Last year during U.S. nationals, in what has become typical Wagner fashion, she fell on multiple jumps but was given the first place title that deservedly belonged to Gracie Gold, who took home silver instead.
This year, Mirai Nagasu skated a clean short and long program over the weekend, earning the bronze medal at US nationals and most would have thought, a third spot at the Sochi Olympics. #MiraiEarnedIt
However, much to the surprise of skating fans, the third Olympic spot was given to an undeserving Ashley Wagner.
The justification the USFSA gave for selecting Wagner was her “body of work” in international events she has competed. However, Wagner’s body of work leaves a lot to be desired. Multiple falls and stumbles seem to be everywhere, reminiscent of Canadian Patrick Chan’s performances.
In every major event where Wagner has competed, she has faltered. When Wagner is under pressure, she does not perform well. Isn’t the Olympics a pressure-packed event?
Every figure skating fan knows that Olympic gold medal winners are not selected based on their body of work. Skaters only get one chance and how they perform in that event determines a medal, if any.
If the Olympic sport was determined by a skater’s overall “body of work”, then Michelle Kwan should have won the gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, instead of Sarah Hughes. So why did the USFSA selectively choose to ignore Wagner’s poor performance at US nationals?
As with most sporting events, money and sponsors matter.
NBC lost one of its U.S. Olympic stars when Lindsey Vonn opted out of the Olympics earlier this month due to injury. The TV network, who currently holds U.S. broadcasting rights to the Olympics, was not about to let their other Olympic hopeful, Ashley Wagner slip by either. With all the Wagner publicity that NBC has bombarded viewers with recently, how could they?
It seems figure skating fan L. Anna has summed it up adequately. She comments: “I feel so bad for Mirai. Ashley had all the sponsors and commercials already done, in place. At least I pray they send Mirai as alternate, or back up. So so sad, it is always about the money!”
A petition was started Sunday afternoon via Change.org, addressed to USFSA president Pat St. Peter, to send Mirai Nagasu to compete in Sochi.
Fans have taken to the US Figure Skating Associations facebook page to vent their frustrations. One fan writes “It is heartbreaking that Ashley Wagner skated so poorly at nationals, but denying Mirai Nagasu a spot that she earned does not right the situation. Sports are about rising to the task when the pressure is on. Mirai did that, including in the 2010 Olympics where she delivered a beautiful, clean program. What message are you trying to send to young athletes? That the rules are not the same for everyone? That it's not worth showing up to compete because the results get ignored?”
Another fan comments “Here's what bothers me. Wagner could've finished 8th and she still would have been chosen because of her 'body of work'. Mirai could've finished 2nd and still would have been passed over. She basically had to be #1 or get cut. How fair is that? All 3 skaters were chosen before the Nationals. The entire event was a sham. Mirai never had a chance of going to Sochi.”
An article on USA Today seems to support that theory. “Two people with knowledge of the selection process told USA TODAY Sports that Wagner will be on the Olympic team, 'even if she's 10th.' She finished fourth. The two spoke on the condition of anonymity because the selection process was ongoing."
Twitter fans were not much kinder either. @buffluv999 tweeted this:
“Imagine if NFL NBA NHL ignored the winners and sent their agenda to championship! Sad sad day. I regret my involvement in this assoc. USFSA u blew it... subjective and political! Ashley blew it... Mirai was robbed by a system of politicos. #usfsa #olympics”
As it stands, the ladies going to the Winter Olympics are: Gracie Gold, Polina Edmunds and Ashley Wagner. Gracie Gold is the top skater of the three and the United States’ best hope for an Olympic medal.
Last year Gold was robbed of the US National Championship title in favor of Wagner. This year Mirai Nagasu was robbed of the Olympic spot in favor of Wagner. How many more freebies will the U.S. Figure Skating Association give Ashley Wagner?