Though the U.S. Figure Skating Team will not be officially chosen until after the U.S. Nationals in January, there are a lot of questions lingering about who the team will consist of, which is making many uneasy. Typically there are front runners and leading ladies that make it almost obvious who will make the team, but not this season.
Everyone was excited for the return of Olympic Champion Evan Lysacek, and then came the injuries and then more injuries, and now the season has already began and he's still out with injuries. With each day that passes, it seems more and more unlikely that we will see Evan competing in Sochi. In recent Yahoo News it was reported that Lysacek is performing double and triple jumps, but has not had the medical clearance to try a quadruple jump. He must compete in at least one international competition this season and get a minimal score of 25 in the short program and 45 in the free skate in the technical score, which should be easy enough for him to accomplish even without the quad, but he has yet to compete this season and time is of the essence.
So with the possible absence of Evan, who will fill his skates? That is a big question. Many placed their bets on reigning U.S. Champion Max Aaron. Though it is not an absurd notion, Max struggled during his Grand Prix debut at Skate America, leaving many with doubts. He fought through his programs earning himself the bronze, but will he be able to be competitive at the Olympics with such little experience on the international scene?
Then there's Jeremy Abbott who recently unraveled at Skate Canada last weekend finishing sixth. Renton native, Joshua Farris finished fifth at Skate Canada, but he is also very inexperienced. Adam Rippon captured the silver at Skate America, which is good, but it's still not great. With only 100 days until the Olympic Games, it seems like the U.S. men are still a gamble.
When it comes to the ladies, there seems to be more clarity. Reigning U.S. Champion, Ashley Wagner has truly come out of the shadows and into the limelight. She is a clear favorite for the team. Wagner was able to land her triple-triple combination at Skate America and took the silver behind Mao Asada who had over a ten point lead, not ideal.
Gracie Gold is another name mentioned for the Olympic team. Gold seems to be a bit of a wild card as she recently switched coaches and moved to California to train with Frank Carroll. Gracie won the bronze at Skate Canada but still seems to be finding her footing after so many changes. There are three spots for the women's team and it is again difficult to speculate who will snatch those spots. From Courtney Hicks to Agnes Zawadzki, there are some options, but again no one seems to stand out.
The U.S. pairs team has always had issues. The U.S. just does not seem to produce teams with the quality of the Russians or the Chinese. At least this season Caydee Denney and John Coughlin are back on the scene after recovering from an injury last season, yet the best they have placed is eighth at worlds in 2012. Then there is Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir and Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim. Though they may make the team, neither of these teams have greatly succeeded on an international level.
Finally, the bright and shining light of U.S. figure skating is ice dancers, Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Barring some miraculous event, which is always possible at the Olympics, Davis and White are U.S. figure skating's best chance at a gold medal in Sochi. Davis and White won the silver medal in Vancouver after surrendering the gold to their training mates, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Virtue and Moir are also aiming for gold, so it will be exciting to watch these teams go head-to-head once again. With only two Grand Prix events completed so far this season, Davis and White scored a grand total of 188.23 at Skate America and Virtue and Moir 181.03, which means that there is hope that Davis and White might just be ale to nudge our their rivals, but first things first they need to make the team in January, which shouldn't be a problem for them.
It is certainly concerning that there are not many clear front runners for the U.S. Figure Skating Team, outside of Davis and White, yet it will make it very exciting to see which skaters emerge as the season progresses, because it's clear that the door is wide open. With only 100 days until the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, hopefully these skaters will emerge quickly.