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Skating: Women's Olympic Team Announced

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In spite of a solid short program that landed her in 2nd place heading into Saturday’s free program, skating fans will not have the pleasure of watching Sasha Cohen compete in the Vancouver Olympics next month.

Teenagers Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu finished 1st and 2nd, respectively, to earn the two Olympic berths allotted to the U.S. women.

1. Rachael Flatt (200.11)
2. Mirai Nagasu (188.78)
3. Ashley Wagner (184.70)
4. Sasha Cohen (174.28)
5. Christina Gao (156.53)
6. Amanda Dobbs (150.72)

Flatt rallied from 3rd place after the short program to clinch her first national title with the highest score ever achieved by an American woman in competition (though scores at national championships around the world are not generally considered definitive since point totals are often inflated, likely because judges on a national level wish to send ‘their’ athletes into the Olympics with the high marks that they will need to be considered for the podium). Though Flatt lacks the polish and artistry of other more recognizable skaters, she has been far and away the most technically consistent American skater since Michelle Kwan retired in 2005. I only remember Rachael falling ONCE since her debut at senior Nationals in 2007. Once. Flatt finished an impressive 5th at Worlds last year; likewise, you can expect a clean skate from her at the Olympics but Flatt will likely need some ‘help’ from a handful of other top skaters to make the podium.

Mirai Nagasu earned her first trip to the Olympics with a 2nd place finish behind Flatt on Saturday. She delivered what to the untrained eye may have appeared to be an absolutely brilliant performance in the long program, but the judges’ score revealed that Nagasu was heavily downgraded on a number of jumps for incomplete rotations. In other words, if an instant replay (and the judges DO have this ability) reveals that a jump appearing to be a clean triple was more than a quarter-turn short of the 3rd rotation, the skater only receives credit for a double jump. To finish nearly 12 points short of Flatt it is likely that she did this at least 3 times. This is definitely something she’ll work on for Vancouver.

Ashley Wagner rallied from a fall in the short program to take 2nd in the long program, but it wasn’t enough to overtake Nagasu.

Fan favorite Sasha Cohen delivered a magnificent short program only to fall to 4th after a lackluster free skate in which she was downgraded on 6 of her 7 jumping passes, including several two-footed landings and one fall.

2009 U.S. Champion Alissa Czisny failed to factor into the competition with multiple disasters in both programs. She finished in 11th place.

That’s how it went down. Now here’s my take on it.

The two athletes most likely to deliver for the U.S. in Vancouver will be there. Flatt’s consistency and Nagasu’s energy and talent demonstrated in Spokane give me confidence in both as solid choices to represent the U.S. Although I admit that I’m extremely disappointed that Sasha Cohen didn’t come through, I won’t soon forget the excitement of her brief return to competition. Wagner is a determined and likeable competitor; I see enormous potential in her but I personally feel much better about sending ladies with 4 clean programs to the Olympics. Alissa Czisny needs to retire; if I have to watch her crashing to the ice and getting up with a brave little smile or the commentators protecting her just one more time, I’m going to end it all. Wagner can thank Czisny’s disappointing showing at 2009 Worlds for denying her the 3rd Olympic berth normally granted to American women. Keep an eye out for Christina Gao over the next couple of years; she is indeed the future of U.S. ladies skating, though if Spokane was any indication of what’s to come, she can look forward to battling it out with Flatt, Nagasu and Wagner for another 4 years.