U.S. champions no longer guaranteed spot on world figure skating team

New selection rules mean none of the champions crowned at the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships this week in Kansas City are guaranteed a place on the team for the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki this March.

According to a U.S. Figure Skating spokesperson, the rules change to eliminate the champions' automatic qualification was made in the fall by the U.S. Figure Skating International Committee, with approval coming Dec. 13 by the organization's board and its Athletes Advisory Committee.

That decision was made too late to make it into the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating media guide, which says the winner of each discipline at the current U.S. championships will earn an automatic spot on the world team.

There has been no public announcement of the new rules, nor are they available on the public area of U.S. Figure Skating's website. The change was first reported by International Skating Online.

The new selection procedure is the same as the one that was used for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games (PDF), and it will also be used for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

The process bases 2017 world team selection on results from events beginning with the 2016 World Championships and ending at the 2017 U.S. Championships.

The events under consideration are separated into three tiers (see below), with more weight accorded by tier level. There are no specific weighting numbers assigned to each tier.

The selection criteria is based on the body of work of those athletes who are believed to have the best chance to win Olympic medals, as opposed to relying on the results of a single competition, and, in the case of the 2017 worlds, those with the best chance to place well and earn the United States the most spots at the 2018 Olympics.

"This is the most important U.S. championships of the quad (four-year Olympic period)," U.S. Figure Skating Executive Director David Raith said.

While it seems highly unlikely that a national champion would be left off the world or Olympic teams, Raith said Friday he could imagine some scenarios in which it might happen.

Although the U.S. championships in an Olympic year are not called Olympic trials for financial reasons -- doing so would give the U.S. Olympic Committee broadcast rights and some of the marketing rights -- the USOC still has final approval over the athletes picked for its Olympic team in any sport.

With the possibility that a relatively undecorated athlete could win a medal at the U.S. championships, including the gold, U.S. Figure Skating officials now have the option to discount that result entirely if the athlete's record over the past year is less than impressive.

The following, excerpted from the new U.S. Figure Skating document "World Team Selection Procedures," outlines the essence of the new procedure:

Athletes shall be selected based upon performance(s) in the events below. The events have been stratified into tiers from the highest value events in Tier 1 through the lowest value events in Tier 3. Events within each tier shall be evaluated at equal weight.

Tier 1

- 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

- 2016 ISU Grand Prix Final

- 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships

Tier 2

- 2016 Grand Prix Series Competitions

- 2016 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships

Tier 3

- 2016 Challenger Series Events and other senior international competitions

- 2016 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

- 2016 World Junior Figure Skating Championships

- 2016 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final

The names of the top five athletes/teams at the current U.S. Figure Skating Championships will be automatically placed into the pool of athletes/teams being considered for the World Team, if eligible. Consideration will be given to add additional athletes/teams to the pool by reviewing the events above in priority order and adding others due to extenuating circumstances as approved by the respective International Committee Discipline Group. Discussion on, and the selection of the pool of athletes identified by the International Committee Discipline Group, will be limited to the competitions listed above.

(This article originally appeared on icenetwork.)