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Ashley Wagner makes Olympic Team; women, ice dance, pairs named

Jan 12, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT

Ashley Wagner Getty Images

Ashley Wagner is going to Sochi.

A U.S. Figure Skating “international committee” chose Wagner as one of three women for the Olympic Team on Sunday, about 13 hours after she finished fourth at the U.S. Championships.

“I’m at a loss for words right now,” said Wagner, who was teary Sunday. “It’s been a really long four years. … I’m happy the federation was able to see beyond one bad skate.

“I’m on cloud nine.”

The move was expected. The U.S. Championships are not an Olympic Trials such as swimming or track and field, where the Olympic Team is drawn straight from standings.

U.S. Figure Skating also takes into account an athlete’s recent history in major events and who will have the “best chance for success” at the Olympics.

Wagner was chosen over 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu for the third spot despite finishing one place behind Nagasu in Boston on Saturday.

Wagner will join U.S. champion Gracie Gold and silver medalist Polina Edmunds on the Olympic Team.

Meet Edmunds, youngest U.S. Winter Olympian since 1998

“This competition is not the only event that USFS [U.S. Figure Skating] considers in selecting the team,” U.S. Figure Skating president Pat St. Peter told reporters. “It’s the results and participation in events over the course of the past year-plus. So if you look at Ashley Wagner’s record and performance, she’s got the top credentials of any of our female athletes.”

The Olympic ice dance and pairs teams were also selected and did not deviate from Saturday’s results.

2012 U.S. pairs champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin were not named to the team. They finished third Saturday behind Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir as well as Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay, who were named to the team.

“The rules are there for a reason,” Wagner said after the short program Thursday. “You could be the best skater all season, and it could just not be your two nights.”

Nagasu impressed at the U.S. Championships by taking third, coming off seventh-place finishes the two years before. Wagner won the U.S. title in 2012 and 2013 and has been the best U.S. skater in major events internationally the last two years.

“It’s embarrassing as a two-time national champion to put out a performance like that,” Wagner said after falling twice in Saturday’s free skate. “Luckily, I had a decent season that definitely helps my case.

“At the same time, I am here to get onto that podium, to really earn that spot,” she said after she was fourth in the short program Thursday. “I don’t want to ever feel like I took away a spot from someone.”

Nagasu placed fourth at the 2010 Olympics, led the 2010 World Championships after the short program but plunged to seventh overall and hasn’t been a major international threat since.

Wagner was the favorite to win the U.S. Championships coming in. She was third at the 2010 U.S. Championships, when the U.S. had two Olympic roster spots, and was not named to the Vancouver team.

This is the first time since 2006 that U.S. Figure Skating strayed from U.S. Championships results. In 2006, an injured Michelle Kwan did not compete at the U.S. Championships but was later placed on the Olympic Team after filing a medical waiver. Kwan later withdrew after suffering a groin injury in Torino.

Here’s what the U.S. Figure Skating Olympic selection procedures outline for how the team is picked:

Take into consideration the results and/or performance data from the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, 2013 Senior Grand Prix Final, 2013 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, 2013 Grand Prix Series events, 2013 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, 2013 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, and 2013 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final to determine athletes who will have the most performance impact and the best chance for success at the 2014 Olympics Winter Games.

It has been the experience of U.S. Figure Skating that the athletes who have had success at the international and Olympic level are those who have demonstrated consistent performances as opposed to the athletes who have had only a single great performance. Therefore, by not having the selection process based solely on one event, U.S. Figure Skating can select the best athletes to represent the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

Wagner finished third at the 2013 Grand Prix Final, fifth at the 2013 World Championships, first and second in two 2013 Grand Prix series events and first at the 2013 U.S. Championships.

Nagasu finished third and eighth in two 2013 Grand Prix series events and seventh at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. She was fourth at the 2010 Olympics, skating last.

“The thing I can brag about now is that I’m the only person with Olympic experience, so I know how hard it can get,” Nagasu said Saturday at a press conference. “I don’t know what my federation will do, but all I can say is I did what I had to today. I’ll have to respect any choice that they make.”

The two men’s skaters will be chosen after their free skate Sunday at about 7 p.m. ET.

Here’s the U.S. Olympic Figure Skating roster so far:

Polina Edmunds
Gracie Gold
Ashley Wagner

Ice Dance
Madison Chock/Evan Bates
Meryl Davis/Charlie White
Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani

Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir
Felicia Zhang/Nathan Bartholomay

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  1. crysnn - Jan 12, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    Kerrigan – obviously. Kwan – without a doubt. Wagner – ? I hope given the opportunity she won’t crumble like she did this week…

    • banannamom - Jan 12, 2014 at 2:39 PM

      I, too, have doubts about Ashley Wagner going to the upcoming Olympics. Have read her blogs and I feel that she rationalizes a lot if the time. She says she spends much doing yoga, etc. in order to find “balance” in her life. She should be concerned with her “balance” on the ice! She almost left skating after not going to the Olympics last time. She gave up skating for some months in 2013. Such behaviors belie the kind of commitment of someone who absolutely loves her sport. It is almost as though she just wants to be an Olympian and skating is the means to that end, rather than the other way around.

