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Olympic SportsSad thingsShenanigans

Controversy At National Championships Proves Once Again That Figure Skating Is Not A Sport


Before we begin, let me just say that the repercussions I’m about to face in my own household for the above headline will be much more terrifying than anything you can write, so don’t bother, figure skating fans.

In short, Ashley Wagner, the darling of the U.S. Figure Skating Association, who fell twice and finished a distant fourth today at the Nationals, was awarded an Olympic spot ahead of Mirai Nagasu (above), who finished ahead of her. Because, figure skating.

So wrong on so many levels. Here’s the explanation, from the New York Daily News:

The move set a fresh precedent for the USFSA, because the federation had never before bumped a skater after he or she placed high enough at nationals to qualify for the Winter Games. In the past, qualifying skaters from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships had only been bumped by the federation when injuries prevented top-tier competitors from performing at nationals.

USFSA president Pat St. Peter said the federation made an “objective analysis” in this decision.

Here’s what’s so terribly wrong with this:

* The competition, in Boston, was called the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Championships?

* Seriously, look at the awards ceremony below. Nagasu’s podium is higher than Wagner’s. I measured! DO THE PODIUMS MEAN NOTHING?

* If recent history is any guide, the results of figure skating can be interpreted in different ways at any time. Cheating is allowed. Bad can be good, Good can be ignored, and rules can be changed willy-nilly, with precedent meaning nothing. In other words, what we’ve got here is an icy version of this:

* A great routine is good, but never underestimate the influence of a metal pipe.

Conclusion: Figure skating is not a sport. Please replace in Olympics with new event: The Bear Downhill:

No subjective scoring here. Either you outrun the bear, or you’re lunch.


  • Ham Boner

    Thank you. To be considered a sport, the score CANNOT be subjective.

  • Totally agree

    AGREED. If figure skating really wants to be considered a sport, then it better realize that s!it happens, and that sometimes the favorite will falter at the wrong time. That’s what makes it a sport, correct?? That being said…it the USFSA has decided that skaters should be rewarded for “bodies of work” as oppposed to their performances at key competitions, then I demand that Tara Lipinski and Sarah Hughes be required to swap their Olympic gold medals with Michelle Kwan’s silver and bronze medals.

  • Anonymous

    The skaters are going to be in for a rude awakening when they go to the Olympics and they find that the judges only look at how they are doing then and there rather than their complete body of work. If they falter, they won’t be able to cry foul and go running home in tears. Also, just as a side note, it’s interesting that the skaters chosen are all young caucasian blondies….

  • Jane

    U.S Nationals are NOT a qualifier for the U.S. Olympic team. Members of the team are SELECTED by a committee based on their body of work. The fact that you rant on without even mentioning this fact means you haven’t done your homework.

  • Leidy

    If you did your homework, you would know that In the HISTORY of figure skating, a skater’s “body of work” has NEVER been considered and the federation has ALWAYS selected its Olympic candidates based on the US Championship results, unless there was an injury by a skater who could not compete. There was no injury here. Just a skater who faltered under pressure and will likely falter at the Olympics. It just so happens that this year, the NBC pet has shored up a bunch of sponsors for the Olympics. Do you really think the USFSA was going to let her get passed?

  • Louie K

    Remember Dan and Dave? One of them did not qualify for the Olympics after a huge marketing campaign, because it was fair. This here is a total disgrace.

  • Louie K

    Amen, never before.. cheating and disgraceful corruption will always have its supporters I suspect.

