Friday, September 5, 2014

"Should They Stay...?" North American Single Skaters Edition

In finally getting around to a North American edition of the “should they stay or should they go?” question posed in my last post, I’ve decided to list the top U.S. and Canadian singles skaters by age rather than placement at the last Nationals. (Because, like it or not, it matters.) I’ve boldfaced skaters "of interest":

Top 12 men at U.S. Nationals by AGE
Jeremy Abbott (age 29)—finished 1st
Douglas Razzano (will be 26 this fall, one GP assignment)— finished 6th
Stephen Carriere (25, one GP assignment)—finished 10th
Adam Rippon (will be 25 in fall, 2 GP assignments)—finished 8th
Grant Hochstein (24, will compete at Finlandia Trophy)—finished 11th
Brandon Mroz (24 this winter) – finished 9th
Ross Miner (23, 1 GP assignment)—finished 7th
Richard Dornbush (23, some reports indicated he’d be focusing on college this season but he, too, currently has 2 GP assignments)—finished 5th
Keegan Messing (22)—finished 12th
Max Aaron (22, 2 GP assignments)—finished 3rd
Jason Brown (19, 2 GP assignments)—finished 2nd
Joshua Farris (19, 2 GP assignments)—finished 4th

Abbott: I might as well start with the one that will likely bring the most objections, so here goes... I wish he’d stayed with his plan to retire. It’s not that I love his skating any less than I ever have. It’s more about going out a) on his own terms (read: without a career-ending injury, a la Lysacek) and b) on a high note. While I can appreciate his re-thinking his exit strategy after pulling down a 5th place at Worlds, as well as helping secure a 3rd spot for the U.S. men for the first time in several years... I think he may be asking too much of himself with this post-script. I could be dead wrong, and I’ve a fork in hand, ready to eat as much crow as necessary. But there was a feeling I had when Abbott’s close pal Alissa Czisny continued competing beyond her strongest season (2010-11), and... to state it simply... that feeling is back.

Mroz: Consider this my APB on the former U.S. Silver Medalist whose name is not to be found among any “Team Envelope” and has not posted to Twitter since early January. Is he continuing? Has he moved on? I don’t take the time to read the message boards much anymore, so someone feel free to clue me in if he’s already been discussed to bits. My thought: with his name already in the record books (first—and only, so far—quad lutz landed in an ISU-sanctioned event, October 2011), Mroz may well have something to offer as a jump specialist. Or maybe it’s time to pursue his dreams of being a dentist. But he’s one of those athletes that seems to have lost his joy of competing several years ago. I might actually be sad if I see his name in the Nats lineup this time.

Messing: The Alaskan with the crazy jumping ability and the unfortunate inability (thus far) to bring his best to Nationals... has decided to cross the border. According to his website, he plans to compete for Canada this season. Assuming he qualifies for their Nationals (??), it’ll be interesting to see how he stacks up against the likes of quad royalty (Kevin Reynolds) and young firecrackers (Nam Nguyen).

Speaking of the Top Canadian Men (again, by AGE)... 

Jeremy Ten (25, 1 GP assignment)—finished 6th
Kevin Reynolds (24, 2 GP assignments)—finished 2nd
Elladj Balde (23, 1 GP assignment)—finished 4th
Patrick Chan (age 23, at least part of season off)—finished 1st
Liam Firus (22, 1 GP assignment)—finished 3rd 
Andrei Rogozine (21)—finished 7th
Nam Nguyen (16, 2 GP assignments)—finished 5th
Roman Sandovsky (15, in Junior GP)—finished 8th

Welcome to the group of guys Keegan Messing will face if January if he competes at Nationals... the oldest of which seemed to spontaneously announce his own post-Nationals retirement on Twitter earlier this year. But Jeremy Ten, like another “Jeremy” we’ve discussed, appears to have had a change of heart. No one else, save for Chan, has announced any sort of break. I highlighted Chan’s name, though, to point out he’s still relatively young in this field—one more reason why, as I said last time, I hope he sticks around at least a few more years.

Top 12 ladies at US Nationals by AGE
Ashley Wagner (23, 2 GP assignments)—finished 4th
Mirai Nagasu (21, 2 GP assignments)—finished 3rd
Samantha Cesario (21, 2 GP assignments)—finished 5th
Christina Gao (20, two GP assignments)—finished 8th
Agnes Zawadzki (20, taking year off)—finished 11th
Ashley Cain (19, 2 GP assignments)—finished 12th
Gracie Gold (19, 2 GP assignments)—finished 1st
Courtney Hicks (19 this winter, 2 GP assignments)—finished 6th
Barbie Long (18 this month)—finished 7th
Hannah Miller (18 in Fall, no GPs but has new music for this season)—finished 9th
Leah Kaiser (17 in a few weeks, Junior GP assignments)—finished 10th
Polina Edmunds (16, 2 GP assignments)—finished 2nd

With the U.S. leading ladies still relatively young—you know that’s gotta be true when 21 year-old Nagasu is now among the “elders”—there aren’t as many here that I look at and say “WHY are they continuing??” With the only thing close to a retirement announced by way of 14th place finisher Kiri Baga (who will now focus on continuing her education), 2010 Olympian-turned-Stanford-Student Rachael Flatt, and two-time Champ Alissa Czisny (who did not compete last January, and formally announced her retirement plans this past spring)... my focus falls to Wagner and Zawadski. Wagner may feel she has something yet to prove (at Nationals, anyway), and after what happened this past January, who can blame her? Whether or not she competes through another 4-year Olympic cycle is another story, but for now, I support her decision to continue. Zawadzki, on the other hand, is at enough of a crossroads to Be On A Break— something that’s become fairly commonplace among the world’s elite skaters, whether they’ve achieved the sport’s greatest heights or not. If you’ve read anything about the unique sacrifices Zawadzki’s family has made in order for her to compete at this level (and I say that with an emphasis on unique; stories of familial sacrifice with top skaters are everywhere), then you might be able to appreciate her decision all the more. As for whether or not she should return... given the wild ride she’s had with placements the past few years (some blame her skating, some blame judges propping her up/giving up on her), it’s a tough call. I’d love to hear what you think if you have an opinion!

Top 8 Ladies at Canadian Nationals by AGE

Amelie Lacoste (25, RETIRED)—finished 3rd
Alexandra Najarro (21) – finished 6th
Veronika Mallet (20, 1 GP assignment)—finished 4th
Marianne Ouellet (19)—finished 8th
Katelyn Osmond (18, 2 GP assignments)—finished 1st
Alaine Chartrand (18, 2 GP assignments)—finished 5th
Julianne Seguin (17, doing JGP pairs for sure)—finished 7th
Gabrielle Daleman (16, 2 GP assignments)—finished 2nd

Since 2010, when Olympic Bronze Medalist Joannie Rochette (now 28) has essentially stopped competing, Canada has only lost a couple of its consistent top women: 26 year-old Cynthia Phaneuf, and—as of this season—25 year-old Lacoste, who most recently won bronze (but missed out of the two available Olympic spots). And with teenagers Osmond and Daleman taking the top two spots last year, it might be a while before any of Canada’s finest decide to call it a day (and a career).