Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen Make U.S. Women’s 2018 Olympic Figure Skating Team

Press Conference:  2018 U.S. Women’s Olympic Skating Team Selection

I had the real honor and pleasure to witness history live in San Jose, California (15 miles from where I live, 5 miles from where I currently work) to see two Asian American women, Japanese American skater Mirai Nagasu and Taiwanese American Skater Karen Chen skate at the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships, where they respectively came in 2nd & 3rd:

“Mirai Nagasu (Pasadena FSC), the 2008 U.S. champion, earned a silver medal with 213.84 points, ahead of Karen Chen (Peninsula FSC), the 2017 U.S. champion, who secured the bronze medal with a score of 198.59 points. Three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner (SC of Wilmington) finished fourth with 196.19.”

You can watch the press conference of that that here.

So the 2018 U.S. Olympic Women’s Figure Skating team will consist of:

Bradie Tennell is the 2018 U.S. champion. She won the U.S. junior title in 2015 and the bronze medal at Bridgestone Skate America earlier this season. Her short program score of 73.79 at the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships marked a new U.S. record.

Mirai Nagasu is the 2018 U.S. silver medalist. She won the U.S. ladies title in 2008 and placed fourth at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is the second American woman in history to land a triple Axel in international competition.

Karen Chen is the 2018 U.S. bronze medalist. She won the U.S. ladies title in 2017, and is the 2015 U.S. bronze medalist. Her fourth-place performance at the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships secured three ladies spots for the United States at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.

Alternates for the 2018 Olympic Team have been named as Ashley Wagner (first alternate), Mariah Bell(second alternate), and Angela Wang (third alternate).

After the press conference, Tennell, Nagasu & Chen sat down for press interviews for about 30 minutes. Here are about, in total, 5 minutes of video clips:

Note: I focused on Chen since I wanted to ask, but didn’t get a chance, to see – if she knew – if she was possibly the first Taiwanese American to represent the United States for women’s individual figure skating.

Karen Chen takes Third in US Figure Skating Nationals but Can’t Represent US Internationally

FIGURE SKATER KAREN CHEN15 year old Karen Chen of Fremont, California took third in the US Figure Skating Nationals held last month in North Carolina.  In instance that reminds me of what happened last year with Mirai Nagasu, she cannot compete internationally at the Senior World Championships in Shanghai because of how the sport’s rules are applied.  The San Jose Mercury News recently published a profile on Chen that revealed her inspirations and the sacrifices that she and her parents make to enable her to compete at that level.

Continue reading “Karen Chen takes Third in US Figure Skating Nationals but Can’t Represent US Internationally”

#MiraiEarnedIt: Why the Snub Will Still Matter, Even After the Olympics Are Over

Mirai and an official photographer wipe tears off Ashley's face at Nationals (Photo credit: Washington Post)
Mirai and an official photographer wipe tears off Ashley’s face at Nationals (Photo credit: Washington Post)

By Eugene Hung

“Not being chosen to represent the United States at the Olympic Games in Sochi and at the 2014 World Championships in Japan has been extremely disappointing to me, and it has been very difficult for me to process. … [It] was devastating and I remain confused by US Figure Skating’s decision.”

So said Mirai Nagasu via Facebook comments posted around 3 A.M. on January 30, breaking her long English-language media silence on the controversy we’ve followed for four weeks. (She had spoken briefly to Japanese network Fuji TV while at the Four Continents Championships in Taiwan.)

She’s not the only one who’s confused. Her numerous supporters, along with many journalists, longtime figure skating observers, and figure skating fans, have also been shaking their heads, trying to make sense of it all.

Of course, no one, least of all Mirai, is confused about how U.S. Figure Skating officials justified their decision to leave her off both the Olympic and World Championship teams. Her third-place finish at Nationals was never, according to U.S. Figure Skating’s rules, going to guarantee her a place on them. The decision was based on a comparison of each skater’s 2013-14 “body of work,” meaning each skater’s results in certain major competitions during that time period.

So on this, no one is confused; U.S. Figure Skating officials were operating within their rights when they left Mirai off those teams. The skating federation’s powerful International Committee Management Subcommittee (ICMS), the nine-member group that actually makes the selections, did indeed follow their rules, based on the letter of their law.

2014-02-20-MiraiNagasu
photo credit: nabechiko29 via photopin cc

You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got … (Crickets)
But did they follow the spirit of their law? Was their decision-making process truly fair and ethical? That’s the big question. And this is where things get confusing, because the big question raises many additional questions, none of which have answers yet. Questions like:

Continue reading “#MiraiEarnedIt: Why the Snub Will Still Matter, Even After the Olympics Are Over”

Mirai Nagasu Joins the U.S. 2010 Olympic Women Figure Skating Team

Over the weekend, Arcadia, California native and sixteen year old Mirai Nagasu came in second place in the 2010 US Figure Skating Championship to secure a spot on the U.S. women’s figure skating team for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Earlier in the week, Nagasu came in first during the short-program competition (see video). Ever since I was a kid and watched Dorothy Hamill skate, I’ve always enjoyed watching the sport. I’ll never forget when I got to see Michelle Kwan skate live in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics short program. She came in first at this event, later capturing the bronze overall.

Also over the weekend, The New York Times did an interesting story on the propensity of Asian American and Asian women to dominate the sport of figure skating:

“Eight of the 23 women scheduled to compete Saturday in the long program at the United States championships were Asian-Americans, who also excelled here among younger skaters… Without compulsory figures, skating became more like gymnastics. Jumping assumed a new urgency. Younger skaters could excel. The key to jumping is to leap high and spin quickly and tightly through two, three or four revolutions before returning to the ice. Asian skaters are often small and willowy, which can be an asset when jumping… Other cultural factors are also at play, coaches said. Discipline at home often transfers to discipline at the rink, Carroll said. Audrey Weisiger, a prominent Chinese-American coach, said: “A lot of Asian families really drive their kids, and I don’t mean in the car. They’re not allowed to be marginal.””

The article also mentions that former Olympians such as Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan have a lot to do with inspiring, especially Asian American women, to take up the sport. I’m sure that is the case and why I believe that Asian American role models outside of traditionally accepted passions, careers and vocations are important. Of course, the drive and expectations can have a negative effect as well – where Asian Americans (especially women), might feel put an inordinate amount of pressure on themselves.