      • marci712 - Jan 12, 2014 at 4:52 PM

        I agree, after watching her performances she looked EXTREMELY uncomfortable on the ice. I feel bad for the young lady who scored for third place and she gets knocked out of the Olympics. I don’t agree with the committees rationale, were they really watching Ashley in comparison to the other skaters?

  2. stephenwilliams49 - Jan 12, 2014 at 4:28 PM

    Just can’t take this sport too seriously as its history has been laced with controversy, fraud, and corruption. Still, I love to watch the women perform.

  3. oregonfirst - Jan 12, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    Wagner looked like a mess. What a waste of a spot.

  4. canyonwang - Jan 12, 2014 at 7:38 PM

    The writer of this article, Mr. Zaccardi, seems to be trying too hard to defend Ashley Wagner. In doing so, he plays up Mirai Nagasu’s past shortcomings in an almost biased way. For example, he says Nagasu “hasn’t been a major international threat since [2010].” But what about Mirai’s bronze medal performance in the 2011 Four Continents international competition? And her two 2nd place finishes and several 3rd place finishes in various international Grand Prix events since 2010?

    I am actually glad Wagner made it on the Olympic team. My big question is: Why aren’t people debating the decision to allow 2nd place finisher Polina Edmunds to be on the Olympic team? She has no international experience on the senior level. This U.S. Nationals was her first accomplishment outside of junior competitions. She came in under the radar. So according to the Olympic selection committee’s own criterion about one’s reputation with international judges, she should’ve clearly been at a disadvantage–I doubt if she had much of an impression on international judges prior to the Nationals. The committee clearly didn’t make an objective decision.

    • Nick Zaccardi - Jan 12, 2014 at 9:24 PM

      I appreciate the comment and the debate on Nagasu. Look at the fields at 2013 Rostelecom, 2012 NHK and 2012 Cup of China. The most notable skater she beat at those events was Sotnikova (in her senior debut season mind you) in 2012.

      Yes, she beat Asada at 2010 Trophee Bompard, but that was a terribly out of form Asada. Czisny and Phaneuf also beat Asada.

      2011 Four Continents, missing the Russians and Kostner. Best skater she beat there was Suzuki.

      I don’t consider those major international threat performances.

      On Edmunds, junior results are obviously taken into the equation as noted in the selection procedures. She was the best U.S. junior skater last year. I don’t think she should be penalized for not being eligible to enter certain events.

      If you don’t put her on the Olympic Team in a year where the U.S. has little depth after Nos. 1 and 2, just what does a first-year senior skater have to do to make an Olympic Team? Do they have to win nationals? Do they have to win and the rest of the field be weak?

      • canyonwang - Jan 12, 2014 at 10:54 PM

        Thanks for responding to my comment, Nick. You seem to be applying a different standard to Nagasu than to Edmunds. You say she hasn’t beaten some of the top international skaters (disregarding her win over Wagner this weekend). Well, by that same token, Edmunds could be considered completely out of the running since she hasn’t beaten a single top international skater outside of the U.S. I don’t think junior-level competitions are at the same level of rigor and competitiveness as seniors. Not to mention that she placed only 4th at the recent Junior Grand Prix.

        I want to emphasize that I’m not belittling Edmunds. I just think the committee ought to stick to their own criteria and apply them consistently to everyone.

  5. banannamom - Jan 13, 2014 at 12:50 AM

    Like Wagner and her skating, Mr Zaccardi’s comments are inconsistent and rationalized. If you ask me, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Wagner was ill prepared and her “legs were leaden when [her] name was called.” Face it, she could not handle the pressure of Nationals. That does not bode well for the Olympics. Yet she talked herself up like the Olympics would not go on without her-her previous record was too good! Enough excuses..and tears. She does not deserve to be there! But she’s going. I can only hope that I am wrong about her skating. As far as her character goes, I have no doubt that I am right about that!

    • spidermanirvine - Jan 13, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      Agreed. It’s not consistent. Everyone should be able to see this. Ms. Nagasu, you have been ripped off, but that’s life, so don’t give up in whatever you do.

  6. spidermanirvine - Jan 13, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    There is no question in my mind that they are not applying their own criteria which enabled Wagner to get in. Applying the standard that got Wagner in, another girl, other than Nagasu, should have been left out. And please do not compare Wagner to Kwan and Kerrigan; what Wagner has shown up to now is not close to the level of Kwan and Kerrigan. I certainly won’t be watching a US sports which does not apply fair rule to its selection decisions.

  7. geknighton - Jan 13, 2014 at 5:08 PM

    There wouldn’t BE a third spot on the US team this year if it hadn’t been for Wagner’s top fives and grand prix performance .Remember, most nations only get two slots She has carried the US team for 2 years. Mirai has already had her chance in the Olympics, and over time has not been as consistent as she was in the US champs. Gold and Edmonds are the future. It would be foolish to leave them behind. Don’t forget how many seemingly nerveless teenagers we have seen upset the favorites over the years.

    Judged sports will inherently never be completely fair, so much is subjective. But they should always strive for CONSISTENCY, and reward it. Viewed from that perspective, giving Ashley Wagner her chance for glory looks like a winning move. It is my opinion that we are sending the best we have.

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