  • Rocker

    Once every 4 years Figure Skating is put under a microscope,
    and often there is controversy. This year is no exception. I am stunned by the uninformed mudslinging and
    outrageous accusations promoted by even reputable publications. Journalists come out of the woodwork to weigh
    in with their expert opinion. And while
    not among the most damaging accusations, there is one argument that
    consistently lands on the table: The
    argument that Figure Skating is partially subjective, and is therefore, not a
    sport. I’ve often pondered this….is the
    term “sport” a high bar that figure skating has yet to achieve? Could it get there with technology, with
    instruments that measure and record and analyze? The answer is no. ‘Sport’, by these critic’s definition, is a
    low bar that figure skating far surpasses.
    In order to make it fit into the ‘sport’ mold-the one of 100%
    objectivity- you need to apply a reductive process. You need to take the subjective part out. So what would that even look like? The old standard of precision based- figures
    comes to mind. Yawn. Unless you are truly into skating, you don’t
    want to watch that. The other
    possibilities that ramble around are absurd and a little bit funny. I picture figure skaters in speed skating-like
    unis with hoodies, careening across the ice, vaulting in the air and landing a
    perfect quadruple Lutz. An iPad spits
    out detailed analysis of speed, rotation, height, distance, etc……Or another
    idea….maybe it is a course where skaters weave through obstacles while
    performing a predetermined step sequence.
    It’s a timed event and skaters are eliminated for a missed bracket or
    choktaw. Then we could award Gold medals
    that truly mean something! Then we
    wouldn’t have controversy! Bravo, well
    done. But this won’t happen, at least
    anytime soon. Figure skating is ever-changing,
    always striving to perfect, but I, for one, hope it never becomes “just a
    sport”. So once every 4 years, if they watch the
    Olympics at all, naysayers will have to suffer through at least a portion of the
    darling event of the Winter Olympics – the one that doesn’t fit. If anyone out there is pained by it, do what
    you need to do to get through. Laugh at
    the outfits – it breaks the tension caused by the fact that you are not
    breathing because a pairs skater just landed a throw quad jump and she is now 7
    feet in the air in an impossible position and a toe pick away from disaster. Exclaim profanities when a skater falls, then
    say loudly “I told you so”. This also releases some stress. But whatever you do, do not get sucked
    in. Do not get caught up in that moment
    when one of these skaters connects with an entire arena and thereby, a worldwide
    audience. Warning: it can happen at any time, by any skater, regardless
    of gender, nationality, race, religion, creed, sexual orientation, eye color,
    skin color, or hair color. They trick
    you by wrapping heart stopping athletic ability and precision, impossible
    tricks, power, grace, choreography and perfect musical interpretation into a
    performance that is designed to tap into human emotions. Don’t look into their eyes! Don’t drink the KoolAid! Repeat the mantra: Figure skating is not a sport. Figure Skating should not be an Olympic
    event. It does not fit. And hang in there….. the Biathlon is only moments
    away.

  • becca

    What makes you think it hasn’t. The top international lady has never finished outside of qualifying position at Nationals. In 1998 though they were worried about Michelle Kwan’s foot. And Tara Lipinski was fourth in the short program. The USFSA after the short got out the selection criteria and said we can take into account other competitions folks. Tara and Michelle were 1-2 at Worlds before and they weren’t being be left out. For the past couple of years the USFSA has been harping its not just nationals. They want Wagner because her international results have been better and she has a better outside shot at medaling than Mirai does. Mirai has underperformed, and while she didn’t fall here there’s a lot of about the program she did that would be picked apart by international judges. She also came in coachless and was a bit out of shape. Other concerns. Bottom line is they think this was one competition and they have more faith in Wagner delivering at the Olympics than Mirai. And facts are that Tara, Sarah, Evan didn’t go into the Olympics as National Champs but won the Olympics. So how you perform at nationals is not the only indicator.
    As for unfair, they judged Nationals fairly (if its just top three there’s pressure on judges not to because this is a judged sport and just like in any sport, the judges know who normally are our best skaters.

    If neither Ashley or Mirai had impressive results they’d have gone with Mirai. But since Ashley distinguished herself on the international circuit they went with her.

    The USFSA wants to set this precedent now, for in the future….And the skaters were told that it would not be just Nationals.

