The Reason You Haven’t Heard: Why Mirai Nagasu Deserves to be on Team USA
  • by Audrey Magazine
  • January 15, 2014
mirai nagasu

Nagasu decision not in line with those made for mens, pairs teams

Story by Olivia Ouyang.

You have probably heard by now that Mirai Nagasu, the bronze medalist at the Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships this past weekend, was left off of the 2014 U.S. Olympic and World figure skating teams. After all, the monumental decision has been all over the news and radio, covered by media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and CNN. While strangers to the sport might sympathize with Nagasu, they might wonder why the decision is receiving so much press coverage. After all, it’s in the “rulebook.” However, to an insider of figure skating, the decision to leave Nagasu off of the Olympic and World teams sets a dangerous precedent. Through their actions, the USFS committee has made it clear that they can and will operate in a subjective rather than objective manner that jeopardizes the precious virtue of fairness that is supposed to be inherent in athletic competition.

First off, let me explain the reasons why people are angry. Traditionally, the U.S. Figure Skating Championships has been the sole determinant of the Olympic and World teams. In the history of U.S. Figure Skating, the committee has only sent a skater who did not place at nationals to the Olympics and Worlds three times—Todd Eldredge in 1992, Nancy Kerrigan in 1994, and Michelle Kwan in 2006. Why did these three skaters not place at nationals? Because they were not there. All three were injured and missed nationals, filing appeals that were ultimately granted. This year is the first time that a skater has performed poorly at the U.S. Championships and still made it on to the team. Moreover, the generous scores from the judges did not really reflect how poorly Wagner skated. It was clear that the judges were hoping that Wagner, who skated before Nagasu, could still make it onto the podium.

Other fans feel that Polina Edmunds, the fifteen-year-old silver medalist, should have been bumped off the team rather than Nagasu. After all, Edmunds has never competed internationally at the senior level. Given Edmunds’ “body of work,” it is clear that Nagasu, who placed fourth at the previous Olympics, won the bronze medal at the 2013 Rostelecom Cup, and is a three-time national medalist, including a gold medal in 2008, has a much more impressive “body of work.”  Some have gone as far to say that the decision to leave Nagasu off the team was a racial one (she is Japanese, while Edmunds is Russian and Wagner is German). Personally, I think the racial allegations are unfounded.


However, what got me really mad and what no one else seems to be talking about, is the World and Olympic assignments for the men’s and pairs’ teams. In both situations, the silver medalists were surprises: Jason Brown in the men’s competition and Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay in the pairs’ competition. Despite the relative inexperience of these three skaters, the USFS committee decided to send them to the Olympics. However, these skaters were cut from the World team. Instead, Max Aaron, the 2013 national champion who finished with a bronze medal this year, will represent the U.S in the men’s competition. Likewise, Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, who won nationals last year but placed third this year, will go to Worlds instead of Zhang and Bartholomay. While I do not necessarily understand or agree with the logic of these decisions, I believe USFS should be consistent. Therefore, following this pattern, Nagasu should be allowed to compete at the Olympics and Wagner should compete at Worlds. The fact that USFS felt it acceptable to take Nagasu off of both the Olympic and World teams, dashing her hopes for a medal at either, is infuriating. Why is Nagasu not being treated with the same respect as Brown or Zhang and Bartholomay? That is a question I cannot answer. While there is a chance that Nagasu may still be able to compete at Worlds (oftentimes, if a skater medals at the Olympics, he/she will withdraw from Worlds), the fact remains that Nagasu received unfair treatment when compared to the decisions made regarding the men’s and pairs’ teams.

I want to make clear that this is not an attack on Ashley Wagner. Wagner is without a doubt one of the best current American figure skaters and, until nationals, she had a remarkable season. She garnered a silver and gold medal at Skate America and Trophee Eric Bompard respectively. She entered the competition this weekend as the reigning national champion and the recently crowned bronze medalist of the Grand Prix Final. I empathize with Wagner, who has been forced to sign off of social media due to the influx of hateful posts from supporters of Nagasu. Wagner is, after all, part of the reason why the U.S. can even send three skaters to Sochi (her fifth place finish at Worlds last year helped secure three spots for Team USA).


However, the fact remains that U.S. Figure Skating essentially slapped Nagasu in the face. Whether this is because she showed up without a coach or for other reasons, we will probably never know. It was clear to everyone who watched Nagasu’s free skate on Saturday that she had risen to the occasion. The dedicated athlete who had worked so hard to regain ground after two disappointing seasons, the young lady who gasped with joy when she found at she was back on the national podium, the beautiful skater who should be at least going to either Worlds or the Olympics, was reduced to tears on Sunday night during her exhibition program after U.S. Figure Skating, an organization to which she had dedicated her life, stole away her dreams.





  2. In the end, Nagasu has been incredibly uneven in her results since that 4th place finish. Just because she happened to be on the one week that Wagner was off is NO guarantee that she’d be on in Sochi. She’s been bad-good-bad-good…

  3. In the end, Nagasu has been incredibly uneven in her results since that 4th place finish in Vancouver. Just because she happened to be on the one week that Wagner was off is NO guarantee that she’d be on in Sochi. She’s been bad-good-bad-good…

    • In the end, Ashley Wagner proved she couldn’t deliver when it mattered the most. After all, she is not in the same league as Mao Asada, Yuna Kim, or two young Russian skaters…..whether she is on or not. Just because she gets more media coverage than Nagasu doesn’t mean she has a shot at any medal in Sochi. Another mediocre American skater (yawn, anybody remembers Rachel Flatt?) with a big push by Corporate America.

