Two More American Withdrawals from Worlds
Shibutanis and Jason Brown both decline their Worlds berths; Hawayek & Baker and Max Aaron take their places.
In the week since the Olympic skating competition concluded, the Worlds roster has lost quite a few of the skaters that competed there. Some of them were skaters fans already expected to lose, such as much of the Canadian Olympic team. Others were a little more surprising, and thus a little more disappointing, such as the loss of Adam Rippon. Although even then, we knew we might not have lost everyone yet. Even now, Yuzuru Hanyu remains on the roster, but the reports of the condition of his ankle are not at all promising.
We also knew, by the time the roster first came out on Wednesday, that we’d still lose one ice dance team on it. Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev were listed, but their coach had already informed the world they were effectively burnt out. Now the roster has updated, and they are officially out.
Another team on the roster with dubious status was Maia & Alex Shibutani. They had already said in one interview that they didn’t know whether or not they’d attend. They refuted any plans to retire outright, but nowadays plenty of skaters skip the post-Olympic Worlds and then come back later.
Yesterday, fans got yet another disappointment, and it turned out to be even worse than we thought. Not only have the Shibutanis decided against going, but Jason Brown, the initial replacement for Adam Rippon, has also turned his spot down.
The reason for the Shibutanis withdrawal, at least, is an obvious one. Like Rippon, the two of them are hot right now, looking at a thousand media opportunities that aren’t likely to hang around for all that long. Both her and his Twitter feeds are filled with tweets about traveling and making appearances. Even if those themselves might die down within the next couple of weeks, they wouldn’t be getting much time to train, and wouldn’t be in shape for Worlds.
Plus, there’s nothing more they can prove at Worlds. They’ve already won silver once and bronze twice there, and with Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron definitely going, gold might not be winnable by anyone else. Add their pair of Olympic bronzes, and if they decide to retire later in the summer, they can do so as a success.
Jason Brown’s situation is different, and his withdrawal even more of a disappointment because of it. He’s someone who’s had his own successes, but due to his lack of quadruple jumps has only gone so far. Then, this season, he struggled for too much of it, failed to make the Olympic team he’d started the season favored to make, and definitely has something to prove.
There is a reason, however, that Worlds might not have been the place he could’ve done it. Although so far no reliable source has confirmed it, rumors are flying that Brown has left longtime coach Kori Ade and is looking for a new coach. Coaching changes are typical enough a reaction to the kind of season he’s had, skaters hoping new guidance can help them turn things around. And if, right now, he doesn’t have a proper coach or even training base in which to prepare, his turning down a trip to Worlds makes perfect sense.
He’s not even the only alternate to do so. Second alternate Ross Miner apparently also wasn’t interested. Between that his angry remarks after he was left off the Olympic team, it’s looking like he’s quitting competition. Max Aaron, meanwhile, was extremely lucky to even be third alternate, especially over Grant Hochstein, who really should be the one going right now. Hopefully he’ll make the most of it. What he can do is limited, but a top ten finish at Worlds remains doable. He might even be the one to help Nathan Chen preserve the U.S.’s third men’s spot, something the two of them and Vincent Zhou may or may not manage.
And at least we can be sure that not only are the Shibutanis’ replacements going, but are very happy to do so:
That face you make when you find out you’re going to your first WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS!!!! We’re so honored to represent @TeamUSA @USFigureSkating and we’ve been working hard and are hungry for this! SEE YOU SOON MILANO!!! 🙌🏼👏🏼🇮🇹 pic.twitter.com/TfyuVGXgt2
— Kaitlin Hawayek (@KaitlinHawayek) March 2, 2018
— Jean-luc Baker (@jeanlucbaker) March 2, 2018
This is indeed a huge opportunity for Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker. They have spent the past four years as the talented team that can’t make the big events because their country’s top three has been impenetrable, though they’ve had misfortunes beyond even that too. With exactly one of those teams now out, there’s now room for them to show what they can do and hopefully get a strong finish at Worlds. The pressure will also be off; the other two teams should preserve the U.S. three dance berths so long as they have no major mishaps.
The World Championships will take place in Milan, March 19-25, 2018.