  • Lauren

    The only reason the US even gets to bring three skaters is because of Wagner and Gold’s placement at international competition. It is not a given, as we only had two slots four years ago. Those two girls were practically guaranteed spots on the team, and the US nationals were just a fight for the third slot. This logic by no means makes it less of a sport. If you were having auditions for a football team and peyton manning didn’t do great that day, wouldn’t you still pick him?

  • Truly S.

    The author of this article: typical male sportswriter jackass.

  • Truly S.

    Yeah, because we know referees, umpires and officials in other sports never contribute subjective judgments that result in changed scores and outcomes of REAL sports.

    Excuse me while I choke with laughter.

  • Truly S.

    Do you know what a technical specialist is? Do you know they use replay now to determine whether jumps were properly rotated? They do, you know. Just saying.

  • Ham Boner

    You score actual, objective points. They have actual reviews to ensure that. The ref/u,p/official doesn’t see a touchdown, Homerun, goal and say I give that 3 points and the other official gives it only 2. It has a set point value independent of the official. Sad that I had to explain that to you.

  • Ham Boner

    Doesn’t matter, if one official says it was worth a certain score and the others say it was worth a different score. Real sports have actual, objective point values. Not scores made up in the elitist minds of the individual.

  • Truly S.

    Figure skating is scored using actual, objective points. They have actual reviews to ensure that, too. For reference, please open the PDF here: http://www.isu.org/en/single-and-pair-skating-and-ice-dance/special-regulations-and-technical-rules It will explain the concept of “base values.” In other words, various grade-of-execution points are added to very objective point values assigned to each element. Judges don’t simply decide to give the element this number of points or that number of points without a base value for completion of the element being involved first. It has a set point value independent of the official.

    You will note that I explained this to you without making a snide remark about how “sad” it is that you posted a comment on it without being knowledgeable on the topic. I ask the same courtesy of you should you choose to reply again.

  • Truly S.

    First, the skaters are all well aware that when they go to the Olympics, all that matters (or should matter in the awarding of medals) is how they skate at the Olympics. Second, it’s quite coincidental that the ladies’ skaters chosen for this team are all “young caucasian blondies”–given that this has not been the case in the past. (Those who think USFS somehow has it in for Asian Americans might want to consider that Asian Americans won nearly 30% of the medals at the national championships, and that 3 of the 15 US Figure Skating Olympic team members are Asian American.)

  • Truly S.

    They don’t do that. Skating elements have actual, objective base values. Not scores made up in the elitist minds of the individual. See my comment above and educate yourself.

  • O rly

    if you win based on scoring objective points it is a sport.
    if you win based on points awarded by judges opinions its a talent show.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Chandler, you are an extremely perceptive individual. Maybe you can take a little (and I do mean a little) comfort in knowing that it is not as bad as 30-40 years ago. Where they merely jimmied the scores behind the scenes to send who the wanted on. Now, they just do it shamelessly in plain view!

  • Anonymous

    Don’t put sugar on a turd and call it candy. Anyone who looks past skin deep knows the truth, as apparently the writer of this article has done.

  • sdfasdf

    There should be gay couples only in this non-sport. Freaks and midgets to the front. All fat people should be forced to watch. Nobody enjoys dance longer than four seconds, skate or no skate. Thumb wrestling is more competitive. I second The Bear downhill–this is real mens’ sport. That is all.

  • Skip P.

    So scores are exactly the same? Why “add” points to anything? Are athletes in non-judged sports awarded more points if they or the ball crosses the goal line with a distinctive panache? Are sequin counts important in any other “sport”? You can have a rule book for just about anything, that still doesn’t change what is an athletic exhibition into a sport.

  • Meghan

    Figure skating is not just based off of one performance. They want people who will win. They want strong skaters not people who take breaks in between each element. Ashley Wagner is a stronger candidate for the Olympics. Just because there is controversy about this doesn’t make it not a sport. Each sport has it’s issues. If people spend their lives training and they are an athlete, it is a sport. Also, it’s in the Olympics… I’d say it’s a sport. If you are not a figure skater, you shouldn’t be saying what isn’t true.

