An Icy Truth: The Politics of Figure Skating

Having dabbled in a few ice skating lessons as a child, I appreciate (though obviously only to the tiniest extent) the amount of effort and dedication it takes to reach skillfulness in figure skating. So I can imagine how devastated Mirai Nagasu must feel after being denied a position on the United States Olympic figure skating team for the 2014 Olympics, despite finishing third over all. Instead, Ashley Wagner, the fourth-place finisher, will take her position. Nagasu opted not to appeal the decision on Sunday night and also won't be skating at the World Championship in March, either. This is the first time that the USFSA has passed over a medalist in favor of a non-medalist for the Olympic team aside from injuries, according to the Boston Globe, which makes it all the more shocking. I know that there is been a lot of controversy about this decision, as while Nagasu obviously finished better than Wagner on Saturday, both have a very different list of accomplishments. Certainly, Wagner has a more consistent history than Nagasu, including but not limited to taking gold at the past two U.S. figure skating championships, whereas it appears that Nagasu's primary placement in the past was fourth at the 2010 Vancouver games.

And obviously, it's not Wagner's fault that she's a conventionally pretty, white female. Nor the fact that she's been so heavily promoted. Like pretty much any other athletic activity (or really, any activity), politics plays a role in the figure skating world. Looking at certain comments on the various articles I've read up on while pondering this article, there are many who suspect racism to be a contributing factor to the politics that prevented Nagasu from taking a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

I'd be curious to see what other prominent APIA figure skaters might have to say in that regard. Indeed, out of all of the sports that I follow, figure skating is the only one where I immediately think of skaters such as Kristi Yamaguchi or Michelle Kwan before Dorothy Hamill or Tara Lipinski. Again, major disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on figure skating, just a minor spectator.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure what conclusion to draw. If anyone has any thoughts, please share them with us!

And for those of you who missed it, here is Nagasu's performance from Saturday night--wonderful regardless.

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