figure skating

Nationals Aftermath, Men and Ladies

The men’s short program was fantastic. I loved every second. The free skate was a wee bit of a disappointment compared to that (ack, Ricky Dornbush especially. I sat there in my kitchen shouting “No! No! You’re so much better than this! FIGHT!” at my computer screen, but alas, to no avail), but still miles ahead of any free skate in recent years. I was so sad for Adam Rippon, who’s from Clarks Summit and broke onto the senior scene when we were still living in Scranton, and so I have cheered for ever since (for those of you not familiar with Pennsylvania, Scranton and Clarks Summit are right next to each other), but I was thrilled to see the strides Max Aaron had made since last year, and Joshua Farris did great, and we’ve got some promising young blood coming up in the ranks who will be ones to watch in the next four years.

About Max, though – I hope he gets his style figured out soon. You can be a guy on the ice and still be masculine and even a little butch. You don’t have to go all-out Elvis Stojko, but poor Max looked, in his short program especially, as though he were being forced into a suit of clothes completely the wrong size for him. The long program suited his powerful, explosive natural style much better, but he still looked stilted and uncomfortable in much of it. Watch Brian Boitano. Watch Scott Hamilton and Kurt Browning and Todd Eldredge and Michael Weiss and yes, even watch Elvis Stojko, and see how they manage to be powerful and still artistic. Just please, please, don’t become a cookie-cutter skater, Max, because you’ve got so much more than that.

I am not a fan of Jeremy Abbott’s skating, or his appalling tendency to never be able to put two decent programs on the ice at the same competition, or that the USFSA (sorry, USFS – I don’t know why they’ve dropped the “A” from the acronym when “Association” is still part of the official name, and it drives me nuts) and all the commentators overlook his horrific inconsistency and weak skills with “but when he’s on, he’s so on” BUT HE’S NEVER ON ALL THE WAY HE’S ONLY EVER HALFWAY THERE. However, I will say that he did manage to pull it together for this Nationals, and I am politely wishing him well at the Olympics, because my dislike is for his skating, not for him, and I would never wish anyone to fall apart at the moment they’ve been dreaming of their entire lives.

(Yes, I know I’ve left someone out of the men. I’m saving him for the end.)

The ladies. Oh, the ladies.

I am THRILLED for Gracie Gold. I think she’s phenomenal. And I really like the sprite-like Polina Edmunds, and I’m eager to see what she does in the next four years.

Mirai Nagasu … I am heartbroken for. Crushed. After everything she’s gone through in the last four years, she finally, finally found her joy on the ice again, she broke through years of uncertainty and discouragement, and oh, she skated so, so beautifully. She made my heart sing.

I understand the decision to leave her off the team. I think it’s the wrong decision, and I wish USFS could admit that yes, part of their decision is political (because it IS and everyone knows it), part of their decision was deliberate to cause controversy and get people watching the skating again (because that plays a role too, of course it does), and yes, part of their decision has to do with the entire season, not just the Nationals. Because by claiming it ONLY has to do with the skating, they’ve left themselves open to the very obvious question of “Then why is Polina, who hasn’t had any senior international experience, on the team instead of Mirai?”

What I cannot forgive USFS for is leaving Mirai off the World team. In men and pairs, they switched the bronze medalists for the silver for the Worlds, and yet the ladies team stays the same. You know what that says to me? Either they have a grudge against Mirai (PETTY), or they’re afraid that she would do really well at the Worlds, and then they’d have to justify the decision to leave her off the Olympic team all over again. Not cool, USFS.

(This routine made me cry. Actually, no. Mirai’s courage and grace made me cry during this routine. She is an amazing person.)

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t hate Ashley Wagner. As with Jeremy Abbott, I’m not a huge fan of her skating. With her, it isn’t so much her problems with consistency as it is I just plain find her boring to watch. She seems to me one of those cookie-cutter skaters I mentioned above, nothing that stands out or makes me remember her or care.

BUT. The way fans have been treating her is atrocious, horrible, and completely uncalled for. She did not “steal” the spot from Mirai. USFS gave it to her. You might think that the decent thing for her to do would be to refuse to accept it, but come on. This is the Olympics. If you were in her shoes, would you? COULD you? I’d like to think that I would be noble-souled enough to give up on my lifelong dream because I felt it was unfairly granted to me, but would I, really? I doubt it. Especially if I really did believe that I had earned that spot through my blood, sweat, and tears over the last few years, and that the two nights that did not go my way were anomalies instead of patterns. And Ashley does believe that.

And no matter what, Ashley is a human being, just as Mirai is, and no human being ever, ever deserves to be treated the way fans have been treating Ashley. I read for myself some of the things said to her and about her on Twitter. Shame on those who would dare speak so to another person. Shame. I may not be her biggest fan, but after reading some of those tweets, I hoped – and still hope – she goes to the Olympics and skates better than anyone has ever seen her skate in her life. That’s what I hope, because I want to see her make people choke on their own hatred by the sheer triumph of rising above it.

And now … yes, I was saving the best for last. I told you I was going to bring in the missing men’s skater at the end, didn’t I?

Watch him. Watch this routine, you guys. Look, I’ve seen Bourne and Kraatz skate to Riverdance – live – and I saw Riverdance on Ice in Lowell, MA a few years back, and both of those were incredible, breathtaking experiences. I have never seen anything like this. Jason, more than anyone else ever, has given me hope that the point system has not killed the joy of skating entirely. I am so, so excited for when he gets his quad, because he is going to BLOW EVERYONE ELSE OUT OF THE WATER. Or off the ice, as the case may be.

And on top of all that, he is a genuinely nice and awesome kid. What more can you ask?

Between Davis & White, Chock & Bates, Gold, and Brown, I am PUMPED to see what Team USA does at the Olympics this year. I think it’s going to be awesome.

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