FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Has US Ladies Bronze Medalist Mirai Nagasu Been Shut Out of the Olympics?

by M.G. PIETY

Despite the fact Mirai Nagasu won the bronze medal in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston last weekend, her Olympic dreams have been sacrificed in favor of fourth-place finisher Ashley Wagner’s. Only three women get to go to Sochi, and U.S. Figure Skating (USFS), the official governing body of the sport, decides who. Traditionally, it’s the top finishers at the national championships. Occasionally, however, an older, more experienced skater who just had an off day at the nationals is chosen over a younger skater.

Few in the skating community would question the wisdom of sending Wagner, who’s built a solid international reputation. But why did they sacrifice Nagasu rather than newcomer Polina Edmunds, who won the silver medal? Edmunds unquestionably wowed the crowd with her performance, but she was less than perfect and fell once. Yes, she placed higher than Nagasu, but she’s new to senior-level competition. Nagasu has far more competitive experience. including a fourth-place finish at the 2010 Olympics. To send Edmonds to Sochi instead of Nagasu not only violates common sense, it violates a longstanding USFS tradition.

USFS’s decisions have long been controversial. For example, Brian Boitano outperformed everyone at the senior men’s competition at the 1982 United States Figure Skating Championships. According to Scott Hamilton, however, Boitano was kept off the podium simply because he was the new kid on the block. David Santee, writes Hamilton in his autobiography, Landing It: My Life on and Off the Ice (Kensington, 1999), was given “lifetime achievement marks” for his substandard performance. That is, his marks were inflated because of his status in the sport, because he had been around a long time and had proven that he could perform at the international level. “When judges are forming the world team,” writes Hamilton, “they tend to make allowances for the betterment of the team and are willing to cut someone a little slack if they believe they will represent the country well and contend for a medal … David was the reigning world silver medalist who had a good reputation with international judges, and I think everyone in the building knew this was his last shot” (p. 140).

Fortunately, the marks for the ladies at this year’s nationals seemed more or less in line with how people actually skated. Edmunds probably deserved her silver medal, despite her fall. But does she deserve to go to the Olympics? She’s only 15. Nagasu is 20, is a former national champion (2008), and narrowly missed winning the bronze medal at the 2010 Olympics. None of the women selected for this year’s team has any Olympic experience. Edmunds could easily make both the 2018 and the 2022 Olympics, but this is more than likely Nagasu’s last chance. To send an inexperienced 15 year old to the Olympics instead of an experienced 20-year old national medalist makes no sense–or does it?

Edmunds’ mother is Russian, and this may incline USFS to hope that the Russian public will respond well to her. There is an ineradicably subjective element in the judging of all sports that have an aesthetic dimension. The opinions of the judges about the general merits of a skater are often influenced by the public’s reception of that skater. If the Russian public likes little Polina, then the judges will probably like her, too.

There may be more, though, behind USFS’s decision. David Glynn, Edmunds’ primary coach, is quoted in an article in the New York Times, written Saturday while USFS was deciding which women to send to Sochi, as saying, “[t]his is the toughest competition of the year. Whoever can be one of the top three goes to the Olympics.” But legendary coach Frank Carroll, who also works with Edmunds, said in this same article that while Polina is “the future,” at the Olympics,“[w]e need people who have reputations and who are the best.”

Nagasu has a reputation, but that may be part of her problem. Her competitive history has been erratic. That, speculates John Powers in The Boston Globe, is probably what kept her off the Sochi team. Nagasu was back in force this weekend though. She received a standing ovation for her moving performance.

Nagasu has shown she can deliver in international competition, but she’s also shown that she’s not the typical toe-the-line skater, such as David Santee was, that USFS favors. She not only tends to be more candid in interviews than USFS likes its skaters to be, but she actually showed up at the national championships without a coach — which is almost unheard of in the sport. Nagasu, who initially challenged the official decision to leave her off the Sochi team, may just be a little too anti-authoritarian for USFS, an organization that prizes loyalty above all else.

That is the only reason I can think of for Scott Hamilton’s dismissive reaction to Nagasu’s announcement that she was going to appeal the USFS decision. Hamilton, who was an NBC announcer for the event, sniffed that the officials at U.S. Figure Skating had the discretion to select the athletes for the team and that there was, therefore, really nothing to challenge.

But Hamilton reacted to USFS’s decision to send Wagner to Sochi by observing that she had “earned her spot” with her earlier placements at international-level competitions. Why the double standard? Hasn’t Nagasu also earned her spot? Or is there more to earning a spot than Hamilton is willing to admit?

M.G. Piety teaches philosophy at Drexel University. She is the editor and translator of Soren Kierkegaard’s Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs. Her latest book is: Ways of Knowing: Kierkegaard’s Pluralist Epistemology. She is currently working on a book on skating entitled Sequins and Scandals: Reflections on Figure Skating, Culture, and the Philosophy of Sport, that will be out in January from Gegensatz Press. She can be reached at: mgpiety@drexel.edu 

 

M.G. Piety teaches philosophy at Drexel University. She is the editor and translator of Soren Kierkegaard’s Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs. Her latest book is: Ways of Knowing: Kierkegaard’s Pluralist Epistemology. She can be reached at: mgpiety@drexel.edu 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail