Talking point: Nagasu suddenly in singles medal conversation

Talking point:  Nagasu suddenly in singles medal conversation

GANGNEUNG, South Korea - Before the Olympics began, the idea that Mirai Nagasu would be in any discussion about potential women's singles medalists was fanciful, even a bit preposterous.

That all changed last Monday.

"I've had her in the conversation for a week," said Robin Cousins of Great Britain, the 1980 Olympic gold medalist and BBC commentator.

A history-making triple axel jump in the team event free skate put Nagasu's name on the Olympic sports world's lips -- and on those of entertainment world celebrities like the Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik and Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who have congratulated her about it on Twitter.

"What Mirai has done is absolutely amazing," said teammate Karen Chen, speaking of the triple axel. "I think she will inspire many younger skaters that the impossible is possible."

But it was the 3 minutes, 45 seconds of near-flawless performance following her triple axel that convinced the sport's observers she was not a one-trick pony but a skater with renewed mastery of overall skills to match the resolute will that has generated one of the most endearing comebacks in figure skating history.

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Could rush to judgment hurt U.S. women's chances for three Olympic figure skating spots?

Could rush to judgment hurt U.S. women's chances for three Olympic figure skating spots?

Earlier this season, U.S. Figure Skating changed its senior world team selection rules to deny a guaranteed place for the reigning national champion.

The change was made, according to a USFS document approved in December, “to select the athletes who will have the best chance for success at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships to win the maximum number of medals and future berths for the World and Olympic Team the following season.”

It was made just in case the winner at nationals was a fluke (or, more politely, a surprise), someone whose past international record gave no strong indication of success at the World Championships.

Someone like Karen Chen.

Her performances in both programs at last month’s U.S. Championships in Kansas City were undeniably brilliant – by far the best of her career.

Her performances in this week’s Four Continents Championships on the 2018 Olympic rink in Gangneung, South Korea, were undeniably dismal:  12th in the short program, with a fall and a watered-down combination; 10th in Saturday’s free skate, when she omitted the planned opening combination, did an invalid element and had four sloppy jumping passes (out of seven).

Overall, with a 12th place that matched her finish at last year’s Four Continents, Chen looked like the skater who had been consistently mediocre this season and last – with the exception of the 2017 nationals.

That should get USFS officials thinking of a future change in its world team selection rules so the results of Four Continents can be taken into consideration.  After all, it will be more than two months from the end of nationals to the start of worlds.

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