  4. I really wish people would stop saying that Mirai showed up without a coach! Was that not a coach sitting next to her in the “kiss and cry” after her programs? Galina Barinova has worked with Mirai for many years and is fully USFS and PSA accredited or else she wouldn’t be allowed down with her athlete. Mirai also works with a technical coach from Japan….

  5. Mirai should be on the Olympic team based on her portfolio. Ashley Wagner should be on the team based on her portfolio. Gold should go on the basis of her portfolio. 15 year old Edmunds should be axed for having the weakest portfolio of the top four.

  6. All one has to do to understand the decision is look at scores at international events and the overall potential of the skater to earn that level of points again. Max has a quad, Jason does not – this is why Jason goes to the Olympics and does not go to Worlds. Caydee and John have TONS of international experience; Felicia and Nathan do not – which is why you send C&J to Worlds and not F&N. Mirai’s best international score would be 8th at the Olympics. She may have been offered a Worlds spot and turned it down – that is between USFSA and the athlete. Polina is a fantastic choice to compete against the Russian youngsters – she skates just like them. I think it is a very shrewd decision on behalf of the IOC and USFSA to put Polina on the team and not Mirai. Don’t get me wrong – I love Mirai, but she came up a little too late. Ashley’s international record for the past two seasons has been solid and has earned the US the right to send 3 ladies to the Olympics. Once you look at the records and scores for ALL of the skaters (ours and other country’s) then you can see the big picture. We all know that scores at nationals are inflated. What matters is how a skater scores in international competition.

    • Actually, Mirai finished FOURTH at the 2010 Olympics, not eighth. I still don’t understand the decision to send a 15 year old straight out of Juniors with no international experience to the Olympics over Mirai, but it is what it is.

  7. your assertion that race was not a factor is naive…and shows the lack of depth in your understanding of how asian american women are portrayed. this is disappointing especially because you write for a magazine that is suppose to empower asian women and provide opportunities for others to understand the asian american experience. this is why audrey is not taken seriously as a magazine because its writers are amateurs.

  8. Totally agree that Mirai should be sent to Worlds like Max and Caydee/John. There have actually been 4 times that the US has sent skaters who didn’t place at nationals. In 1998 Jenni Meno and Todd Sand withdrew after the short program and were still placed on the Olympic team.

  9. sk8r: please check your history. Mirai received FOURTH at the 2010 Olympics, beating out America’s favorite and expected medalist Rachel who fell Flatt of expectations with a disappointing 7th place finish. And the point is that a federation needs to apply the rule consistently so that the public and the skaters alike know in advance what to expect. What I would love to see is someone use the same statistical analysis on all the pre-Olympic nationals since the rule came into effect. Show me that that would NOT have changed who was actually sent to the Olympics and I’ll concede that it was consistently applied. If the USFSA dd this, it would quickly shut up the naysayers if it supported their position. They haven’t and I postulate that that is because they cannot.

  10. I’m not a fan of American Idol anymore. But there, they would bring back some eliminated contestants because it was felt that they deserved a second chance. But they don’t eliminate those that qualified from the competition either. In this case, Mirai was eliminated despite getting the votes of the judges at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

    Why not have a special event between Mirai and Wagner, and may the best skater win? At least that way, Mirai still has a chance to prove her worth instead of being eliminated despite placing in the championships? Money could be made too with a TV Special on the event.

    And if they really want to do it the Idol way, let America vote on who they want it. Just dial 1-900-….

  11. In my opinion, USFSA has been typically harsh on Nagasu in recent years, probably they felt she is not steady enough as a young woman to be a suitable role model for younger one. They robbed her of a deserved national title 4 years ago by downgrades. But the international judges were more neutral at the Olympics. Here, she finished her spins one second behind because of the crowd noise and ovations, they docked her one point in a tight race. It looks like they are looking for any and all reasons to drop her. I can understand why they kept Polina, because the committee doesn’t want it to come back to haunt them 4 years from now. But I surely don’t get why Nagasu is not on the world team. This outrage is justified.

  12. I’ve watched Mirai since she was a teeny tiny tot skating on our Pasadena ice rink. Even then people could not help but to stop and watch her skating with joy and unbridled enthusiasm. A commentator at Nationals said Polina is “the future of figure skating”. Well then, let her BE the future, let her grow, let her mature, let her build a portfolio of her work and give her the future. But this time, it should have been Mirai, it should have been Mirai’s “now”.

  13. Wondering what the judges in the ladies event felt about being ignored. With the big gap in points between 3rd and 4th, they sure made their opinions known, even though the USFSA thumbed their nose at them.

  14. Look up petition at change dot org to US Figure Skating president Patricia St. Peter. It now has over 5000 signers.

    [my petition comment]

    “Body of work” in this case is double standard; e.g., the “body of work” of Edmunds. As an appellate attorney and former chair of USFS’s Ethics Committee, you should have guided Mirai through appeals process after her inquiry. She had no one of consequence to lobby on her behalf.

    Given the investment of sponsors and NBC in Wagner, and Frank Carroll’s statement at nationals on Edmunds, “She is the future,” the USFS’s selection looks tainted. It will not slip into a black hole of public memory, especially if Wagner bombs, again, at the Olympics, or if Edmunds, despite the market value of her speaking Russian in Sochi, fails untested expectations.

    You have the diplomatic and political skills to review and retract your decision, which would polish the tarnished name of USFS, and increase its future popularity and marketability.

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