It was all over for Ashley Wagner yesterday. Or so it seemed.
After a meltdown during her free skate Saturday night, the 22-year-old Wagner appeared to be on her way out the door.
A two-time national champion and a heavy favorite to make the Sochi Olympic team for the United States, Wagner fell to the ice twice and finished fourth in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships behind Gracie Gold, Polina Edmunds and Mirai Nagasu.
I am so sorry. I let you all down.— Ashley Wagner (@AshWagner2010) January 12, 2014
Nevertheless, Wagner was selected for the Sochi Olympic team on Sunday. Rounding out the team with her are the gold and silver medalists, Gold and Edmunds.
Needless to say, Wagner was thrilled:
It's been a long 4 years to this point. I'm so proud and incredibly grateful that I'll be representing my country at the Olympics in Sochi!— Ashley Wagner (@AshWagner2010) January 12, 2014
But Nagasu, who took the bronze home over the weekend and finished just off the podium at the 2010 Olympics, was left off the team, despite finishing ahead of Wagner in Boston. More drama ensued when NBC reported during its broadcast that Nagasu would appeal the decision, but the 20-year-old has since decided to back down.
According to NBC OlympicTalk's Nick Zaccardi, U.S. Figure Skating president Pat St. Peter believes Wagner’s overall record of performance was what pushed her ahead of Nagasu in the eyes of the selection committee.
This competition is not the only event that USFS considers in selecting the team. It's the results and participation in events over the course of the past year-plus. So if you look at Ashley Wagner's record and performance, she's got the top credentials of any of our female athletes.
A body of work is important. But does it make sense for a committee to override what happens on the ice?
As noted by Bleacher Report’s Lindsay Gibbs, Wagner is by far the most veteran skater on the team. Moreover, she has the most experience in international competitions.
In theory, this will help under the bright lights in Sochi.
But it didn’t help her in Boston over the weekend. In fact, as she stared down her Olympic destiny, Wagner seemed to wilt under the pressure of having to perform. The talented and accomplished skater was visibly more nervous than her cohorts, including the 15-year-old Edmunds, who had never competed on such a big stage.
Meanwhile, Nagasu went to the ice knowing she needed a solid performance to stay in the Olympic hunt, and she delivered it.
Skating second-to-last on Saturday, her movement around the ice was composed, powerful and confident.
Nagasu was a machine. Sure, there were slight hitches here and there in her routine. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but she fought through it all and refused to falter.
She completed her skate with what appeared to be an Olympic-berth-worthy performance.
Even 1992 Olympic champion Kristi Yamaguchi was impressed and believed Nagasu would be rewarded for her effort:
So happy for @mirai_nagasu ....4 years of perserverance pays off. Great skate!— Kristi Yamaguchi (@kristiyamaguchi) January 12, 2014
But instead, Wagner will be headed to Sochi, and Nagasu will be left wondering what more she could have done.
Only time will tell if the committee made the correct decision. But as it stands now, it looks like the wrong move.
In choosing Wagner, the committee left off a skater, Nagasu, who has already felt the intense pressure of the Olympics and has already come close to winning a medal there. Moreover, they left off a skater who knew she had to perform well when it counted and did so.
The same cannot be said for Wagner. For all of her national success, Wagner has fallen short under the most pressure-packed circumstances she’s faced.
She did it four years ago at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, where she faltered during her routine and finished one spot out of qualification for the Vancouver Olympic team.
And she did it this year as well, only this time, the committee chose to save her.