The return of America to the Olympic podium in girls’s determine skating received’t be for not less than one other 4 years. The three feminine U.S. skaters competing within the 2018 Winter Video games completed on Friday no higher than ninth.
It was, in accordance with one longtime determine skating reporter, collectively the worst efficiency by the nation’s girls determine skaters — ever.
“I’m extraordinarily disillusioned, I’m not going to lie,” Karen Chen instructed the press after her free skate within the remaining on Friday afternoon (Thursday evening stateside).
“I do know I’ve educated myself to skate higher than that,” Chen stated, “and never with the ability to ship is a large let-down for myself and everybody who supported me.”
Chen, 18, competed for Group USA together with 24-year-old Mirai Nagasu and 20-year-old Bradie Tennell.
All three have been nationwide champions at one level or one other, however none of them skated cleanly within the particular person occasion, held over two days in Gangneung, South Korea. Chen completed 11th, Nagasu 10th and Tennell got here in ninth, solely a small change from how they had been positioned after the quick program on Wednesday heading into Friday’s free skate.
Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva, Olympic athletes from Russia, took gold and silver, whereas Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond earned bronze.
It was a stark reversal of the ends in skating group occasion practically two weeks in the past, when the U.S. earned bronze partly because of Tennell and, much more so, Nagasu.
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Maybe the brightest hope for the Individuals within the girls’s particular person occasion was that Nagasu would land the difficult triple axel leap, having made historical past when she did so within the earlier skating group occasion on the Video games. She was the primary American lady to tug off such a feat on the Olympics.
However Nagasu fell on her second attempt, in her quick program earlier this week, and appeared to vary her thoughts a couple of third try on Friday whereas she was mid-leap, in what is known as “popping” a leap.
Whereas U.S. determine skaters have traditionally been dominant within the girls’s particular person occasion — incomes 23 of its 75 medals for the reason that trendy Olympics started a century in the past — no American has made it onto the rostrum there since 2006. The final gold-medal winner was Sarah Hughes, in 2002.
Such a decline has been the topic of a lot scrutiny inside the sport, with one of the crucial current contributions coming from the ladies’s 1998 Olympic gold medalist, Tara Lipinski.
She wrote in a New York Occasions column on Monday about how determine skating must be reworked to encourage feminine skaters to be extra technically adventurous at a youthful age, in order to maintain tempo with opponents in Japan, Russia and elsewhere.
However that can be for the long run. On Friday, the U.S. girls’s skaters every spoke with reporters about their Olympic performances.
Nagasu spoke candidly and with blended feelings about her three Olympic skates in Korea, together with that early medal win.
“I saved the group occasion with Adam [Rippon] and the [ice dancing siblings Alex and Maia] Shibutanis. We had been about to lose our medal,” she stated earlier than pulling her bronze out of her jacket. “So in the present day I put my medal in my pocket — right here she is — and I stated, ‘Mirai, you’ve performed your job already and that is all simply icing.’ And it has been so emotionally draining, however that is what I wished.”
“I’m happy with what I did,” she stated, including, “Possibly it received’t be sufficient for an additional particular person or possibly another person may have performed a greater job, however I didn’t again down. And though I received zero factors for my try on the triple axel, in my thoughts I went for it, so it’s unlucky that I hit a rut in the present day. However I’m happy with what I did.”
Requested why it appeared the American girls may not deal with a robust Olympic efficiency, Nagasu pushed again on the query. She famous that Canada’s Gabrielle Daleman, who earned a gold medal within the group occasion final week, additionally had a weak free skate on Friday.
Nagasu then started talking extra broadly about her expertise at these Video games, which opened with that thrilling team-medal win after which … saved going.
“I really like competing as a part of a group,” she stated. “But additionally it’s been a protracted, lengthy journey, and we’ve had so many different commitments and you realize — I wouldn’t change it for the world. We went to the Group USA Home [an American athlete lounge] on the lunar vacation out right here and it took 4 hours simply to get to the mountain. And I additionally haven’t taken a heat bathe as a result of there are lots of people on Group USA and by some means I maintain making an attempt to take a bathe when all the new water is gone.”
“However on the identical time, I wished this. I wished to be right here and I’m so blissful,” Nagasu continued. “I can also’t wait to go house and put my medal across the youngsters’ necks at house and inform them that they’ll do it too, in the event that they persevere. And I hope there are higher, brighter issues to come back, and I hope that I get extra alternatives to let my persona simply shine.”
Chen, too, spoke of the drain and disorientation of competing within the Olympics.
“It was all so model new and so completely different, and the most important change for me was not with the ability to see my mother 24/7 and for me that was one thing that I actually missed,” she stated.
She started to cry as she described what her mother’s assist has meant to her up to now.
“I wished this second to be very particular and I wished it to be a terrific second for each of us and for my household that’s been right here,” Chen stated. “And I’m simply extraordinarily grateful that she’s been at my aspect by all this time and he or she’s a part of the rationale why I’m right here in the present day.”
Echoing Nagasu, Tennell stated the expertise of those Video games had been “very exhausting,” and like Chen she stated being separated from her mom was difficult.
“Having to compete within the group occasion so early after which having to attend like two weeks nearly is — it was very, very mentally and bodily making an attempt,” she stated. “Seeing all these different athletes end their occasions and be capable to let unfastened somewhat bit after which us having to remain targeted, it was positively a problem.”
Of questions on how U.S. skaters can change to compete extra successfully on the worldwide stage, Tennell tells PEOPLE, “I can’t communicate for everyone, however for me I’m sticking round and I’m going to work as laborious as I probably can to convey us up within the rankings.”
She stated, “I feel something’s attainable, with laborious work and willpower.”
The 2018 Winter Olympics are airing stay on NBC. To be taught extra, go to teamusa.org.