SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – Bradie Tennell, Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen, the top three finishers at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, were selected Saturday morning to the U.S. team for the Pyeongchang Olympics.
U.S. Figure Skating uses a committee to decide the squad, and it went with the results of Friday night. Past performances and a variety of other data are included in the decision making.
Three-time U.S. champ Ashley Wagner, who complained vigorously about the marks after the free skate, was not included. Four years ago, Wagner also finished fourth but was placed on the team ahead of Nagasu. Wagner wound up with a bronze medal in the team event.
The 19-year-old Tennell and Chen, 18, the 2017 U.S. winner, made their first Olympics. Nagasu, now 24, was fourth at the 2010 Games.
Alternates are Wagner (first alternate), Mariah Bell (second alternate) and Angela Wang (third alternate). Only Wagner has been to an Olympics among those three.
The remainder of the team — three men, three ice dance couples and one pair — is scheduled to be announced Sunday.
Rising star Tennell’s near-perfect free skate earned her first national crown. Tennell, a long shot entering the season, was spotless in the short program two days ago, then as the final skater in the long program she didn’t miss a trick under tremendous pressure. Her top competitors, Nagasu and Chen, already had put down superb routines.
“I just had to keep calm and focus on what I knew I could do,” Tennell said. “There’s the initial butterflies, but I kind of start to lose myself and keep going.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in quite yet. I’m still kind of shocked. It’s indescribable to me.”
Nagasu, U.S. champ 10 years ago and a 2010 Olympian, capped a sensationally sweet comeback with a flowing performance to finish second, assuring a spot in next month’s Olympics — a berth she was denied in 2014 by the selection committee. That position for Sochi was given to Wagner, who had a better overall record.
Chen, the defending champion, was third Friday night.
“I really put in my vote for the Olympic team,” said Nagasu, who has admitted the stress of competing often has gotten the best of her. “I was very unhappy with questions that were asked like, ‘If you make this Olympic team, that’ll be eight years in between.’ That’s a long time and I know that. This is about my journey, and that decision hasn’t been made yet. There is always that chance that I will be skipped over again, but right now I’m enjoying that performance, that training that went into it. To have it come to fruition like it did tonight makes me really emotional, and I cannot wait for the decision to come out.”
After overpowering the entry and two-footing the triple axel that no other American woman tries, Nagasu hit six triple jumps, including a loop in the final seconds of a stirring program. She was so moved by her performance that she broke out in tears and covered her face, trying to gain control of the emotions that often had betrayed her in critical moments.
She was still crying in, appropriately, the kiss and cry area when the marks showed Nagasu she had shattered her personal best by nearly 20 points with a 213.84.
Chen’s big season last year had not translated into achievement this campaign. She put those struggles to an icy death with a superb showing that had one flaw toward the end. She, too, was overcome by tears for a 198.59 score.
Tennell made it a trio of tears with her career best of 219.51. Tennell announced herself as an Olympic team threat with a third place at Skate America. Hardly ice shattering, but then she ratcheted up everything for nationals.
Wagner had the crowd going for most of her energetic routine, but a flawed lutz as her final jump was costly. She responded to the fans with a deep bow when she finished, yet was shaking her head “no” when her marks were posted.
Hours later, after she verbally campaigned to be placed on the Olympic team again, Wagner was left off.