A sure bet, a long shot and some new math: my takeaways from U.S. figure skating championships

A sure bet, a long shot and some new math:  my takeaways from U.S. figure skating championships

1. Bradie Tennell backers would be very rich today if they could have found anyone in Las Vegas willing to make book before this season on her winning the U.S. championships and/or making the Olympic team and then put down a couple hundred dollars on that bet.

Because the odds would have been about 1,000-to-1.

And even Tennell, ninth at the U.S. championships last year, would have had a hard time disputing that probability.

Read More

Knierims back on top in U.S., but world's best pairs far above them

Knierims back on top in U.S., but world's best pairs far above them

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Alexa Scimeca Knierim and her husband, Chris, had achieved the results they wanted.

The Knierims didn't merely back into the lone U.S. Olympic pairs spot all but conceded to them because of their unquestioned recent superiority over all their U.S. rivals: They made the selection committee's eventual decision a rubber stamp by winning a second national title Saturday afternoon at the SAP Center.

But, as evidenced by their downcast demeanor while waiting to hear the free skate scores, they were left with a hollow feeling.

"It wasn't our best skate," Chris said.

Read More

For Nathan Chen, some confidence-building leaps, times five

For Nathan Chen, some confidence-building leaps, times five

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- It sounds a bit crazy to say this about a guy who had won all four of his events this season prior to the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but Nathan Chen has been struggling.

Struggling, that is, by the ice-breaking standards he set while becoming figure skating's newest star last season.

So his strong performance in Saturday night's free skate inside San Jose's SAP Center meant more than just making him a runaway national champion for the second straight year and earning the 2018 Olympic team spot that has been a foregone conclusion.

Chen matched his historic five-clean-quad free skate of a year ago at nationals, and it was his first such performance this season. In each of his previous two competitions, the Grand Prix Final and Skate America, only two of his five planned quads were clean.

Read More

Ashley Wagner's failure to make Olympic team rests on her

Ashley Wagner's failure to make Olympic team rests on her

Ashley Wagner has gone through this Olympic season as the face (and other body parts) of U.S. women's skating: the one in all the NBC telecast promotions; the one in the ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue, People magazine and commercials for major sponsors; the one entertaining her 174,000 Instagram followers day after day.

But she almost certainly will be invisible during next month's Olympic Winter Games, having failed to make the U.S. team after finishing fourth overall at the U.S. championships Friday night, railing at judging she felt was unfair and saying unequivocally that she deserved one of the three ladies spots.

"I am absolutely furious," she said.

Those who would rip Wagner for speaking her mind are definitely unfair -- and have paid no attention to her refreshing candor over an 11-season senior career as one of the country's leading skaters and most worldly athletes. What she tweeted Saturday was the best answer to that criticism.

"As an athlete, I'm allowed to be mad," she wrote. "As a senior competitor with over 10 years of experience, I'm allowed to question things."

Read More

'Comeback kid' Nagasu has a bawl - and a ball

'Comeback kid' Nagasu has a bawl - and a ball

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- There were about 40 seconds left in her free skate when Mirai Nagasu got close enough to where her coach, Tom Zakrajsek, was standing at the rink boards that she could hear what the coach was yelling.

"Mirai, enjoy this," Zakrajsek said.

She had a ball.

And then, when her scores were announced a few minutes later, she had a bawl.

Read More