It’s been on all U.S. skating fans’ minds this whole season: Who will qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team? With only one event left for skaters to prove their mettle (U.S. Nationals in San Jose at the end of the month), I thought it might be fun to share my picks in each of the disciplines. Here is the criteria that U.S. Figure Skating is using to pick the teams, shared from Olympic sports reporter Phil Hersh’s Twitter account:
— Philip Hersh (@olyphil) December 14, 2017
An important distinction to note, which began with World Team selection in 2017, is that the U.S. Champion is no longer guaranteed a berth to the Olympics or Worlds.
I had initially intended to put all four disciplines in one post, but after writing more than 600 words on the men alone, I decided to split it into more than one post. Here’s who I’d send to Pyeongchang to compete for the U.S. men, if I were the one-woman selection committee:
- Nathan Chen
Nathan will likely defend his U.S. title and become the 2018 U.S. Champion. While that doesn’t guarantee him an Olympic berth, as it did for champions in previous years, it will check all the boxes in tier 1: 2018 U.S. champ, 2017 Grand Prix Final champion, top six at 2017 Worlds. He has three gold medals for tier 2 (two on the 2017 Grand Prix Series and the 2017 Four Continents Championship), plus his 2017 national title for tier 3. There is no way he won’t go.
- Adam Rippon
Adam would have been my sentimental favorite for the Olympic team no matter how his fall campaign went, but he came back from his broken foot with a vengeance and proved that he deserves to go to this Olympic Games. Two silver medals on the Grand Prix and a spot in the Grand Prix Final, with nearly clean, solid performances each time. The quad lutz is still eluding him, but how great would it be if he pulled it off at Nationals? He checks boxes in tiers 1 and 2, plus a bronze from Finlandia Trophy for tier 3. Adam has earned his spot with calm, consistent skating, not to mention breathtaking performance quality.
- Jason Brown
Jason was the third U.S. man in the Grand Prix Final, and though he made it after an injury withdrawal by Boyang Jin, it still checks off an important tier 1 box, which has the most weight. He also grabbed 7th at World last year, helping the U.S. earn three Olympic spots alongside Nathan Chen. He was lacking some of his usual consistency on the Grand Prix (tier 2), but did earn two medals in the tier 3 Challenger Series this fall. While the consistency issues are a bit unusual for Brown, I still think his steadiness and resume based on this criteria should be enough to punch a ticket to his second Olympics — provided that he medals at Nationals. Anything off the podium at Nationals could be his undoing.
Dark Horse: Max Aaron
If Max Aaron delivers at Nationals and gets on the podium, it will make the selection committee’s decision a bit more complicated. He won the free skate at Cup of China, ahead of Mikhail Kolyada, Boyang Jin, and Javier Fernandez, none of whom were able to deliver their quads that day. Despite the hiccup of a 5th place finish at Rostelecom Cup, he also earned two Challenger Series medals this fall (tier 3). His only chance to check a box in tier 1 will be Nationals, and I’m definitely rooting for him to have a great performance. His skating has made huge strides since his 2013 U.S. title and his last Olympic campaign in 2014 — the spins, basic skating, and presentation have really improved and, if he hits his quads, Max could be a surprise medalists at Nationals.
Tough Call: Vincent Zhou
Vincent has incredible potential, but really struggled to land his quads and put out solid performances on the Grand Prix this year. It’s good to remember that he’s only 17, and this is his first full senior season. I listened to his interview on Ice Talk, and he was mature, thoughtful, and well-spoken. He’s candid about the mistakes he’s made and his goals of making this Olympic team. It’s a tough one to call, because of the potential he has with the quads, but I think he needs to get some more experience and consistency before taking the Olympic stage. But watch out in 2022.
My ladies picks will be up next! Special shout out to the website Skating Scores for making it really easy to fact check everyone’s placements this season.