Controversial US Olympic Committee figure skating decision points the way to a more just system for determining winners

Everyone knows that the best team or athlete doesn’t always win. So why should we continue rewarding the inferior competitor?

Did you see this? The US Olympic Committee has given the third women’s figure skating slot to the fourth place finisher instead of, you know, the third place finisher. And it’s all legal!

…U.S. Figure Skating officials chose to look beyond Wagner’s two falls in a nerve-seized fourth-place finish at the U.S. Championships Saturday and name the West Potomac graduate to one of the three women’s spots on the Sochi-bound team.

The decision was made by an Olympic-selection committee behind closed doors Sunday morning, announced at a noon press conference at Boston’s TD Garden, and fell most bitterly on Mirai Nagasu , who had exulted just 12 hours earlier in her bronze-medal winning performance that in any normal circumstance would have guaranteed her a spot on the Olympic team.

Here at S&R, we applaud the committee. All too often in American sport we allow our competitions to be marred by a fastidious obsession with who won, as though actually winning has anything to do with who’s best.

Hopefully the USOC process can bet extended to its logical conclusion in the actual Olympics. It would make sense to begin with skating, which has the longest and most well-defined tradition of subjectivity. Once the competitions have been held and judged there wold be an über-committee, as it were, that would take other factors into account before deciding who deserves the medals based on the big picture. This would eliminate from the Games the injustice associated with the best performers losing out when they fail under the harsh lights.

When we get to this point, we could go back and retroactively award Debi Thomas the gold medal she so richly deserved. Also, maybe Nancy Kerrigan, because ultimately the guiding philosophy would suggest that you don’t actually have to compete to be the best.

Once we have perfected the system in the subjective sports (skating, diving, snowboard half-pipe) then we can begin exploring how it might best be applied to sports that currently rely on so-called “objective” measures of evaluation, such as fastest times (100m dash), longest distances (triple jump) and most points scored (basketball).

Eventually the sort of advanced subjective metrics employed by the USOC in the skating trials would be the rule across all sports, and we’ll be the better for it.The NBA has been experimenting with the concept for years, granting its officials broad latitude to shape individual game results in favor of the best players and teams, and we welcome the day when all competition finally focuses on reward the best teams and athletes, not those who merely win the games.

13 replies »

  1. I know you’re being sarcastic, but Pro-wrestling is, in some ways, the most honest form of competition we have, maybe that’s the way of the future

  2. I think it’s racist why Mirai Nagasu was not chosen. She is the only one of the 4 women with Olympic experience, and she did not fall in her long program like Wagner. Nagasu was deserving of the spot and the Olympic Committee is showing their true racist colors.

    • i disagree with the Racist statement , I think as always our judging is flawed and one of there favorites didn’t make it , so this was their solution , which was wrong. You should be honored with what you have done now , not in the past , Mirai should be going no matter what , she got wronged in the whole decision

  3. Figure skating is not a sport. Any “sport” that uses “judges” and awards “style”points is not a sport, it’s a beauty contest. Make them jump over stuff and time them as they do horses. Then it might be a sport….

    Maybe we should let “free style” wrestling (pro wrestling’s style) into the Olympics. I’d have loved to have seen the Nature Boy with a gold medal around his neck…Whooooo.

  4. What they have done to Mirai is completely unfair and based on the fact that she has no coach/advocate to fight for her. Believe me, if Frank Carroll were her coach, they wouldn’t be messing with her. Also, if Ashley Wagner were a true competitor, she wouldn’t accept the spot on the team because it wasn’t earned!

  5. I’m afraid this might set a precedent in future competitions. I have a feeling there will be further investigation into the matter. Possibly the judges were taken by surprise that one of their “favorites” did not make it to the top 3,and so made their decision based upon that. Best wishes to Mirai.

  6. outrageous, not right, leaves the field open for corruption, and deep pockets results. sports has always been who is the best at that particular time not who someone believes is the best in the sport. so far away from logic how can it be explained. taking a little away for misconduct, infractions of the rules(were drugs present), that can be logical. they have tried to set a president, this should not stand. if it does, why do we have rules. we can just watch the sport through out the year and at the end have a vote on the best by the people or judges. what a system that will have room for money, personal feelings, and what ever. it is hard for me to believe that what you are saying is true. if it is, there should be outrage and the decision reversed again. this can not stand, it slaps the face of what we think the Olympics are all about. life is taking chances and some times the better person does not win, but then again life is life and doing well under pressure is all part of it. this ruling stinks of deep pockets, it can not stand. is this for real??!!!!

  7. this aint the first time. remember harding actually was a better athlete than kerrigan, and the french-african woman also got hosed.

    i’ve known a big time women’s skater and gymnast and both were foul creatures, petty and scheming and nasty. i always attributed it to the horrible system they grew up in. this “sport” is rotten from bottom to top

  8. Yeah! The Patriots should have won the Superbowl a few years back. They were undefeated until then, so obviously they were the best team. The judges should have awarded them the win anyway, even though they scored fewer points. Right?

  9. The purity of the Olympics is tainted beyond recognition. This is scumbag favoritism at its worst. I am sick to my stomach listening to these shills tell us BS excuse after BS excuse, maybe if our skaters fall at the Olympics and come in 20th.. we will still get medals because we have done well the past few years. I am embarrassed to be an American associated with this corrupt nonsense of a sport. For shame, especially you Patricia St. Peter.

    • Apparently what the committee did isn’t out and out illegal. In fact, they expressly note that other competitions are taken into account.

      Click to access OlympicSelection.pdf

      But it’s one of those things where you have a rule that everyone seems to recognize is BS. For instance, every company in America has a rider in the employment contract that says using your work computer for personal purposes is grounds for firing. But the only time this clause is ever invoked is when they need a reason to fire you and they can’t reference the real issue.

      It sounds like everybody was stunned here, including the new No. 3. The earlier comment about Mirai’s lack of powerful coaching/representation is probably astute. These kinds of things don’t happen to the charges of those with political stroke.

  10. This is bull****! Why bother competing at nationals at all when these pricks of the federation have already made the decision?? It defies logic that the better non- white competitor gets punished while the obvious inferior white horse-faced female gets rewarded. I was sitting in front of the tv watching intently making predictions on who will be the top 3 to advance to the olympics. Never thought I was watching in vain as the results were already determined. These morons on the federation are biased racists! We all know that had Nagasu been a white female, this kind of injustice would not have happened. Come on, you shameful and shady committee members…you are telling other countries that Americans are dumb enough to allow the less qualified even dissapointing, athlete to represent us. I bet russia, china and other nations are laughing at us. While they send their top competitors we will be sending a 4th place finisher who fell on her ass not once but twice. Hahaha I’m chuckling now. I’m sad for Nagasu for missing out on competing at the olympics. I always root for the US in all sporting events, but this time, I hope the US female figure skaters go home with no medals. Sports should be based on skills alone, and if we look at their free skate performances, none of them deserve to be on the olympic podium.