Holy drama! U.S. Figure Skating officials chose Ashley Wagner over Mirai Nagasu for their third women's spot on the country's Olympic-bound team, despite the fact that Nagasu won the bronze medal at Nationals on Sunday, while Wagner placed behind her.
The other two spots went to gold and silver medalists Gracie Gold and Polina Edmunds. As a distant fourth-place finisher, even Wagner herself thought that she wouldn't make it. After skating awkwardly through her Saturday free skate, and falling twice, she tweeted to fans: "I'm so sorry. I let you all down." According to the New York Times, it's rare for the top three finishers at the most recent Nationals to not make the Olympic team in the same year, but that such a result is possible when overall reputation is taken into account:
Unlike Gold and Edmunds, Wagner did not complete a triple-triple combination jump in either the short or long program here, the minimum required to have any shot at a medal in Sochi. But the rules of United States Figure Skating allow for a skater's résumé during the past year-plus to be considered. Wagner won the 2012 and 2013 national championships, took fourth at the 2012 world championships and fifth at worlds in 2013.
In a sport governed by the subjectivity of judging, reputation matters. Wagner's experience could also prove pivotal to American medal hopes in a new team skating event in Sochi.
"If you look at Ashley Wagner's record and performance, she's got the top credentials of any of our female athletes," said Pat St. Peter, the president of U.S. Figure Skating.
For her part, Nagasu finished fourth at Vancouver's 2014 Olympics. Yet she's also considered an "enigma," finished seventh at the past two National Championships, and had trouble finding consistent coaching in the past few months.
Still, Nagasu rose to the occasion when it really counted, a reality that Wagner also acknowledged, with this quote:
"I didn't really show up when the world was watching," Wagner said. "Skating needs someone who will show up when the world is watching. I was terrified that I was going to have something to regret. I'm so incredibly honored to be named to this team. I am grateful that my federation was able to look beyond one really bad performance and see that athlete that I'm capable of being."
Here's hoping that Wagner gets it together in time for Sochi. If her past wins are any indication, she certainly has the ability to acquit herself well.
Image via Getty.