Thursday, March 1, 2012

For Athletes Like Czisny and Mahbanoozadeh... Where Is The Love?

With a Junior Worlds currently in progress, a lesser-known elite event (International Challenge Cup) starting up in about a week, and Senior Worlds taking place about a month from now, might it be a good time to wrap up all the 4CC talk? Yeah, I think so too. So let’s get to these things I’ve been alluding to for a while…

Unless you’ve read the
Phil Hersh article already, you might’ve been like me and figured that Alissa Czisny was invited to compete at 4CC, but opted out this time. Maybe because she wanted to rest up for Worlds, or because she didn’t want to risk another injury like the one she sustained just prior to the GP Final, or even because she hasn’t had very good luck at this event in the past—after all, her highest 4CC finish in three attempts is 5th. But the Hersh article reveals that she wasn’t invited this year AT ALL…a fact underscored by the irony that, apparently, Czisny really wanted to go this time if she qualified. (And she did, big time.) So maybe it was a case of her wanting to be there, knowing she could and should be on the podium at last.

But USFS apparently had other plans, plans that—according to the Hersh article, at least—indicate they make selections such as this with several factors in mind. Sochi 2014, the site of the next Winter Olympics, was one of those factors. Which makes me think that this might be a case of USFS thinking about who will still be on the competitive rise in 2014 vs. who will be sliding down the other side of the hill, if not actually retired by then. Of the recent top 5 finishers at Nationals…

Ashley Wagner will be 22 at the time of the Sochi Games.
Czisny will be 26.
Agnes Zawadzki will be 19.
Caroline Zhang will be 20.
Christine Gao will be 19.

I don’t think Czisny has publicly announced any plans beyond Worlds; whether or not she continues competing into the 2012-13 season may have everything to do with how she skates in Nice. Notice I said how she skates as opposed to how she places—if she feels she put out her best effort and ends up with, say, another 5th place, I could see that being enough for her to call it a day. But even if she does… wouldn’t her podium history (let alone the past 18 months) allow her the privilege of a 4CC invitation?

And speaking of privileges, here’s the other question lingering from 4CCs:
I’ve sometimes referred to 4CC as the N.I.T. of figure skating… it serves (at least in my mind) as a sort of consolation tournament to those from the U.S. that were good this year, but not quite good enough for Worlds. Not to say that World team members shouldn’t be able to compete at 4CC if they wish (see above), but it usually allows a second chance to at least one second-stringer.

Unless one of the second-stringers is made to be a second alternate, behind someone who finished 13th. So when Jeremy Abbott withdrew, it was Richard Dornbush that joined Ross Miner (U.S. bronze medalist) and Adam Rippon (U.S. silver medalist)… not Armin Mahbanoozadeh (U.S. pewter medalist). I assumed it was because he had the best finish of the U.S. men at Worlds last year, as well as respectable GP finishes last fall, and some sort of unanimous decision that his Nationals SP was a fluke of substantial proportions. But all the while (and then some), Mahbanoozadeh has steadily been working his way up the senior men’s ranks—from 8th in ’10 to 6th in ’11 to 4th in ’12—and while his GP placements last fall were not as good as Dornbush’s, he pulled in a bronze medal at Skate America back in ’10.

If Dornbush had finished 5th, or 6th, or even 7th at Nationals, I could see USFS’ decision a little clearer—if only because Mahbanoozadeh had a weak GP season by comparison. But it wasn’t even close. And yes, if Dornbush had shaken off his Nationals demons and brought in a decent finish at 4CC maybe I wouldn’t even be thinking about Mahbanoozadeh at this point.

Maybe Dornbush finishing 13th two competitions in a row will be a blessing in disguise all the way around… in that it potentially underscores USFS’s poor decision, shining a light on those they left out while also giving the former U.S. silver medalist a stinging little wake-up call for next season. We’ll have to see how everything shakes out.

But for now, the season rolls on. Time to start catching up with Junior Worlds!


Kalyana D said...

I think that the judges who invite people to the competition were pressured by Czisny's competitors not to invite her so that the competitiors have less competition.

sara.raju said...

I think its interesting that for the women, it's more about future potential, and for the men it's more about past results. USFS needs to make its mind up.

Kelli Lawrence said...

Kalyana-- ha, never thought of that!

Sara-- good point! It's probably reflective of the way the US skaters have fared internationally in recent years. Last year was the first time in a while (I think) that the ladies placed higher overall than the men... but the search for another Kwan-- or really, anyone as consistent as past ladies champions-- goes on and on.

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I think its exciting that for the females, it's more about upcoming prospective, and for the men it's more about previous outcomes. USFS needs to create its thoughts up.

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I think its exciting that for the females, it's more about upcoming prospective, and for the men it's more about previous outcomes. USFS needs to create its thoughts up.

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yea it is intresting for women.. it is also for future potential
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