E News All Sports’ Christine Brennan looks ahead to the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships that will help to decide who will represent Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen battled their way to likely spots on the 2018 United States team for the Winter Olympics by overcoming turmoil — both long-standing and immediate.
With Bradie Tennell comfortably winning the women’s event at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at SAP Center on Friday night, which serves as a de facto trials for Pyeongchang next month, two further spots were up for grabs.
Nagasu, who was haunted by missing out on the team for Sochi in 2014, held her nerve when it mattered most and placed second. Chen, 18, in third, looks to have clinched a place despite having been bedridden with an undiagnosed virus for most of the previous day.
The only feasible alteration to the top three would be if Ashley Wagner, the fourth-place finisher and 2014 Olympian, was elevated at the expense of Nagasu or Chen. Four years ago, Wagner finished in the same position and was advanced onto the team ahead of Nagasu, then the U.S. bronze medalist.
Such an outcome is far less likely this time and would cause an uproar within skating if it did take place. Chen was the skater who ensured the Americans will have three women’s places in Pyeongchang by coming in fourth at the world championships and held strong even while feeling weakened.
“I was very sick yesterday, I couldn’t practice,” Chen said. “I spent the whole day speaking to one doctor or another and I was extremely worried. I am so proud that I was able to forget about all of the pain and remind myself that I would keep fighting to the end and not let some stupid sickness win.”
Nagasu, 24, came in fourth at the 2010 Games in Vancouver and was devastated to be passed over in 2014. This time around, she is correctly confident that she has done enough.
“The decision hasn’t been made yet so there is always a chance I will be skipped over,” Nagasu said. “For things to come to fruition tonight makes me really emotional. I really feel like the comeback kid and I can’t wait for the decision.
“Things have been very hard but I have stayed strong and battled through and have had to make myself realize that this is all part of the journey.”
The selection committee will announce its choice Saturday morning.
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