The path to making any Olympic team seems pretty self-explanatory. Compete well, win as often as possible or at least collect a multitude of medals, be consistent – done deal, right? Not in figure skating. Never and especially not this year. The Turin Games are set to begin next month and one thing is pretty much set in stone, Mao Asada, arguably the best skater to grace ladies skating, will not be there. Despite her triple axels — a history-making two in the same program at the recent Japanese national championships — Asada is too young, according to the International Skating Unions rules.
U.S.Nationals are taking place this week in St. Louis with medalists vying for spots on the Olympic Team. Michelle Kwan withdrew from the competition due to a groin injury.
“I am deeply disappointed that I will not be at nationals,” Kwan said. “It’s always been my favorite event, especially in an Olympic year, and I was really looking forward to competing. I had been skating very well before the injury, and both my doctor and I feel that I can get back to that level and be completely ready for the Olympics. For that reason I am petitioning for a spot on the team.”
In ladies figure skating, Michelle Kwan is like an institution. She is the one that all of the current young up-and-comers wanted to emulate. She is the cornerstone of American skating and has been for over a decade now. I can’t argue with her nine national titles and five victories at the world championships. I loved her as Salome’ and had butterflies during her 1998 Olympic performances. I was once a big fan but now I think it is time for her to begin to let go just a bit.
I know I’m risking evoking the wrath of die-hard Kwan fans, but let’s be honest, she isn’t at the top of even her own game. Hasn’t been for a long time. Her competitive showings have been rare over the last few seasons and they seem hand-picked.
I just have to ask, would any other athlete with sketchy performances and several injuries even think that they might be awarded an Oympic team spot? Isn’t an Olympic berth supposed to be earned?
The writing has been on the wall for awhile now. Maybe it’s time for Kwan to actually read it and make room for those little girls that used to pick up her flowers off the ice. It’s their turn in the spotlight.