Skaters at the U.S. Team Summit and Out of the Grand Prix
Three skaters declare they would skip the Olympic team White House visit in a week of lively remarks; Joshua Farris out of his only Grand Prix event.
We are now within 150 days of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and although the political situation there is a little hair-raising, the events that happen as we close in are continuing on. Including the Team USA Media Summit this week in Park City, Utah, where the attendees included multiple skaters, some of who said predictable things, and one of whom sent tongues wagging. But as we enter the last month before the start of the Grand Prix, the news for U.S. skating there isn’t as good. From the latest round of withdrawals, it looks like we’re not getting one man back after all.
Stories from the Team USA Media SummitEmbed from Getty Images
The Team USA Media Summit, saw Olympic hopefuls from multiple sports, skating included, gather in Utah to do interviews, photoshoots, and other miscellaneous media activities. IceNetwork had photos and a couple of articles, though they did ignore the subject that got the most attention. This Summit, of course, was taking place the week after the country first saw Donald Trump attack NFL players kneeling during the national anthem before games to protest police brutality and basketball players from refusing to come meet him at the White House, then watched a huge portion of the NFL kneel the next day as a response to his words.
Skaters can’t really kneel during podium ceremonies without heavy penalty, but they were asked about the Olympic team’s traditional White House visit. And three skaters said they’d skip it. Although for two of them, that was almost expected. Ashley Wagner has been politically outspoken in the past, even blasting Trump after the Billy Bush video leaked. She detailed her approach towards speaking out this week. Since his election, her openly gay best buddy Adam Rippon hasn’t been silent either.
Certainly Rippon not wanting to go makes sense. As does any non-white athlete not going, really, including Nathan Chen. But Chen also declaring he wouldn’t go is a bit more of a surprise, if only because he doesn’t have a history of speaking out. Of course, he’s only just turned eighteen, so we’ll see where he goes from there. It’s welcome from him, especially since it means Trump would be snubbed by both he and she who are pretty much U.S. skating’s biggest singles stars, especially with Gracie Gold’s recent struggles. (Wagner and Rippon expressed support for her too.) Chen’s also the closest thing either discipline has to a lock for the U.S. team. Wagner’s chances of making it are very good too. Rippon may or may not.
There were safer questions from Monday, like ones about jumps. Though that includes reactions to the ISU’s proposed rules changes to lower the value of quadruples ones. There’s support from Rippon, who can’t deny he’ll do better under such rules, and so didn’t. He might even stay in longer because of it. Chen, whose strategy would be less effective under the new rules, says he’d nonetheless adapt. Quads aren’t the only natural talent he has to develop, so that, too, might be a thing for the better. In other news, Mirai Nagasu is getting bold with that triple axel. She’s now saying she might go from trying one of them in the long program to two!
On Monday Jason Brown gave more expected quotes about struggling with the quad, and Maia & Alex Shibutani had comments published about not worrying about doing Latin rhythms while siblings. But those three are skaters more entertaining on social media, which they were making good use of. The Shibutanis did handshakes and confetti, and Brown even did some dancing:
— Jason Brown (@jasonbskates) September 28, 2017
Wednesday saw the publication of comments from three teams, one pairs and two dance, more likely than not to be in Korea, as well as comments from Vincent Zhou about his quad lutz. Alexa Scimeca Knierim & Chris Knierim mostly talked about why they competed early, and Madison Chock & Evan Bates mostly talked about why they didn’t. But the story became a more provocative comment from the third team.
It’s not news that Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue are sick of coming in third against the other two top U.S. dance teams all the time. They made that clear enough before last year’s Nationals, when they declared it didn’t matter even if Meryl Davis & Charlie White did come back (they confirmed not too long afterwards they wouldn’t), because they wouldn’t remain the ones to be bumped out of the top three. But now Donohue has really thrown down the gauntlet, saying he’ll skip the ceremony if they come in third. We only have the quote as written without audio or video, so we can’t listen to his tone to evaluate whether he meant it jokingly or not. But it’s hard to think he was serious, considering the backlash that would bring. The comment caused enough of an uproar Donohue ended up taking to Twitter:
— Zach Donohue (@ZachTDonohue) September 28, 2017
Victory ceremonies at National competitions especially tend to be boring, but all eyes will be on the dance one now if Hubbell & Donohue come in third.
Farris Highest-Profile Grand Prix WithdrawalEmbed from Getty Images
But in the latest changes to the Grand Prix rosters, there’s news about another American skater, and it’s not good. Would-be comeback skater Joshua Farris is out of his only event, the NHK Trophy. He’d already bailed out of a show and Champs Camp, so this isn’t entirely a surprise. Still, it’s dismaying, since even with no word of what’s going on, it seems all too likely he’s pulled the plug on his return to competition. Now we can’t be sure we’ll even continue to see him in shows.
Possibly suffering a similar fate are Xuehan Wang & Lei Wang (no relation). They haven’t competed since pulling out of Chinese Nationals last year. So far they’re only out of their first event in Russia, apparently still hoping to make France four weeks later. We don’t know why; there are only vague rumors of injury. But being this long out is never a good sign. China also finally filled its host spots. Their third man will be He Zhang, getting a second chance at a senior circuit debut after having to pull out of Cup of China last year. The pairs berth went to Mingyang Zhang & Bowen Song. Fourth at Chinese Nationals, they will make their international debut. One wouldn’t expect either to medal, but the men’s field is just volatile enough to give Zhang an outside chance.
Russia too has filled its empty spots. Ivett Toth was replaced by German Nicole Schott, and the Wangs by Austrians Miriam Ziegler & Severin Kiefer. The former especially is probably just happy to make it on to the circuit, and the latter aren’t likely to factor much in their crowded field either. The Wangs might have been missed in a weaker field, but not this one. The third home lady, Valeriia Mikhailova, was eleventh at Russian Nationals last year and wouldn’t be expected to medal. But she’s just good enough you can’t rule a surprise out there.