Tuesday, January 14, 2014

2014 U.S. Nationals Post-Mortem, or "A Game of 20 Questions"

Two hours before the press conference that announced most of the U.S. Olympic figure skating team for 2014, I was sitting in church... where the sermon was taking a closer look at the idea of “everything happening for a reason.” 

Hmmmm. There were no figure skating analogies made (of course; it’s not Sochi time yet), but oh, what might have been...!

I’ve had a couple of days to mull it all over, and what can I say... I’m an inquisitive lady with more questions than answers. 20 QUESTIONS, to be exact...

(and pardon me for using mostly first names here, but at this stage of the game I just feel like it's the right thing to do)

1) Does anyone else see that Get-it-together-before-it’s-too-late moment with Jeremy’s FS—where he suddenly had to scramble to his starting pose and deliver, or risk a time disqualification—as a great metaphor regarding Jeremy’s situation in general leading up to this Nationals?

2) Does Max watch someone like Jason and wonder, just a little, “how the hell am I going to beat this guy in the long run without pummeling my hips and knees into a dark, gooey jam from all the quad jumps?”

3) If/when Jason lops off his ponytail, will it be kind of like the moment when Felicity cut her long ringlets away?

4) Do you realize that Jason was only 3 years old when Felicity debuted on the WB Network, and surely has no first-hand idea what I mean when I throw out a Felicity reference like that one?

5) Are Ricky (Dornbush, 2nd after SP/5th overall) and the pairs team of Scimeca/Knierim (2nd at 2013 Nats; 4th this time) just now waking up from all the Olympics hullabaloo of which they ultimately had no part, shaking their heads like dazed cyclone victims and asking themselves What just happened??

6) Did Caydee/John, as the most decorated U.S. pairs team over the past couple of years, have as much of a right as Ashley to hope that USFS would choose them over Felicia/Nate for the Olympic team?

7) Were Caydee/John passed over without much fanfare (relative to U-NO-WHAT) because of the lack of international pairs success (read medals)? Or is it because, justified or not, the ladies’ discipline (aka U-NO-WHAT) is still considered the best way to attract U.S. viewers to the sport?

8) Either way... how does Caitlin Yankowskas feel right about now?

And speaking of U-NO-WHAT...

9) Do you worry that the passive skating fan—the kind that only watches Olympic skating, save for Nationals on prime-time TV every January—say “I don’t get it” about Ashley because all they’ve really seen of late are her sub-par performances?

10) How would we all feel if the one who had finished 3rd and left off the team was Agnes? Or Christina? What about Samantha? Or Courtney?

11) Is it different because it’s Mirai, the one among these names that we’ve “known” the longest? Or would the outrage be the same regardless?

12) Do you think, after the ladies’ SP, at least a few of The Powers That Be pondered Mirai’s results at the last two Nationals... and assumed there would be no difficult decisions to be made come Sunday because she’d be out of the picture?

13) Did USFS cast its vote for the ladies’ team keeping in mind the adage “there is no such thing as bad publicity”... (and as I ask that, I keep in mind the image of Mirai on the Yahoo! Headline ticker over the weekend, or the feature that made it to NBC Nightly News on Monday)

14) Did USFS leave Mirai off the Worlds team to twist the knife a little deeper, or out of concern that a Gold/Edmunds/Nagasu team didn’t stand as good a chance to keep 3 ladies’ spots for 2015?

15) Does the Mirai/Ashley decision set a bad precedent or a good one? Or none of the above?

16) Can we think of any other year when the most decorated figure skater of the time finished off their Nationals podium in an Olympic year? Was it even possible in the days when compulsory figures prowess set the stage for the rest of the event?

17) What one person might Mirai most upset with at this point? A specific individual likely to have cast a vote on Sunday? An old coach? Polina? Ashley? Herself?

18) Speaking of Polina... how much of a disadvantage does she have simply because she is relatively unknown to the media or to skating fans? Or because she clearly asserted, to the media, her right to be in the top three if she managed her multiple high-scoring jumps with ease...?

19) Or because any number of fans (if not judges) quickly decried her style to be as junior-ish as her 15 years... consequently disputing her placement in the top 3 altogether?

And finally...

20) Are Olympic years ending in “4” now destined to be crazy ones for U.S. Nationals?

I’ve got more to say about the “controversy,” as I alluded to on Twitter, but here’s a starting point. Or maybe 20 starting points. Feel free to make these questions anything but rhetorical ones via the Comments!