  • Corinthia

    Yes, you all are so so right! If US Nationals doesn’t solely determine teams for Olympics, why even have them…

    And it’s not the only example; consider NCAA and ACC basketball championships. They have this crazy “bracket” thing that comes out every March to select and seed the teams for the NCAA tournament, and this bracket is determined by a ***committee*** behind closed doors!

    And, some conferences have the gall, in the days immediately preceding the big reveal of this bracket, to hold a conference championship. But, just like US Nationals in figure skating, the conference championship is NOT the sole critierion for whether a team makes it to NCAA final tournament or how they are seeded! Sometimes there is this huge upset in the ACC championships, and if the teams were ranked far apart nationally previously… why the “loser” might still come out ahead with a good spot in the bracket, and the “winner” if they had a low rating to begin with might still not get a great seeding, or maybe not even make the cut for the final NCAA championship at all. And just like you guys say, if the selection for the final tournment isn’t *solely* decided by the conference championships, then these conference champiionships are a clearly not a valid champsionship and it’s a mystery why they even televise them. and people waste time watching them…

    And if NCAA basketball isn’t a sport, then certainly NCAA football isn’t. There it’s even crazier, with this BCS business. Here again, they have the nerve to hold and televise conference championships, and while the winner of some conferences automatically gets a bowl bid, it is still possible for the conference loser to get a better bowl bid if they were ranked far better previously. Oh, this whole ranking is determined partly by a computer gets and partly by a poll! So like you guys say, NCAA football conference championships are also nothing but a waste of time since they don’t solely determine who gets the best bowl bids…

  • S. Shah

    Figure skaters are some of the mo

  • S. Shah

    Figure skaters are some of the most athletic people on the planet (just behind gymnasts in my opinion). Unfortunately, the rules make determination of a winner subjective which is why it is not a sport (sorry, but same goes for gymnastics).

    Many people like Corinthia will say things are always subjective like foul calls in basketball or football placement for first downs. The difference is while subjectivity in those sports can drastically affect the outcome, there is no subjectivity in scores. You may inaccurately be awarded a touchdown or included in the NCAA tournament. But the touchdown counts for 6 points no matter how graceful the score. Inclusion in the NCAA tournament as a 1 seed does not mean you get 5 points for every basket.

  • John Stevens

    In my mind figure skating is not sport because
    In true sports no one cares how you look when scoring points. In racing you either cross the finish line first or you don’t. In wrestling you pin the opponent or get pinned, in javelin you throw the furthest, in basketball the ball goes in the basket or it doesn’t. In real sports there is no consideration given to music selection, concern about pretty uniforms or interpretve dance etc…

    Calling figure skating a sport is like calling ballet a sport.
    Olympic Figure skating is an amazing and athletic event, but it is dancing on ice.
    You can require moves and try to make the scoring look objective, but we all know it’s not. It’s an art, not a sport.

  • John Stevens

    To make fight skating a sport just remove the silly uniforms, music and dancing
    And make it an obstacle course where athletes jump for distance and height, skate for speed and have to perform certain moves and actually skate required paths (“figures”) in a certain amount of time. Done.
    The winner is the one who completes the moves, clears the obstacles, jumps the required distance and finishes the course the fastest. Done!

  • John Stevens

    Typical female touchy feely response.

  • Gary

    No activity is a sport for spectators. The Olympics are entertainment. That is why NBC ruined the Olympics by badgering a metal winners to tears. The outrageous stunt increased viewzhip and advertising income. Ruined but still profitable.

  • theregoesanotherolympics

    Well, didn’t little miss I. Belong. Here. Get. Over .It. do us all so proud with her pouting and temper tantrums….she also seems to have forgotten that HER federation ‘chose’ her for the team over a clearly superior athlete on the night it counted….otherwise, why were the commentators bemoaning what a tragedy…she was skating the most important skate of her career…but then segwayed off into how much she deserves to go to the Olympics and oh, my she has already earned it….after which they proceeded to pick Miria’s skate apart….Wags and her makeup bag were already Sochi bound before that farce of a nationals was ever held….the USFSA expected her to stay on her feet ***how DARE they ask so much of a delicate little princess..prima dona*** and then were blindsided by Mirai’s success. What to do….oh, dear what do to….the commercials are made and Wagner spent weeks packing her makeup bag….what to do what to do? OK….we’ll screw Mirai over…that’s what we’ll do and then we’ll sidestep the issue and talk about a ‘body of work’…..yeah, that’s it…the team was chosen and I am pretty sure that Wags knew she was on the team right after she skated…she isn’t the type to smile and wave when she loses….or for that matter when she isn’t scored as she expects….hey, I’m pretty, and have a bouncy pony tail, wear lots of makeup…..I deserve very high scores just for gracing the ice. And doesn’t everybody just love my butt…you got a whole lot of viewing of it at Nationals….
    Since the Worlds appear to be this year’s excuse when the body of work one rings hollow and like the BS it is….Gracie Gold and Wags’ combined scores gave the USA a third spot….follow that line of reasoning and why should Wags have to even bother to skate at Nationals? I mean seriously that mess and splatfest couldn’t have figured into her ‘body of work’ so let her rest and just watch lest she hurt her dainty self or smudge her layers and layers of makeup….oh, wait…..another dilemma….since Gracie was just as much a part of gaining three spots as Wags she shouldn’t have to skate either….hmmm…..now what? Well, SCREW Mirai. Polina had every right to be on that team and shouldn’t have been bumped as some are saying (and there was talk of a lawsuit by those not so intimidated and impressed with the rule that the USFSA pulled out of their butts)….the three Olympians are Gracie, Polina, and Mirai. Now Wagner has the GALL to gripe about the scoring in Sochi and how DARE they put someone who FELL above her…..what a conceited arrogant snot nosed entitled in her own mind wench…a total disgrace to our country and Olympic team….rides a stolen dream and then complains….we’ll never know what Mirai could have done but we do know that she was VERY close to the podium in Vancouver…a Canadian with a sob story took the bronze….
    I’ll bet that none of the picture of Whiny Wagner will make a Cover Girl ad any time soon….she’s just a bratty little snot who stole Mirai’s dream…she could have sucked it up….declined the spot….played fair and with integrity….nope, far far too vain, and greedy greedy greedy!!! No, figure skating is NOT a sport…it has been declining in popularity in the US for a long time and this just totally demolished any credibility…..

  • theregoesanotherolympics

    Well, Wagner is crying foul all over the news….seems to have forgotten that SHE.DID.NOT.BELONG.THERE.AT.ALL.PERIOD. Her whining and sniveling about how she got gypped….if it weren’t so pathetically stupid on her part it would be well….pathetically stupid….seriously Wagner??? **You’re** complaining about the lack of fair play?? Hey, I have a brilliant idea…go find Mirai Nugasu and cry on her shoulder.

  • Figure skatin for life

    So if its ” Not a sport” , which would mean that it didn’t take tons of physical and mental strength, I would like to see all you figure skating haters jump and turn your body in the air four times, and land on a blade less than an eighth of an inch on one leg. And when our done, while your eyes are sitll crossed I’ll ask you if you can tell me what side of the rink your on.

  • Figure skatin for life

    Im just want to know if those who are against it being a sport have ever tired it? Or even PLAY a sport. What makes you an aficionado on Figure skating. I have been in the SPORT for many years and I have also done many other so called SPORTS. If you ask me your responses are nothing but crap that you probably copy and pasted from the internet. Why dont you do your homework on the physical and mental conditioning that goes into figure skating. Take your head out of your butt and do some research. That way you might actually know what your talking about.


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