The Two Coveted Spots
I've been meaning to comment on the recent World Figure Skating Championships in LA but I actually was a little depressed after them. I mean, wait, first I should say that it was awesome that Evan Lysacek won the gold (go, Evan!) and fantastic that the lovely Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto grabbed a medal after being off due to Ben's injury, but I so wanted Tanith and Ben to win gold, especially after having the chance to interview them in person. Greedy, I know, but still. But the real source of my melancholy was over the women's scene...or more specifically Alissa Czisny. I was not expecting Czisny or Rachael Flatt to medal, but I was hoping that Czisny could rise to the challenge so: 1) everyone could see what an amazing skater she is; 2) she wouldn't leave a lasting impression as a choke artist; and 3) she would place high enough so that the US women would get three spots for the Olympics. (Flatt and Czisny needed a combined placement of at least 13; Flatt held up her end of the bargain skating consistently as usual and placing an amazing 5th at her first World's, but Czisny melted down during the short, placing 14th, then ending up 11th overall.)
The thing about Czisny that kills me is that she is unbelievably gorgeous when she is on. I hate talking about potential, but it's true, if she could put together two clean programs, she would be lethal on ice. But she just can't seem to do that and unfortunately now I'm thinking that her legacy has been solidified as a choke artist. Unless Brian Boitano can work some serious magic over the next year, I just don't see her being in the mix for the Olympics.
Another thing I wonder about is whether US Figure Skating is regretting having sent Czisny, given that her long program at Nationals was less than stellar, and given that Caroline Zhang might have been a safer option. Off the top of my head I don't know the rules, but I vaguely recall that they have the latitude to make decisions about who goes to Worlds beyond the Nationals placements. It also would have been kind of mean to bypass the newly minted National champion Czisny, but I can't help but wonder how things may have worked out had Zhang been sent in Czisny's place.
It definitely will be interesting to see how things play out now that there are only 2 spots for the Olympics. Rachael Flatt seems like a given at this point, but barring a stunningly consistent season, I think Czisny is out. Otherwise, referring back to my notes from Nationals I think Ashley Wagner looks like a dark horse candidate with Mirai Nagasu and Caroline Zhang also as contenders.
And so what of the talk about Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen (not to mention fellow "veterans" Kimmie Meissner and Emily Hughes)? As much as I love Kwan, I'm hard pressed to think that she could bring it to the level needed to keep up with the young jumpers but I sure as hell would love to see her make a go of it. Sasha Cohen seems a better chance, although for all I have seen written about Cohen's comeback, no one seems to mention that she also has struggled in the past with consistency and has had trouble putting two clean programs back to back. Like Czisny, Cohen is a breathtaking skater when she is on, but she had help to get her Olympic silver in 2006. Her long program wasn't great and I seem to remember reading that she had already changed out of costume because she figured she was out of the running, until other competitors started to flail and fall. And as for Kimmie Meissner and Emily Hughes, if they are healthy and in top shape, they may be the best of these veteran options; both also have the benefit of international (and Olympic) experience.
This next year will be interesting to see. Best case scenario: all of these wonderfully talented athletes really bring it, and make us impassioned to root for whoever marches to the Olympics with those two coveted spots.