P.S. I know Euros start very shortly (may have already started by the time you read this), but I’m still coming out of the Nationals vortex and haven’t made any predictions... based on how I did with Nats— a paltry 4-for-12, I think?—it’s probably just as well. But I’ll be following along of course! Let’s talk about it next week. 


wagrobanite said...

What annoys me is that USFS is so two faced about it. They Say Ashley earned her spot because of results (which I full support. She has). Polina on the other hand HAS NOT! And should not be on the team. She has absolutely zero. ZERO! senior international experience. The fact that USFS didn't even know till LATE Saturday night if Polina's international junior scores would even qualify her to the Olympics. That just annoy me to no end and she should not be on the team. Mirai should be on the team instead of Polina. Send Polina to worlds and/or 4cc. UG so incensed about it.

I think it doesn't Mirai that she hasn't had a lot of good results in the last couple of years either or that she doesn't have a coach.

But overall people need to stop blaming Ashley. It's not her fault! UG That's another thing that's driving me nuts. She's left social media because trolls keep telling her to quit the team and give her spot to Mirai. What makes me mad is that more than likely it's coming from those 4 year fans who are just getting riled up due to Media not explaining that Ashley got USFS this third spot, Ashley has been the one out there getting results, not Mirai... So I'm a little annoyed by that.

As for the pairs, It think it does come from the lack of international medals. But I also think it has to do with pairs has always had less media coverage compared to Ladies and men. Just the way it's been. Even when I was growing up when skating had way more media coverage (rather than the four year stuff now), I really don't remember pairs getting that much coverage compared to ladies and men.

Anonymous said...

I think they were right to include Ashley on the team, even though she didn't make it easy for the selection committee with those two skates. She better bring it at the Olys. I would have excluded Polina. With John and Caydee, I wonder if he's completely healed from his injury and if that played a role in the decision.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, unless there is corruption involved, I really wish that the USFSA and other federations / associations would just simply honor the results. For once, in my opinion, the judges at Nationals managed to get 1-3 right and they were on the right path until they decided to manipulate the standings for various and nefarious reasons. The irony is, that the Olympics themselves are full of underdog athletes and comeback stories and the podiums have been chock full of them and whether the more accomplished athlete is on them or not, you do not see the IOC "bumping" the medalists off the Olympic podium(s), if an underdog beats the big, more accomplished star! I mean, come on..., this is so wrong. What would really be impressive, is if Ashley would step aside to the alternate position and let the results stand. I guarantee, this action in and of itself would be more impressive and garner more respect from a lot of people, than any medal would, be it gold, silver or bronze. Ashley Wagner would become a house hold name (in a very good / positive way) if she did this. That is sport, the right and compassionate thing to do! Imagine if we applied this selection criteria in the NFL, NBA, MLB or any other Olympic eligible sport?! Not every athlete makes it to the Olympic games, even after multiple tries and that is ok, you can still be a great athlete!! Ashley would survive and be a better person for it! Can an athlete honestly, in all good conscience, be comfortable representing the USA at the Olympic Games, knowing that they had been "selected" on very fluid, vague and unsportsmanlike rules and guidelines. Ashley Wagner was not injured at the time of this competition, (all athletes have muscle strains, bumps, bruises, blisters, etc, we're not talking about that) which would then, obviously, be a strong argument, but to be overwhelmed by the moment, etc?! You live with the consequences, that is sport and that is life! We use resumes' in the business world, not sport, let's keep it that way and again, unless there is / has been corruption involved, let the podium results in competition stand.

Keep up the good work!! Enjoy your blog!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with your first 2 posters & your #18 regarding the results & sending PE despite the fact that she just qualified as senior 3 weeks ago or so. Send GG, Mirai & Ashley! Also loved your #8. Miss CY very much. Thanks for your blog Kelli!

sara.raju said...

I honestly am still a bit unsure why everyone is flipping their collective shits about the team. I think with the women, they made the right decision. I do however question why the same reasoning didn't hold for pairs, Denney and Coughlin being the best US team around by most accounts. I think they probably would've done better at Olympics and Worlds than Zhang/Bartholomay.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree re: Denney and Coughlin, If the USFSA is going to apply the resume and body of work rule (as much as I completely disagree with that rule being applied in sports) to the ladies, then why not the pairs?

Denney and Coughlin certainly have a valid argument. Although, I agree with the above poster, that results should stand, unless there has been corruption involved.

Also, as much as the USFSA is citing consistency when justifying Ashley Wagner being named to the Olympic team, why don't they follow their own script and be "consistent" regarding the pairs? It really smacks of bias and favoritism.

I think that right there.., (Ashley in, Denney and Coughlin out), may be one of the reasons why people are going bananas.