP, and I’m getting weary of hearing what a train wreck Wagner’s FS was. (Two costly mistakes she usually doesn’t make, yes. But we’ve all seen skating train wrecks, and that wasn’t it.) So 1) A Gold/Nagasu/Wagner podium felt like the right one to me, and the one they should’ve been working with in the first place. 2) All the reasons given for bumping Edmunds worked for me... (and yes, my unattachment to her is showing in full force, but that’s just how I feel—or don’t feel—towards her). And 3) The fact that Nagasu wasn’t even graced with a Worlds berth, let alone an Olympic one, just feels trifling and small on USFS’s part. If they didn’t want the public to think they were deliberately screwing her over, they have a not-so-funny way of showing it. Not to mention painfully, stupidly transparent.
Kind of like the painfully, stupidly transparent waiting game
made Kovtun go through while allegedly wrestling with the Plushenko choice.
As Johnny Weir memorably uttered during the U.S. Nationals Gala... but it applies to both countries’ federations... OUTRAGEOUS.
So here’s my fantasy solution:
1) Both Kovtun and Nagasu cut ties with their respective federations.
2) Nagasu (who has dual citizenship with
and Japan until
age 22) pursues full Japanese citizenship.
the pairs team of Nagasu/Kovtun is born.
4) By the 2018 Olympics season, THEY’VE TAKEN OVER THE WORLD.
I know, I know... but it’s fun to think about, isn’t it?