U.S. Names 2022 Olympic Figure Skaters

Figure skates on ice.
Photo by Weston MacKinnon from Unsplash

When people think about the Winter Olympics, figure skating often comes to mind. Most enjoy watching the athletes dance and glide across the ice as if they’re flying to the most pristine melody. Figure skating is a difficult sport, but to these Olympians, it’s performed as if it’s second nature.

The U.S. Figure Skating Championships took place from Jan. 7-9, held in Nashville, Tennessee, where the Olympic team was announced. But quite a bit of controversy was buzzing beneath the surface when two exceptional athletes who made the podium were not picked to represent America at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

The figure skater who finishes in first place automatically reserves a spot, but it’s up to the committee to decide who follows next. In both solo figure skating competitions, there was one man and one woman who made their respective podiums but were not chosen.

On Jan. 7, the women’s standings were announced, with Mariah Bell winning first, Karen Chen gliding into second and Isabeau Levito holding on to third.

Each of these young ladies were truly exceptional, winning the audience’s hearts along the way. But the only problem? Levito was only 14 at the championships, making her unable to represent the U.S. The Olympics rule is that a figure skater must be 15 years of age by July 1 the previous year to be eligible to perform at the Olympics.

The solo figure skating teams have three spots available, one being clinched by Bell. Chen was chosen next, and Alysa Liu was the third. Liu was not able to perform at the championships due to falling ill with Covid. But the committee looks at progression over time, and Liu was at the right level to perform Olympic routines.

During the men’s competition, Nathan Chen kept his winning streak up for the sixth year in a row at the championships. Ilia Malinin came in second and Vincent Zhou placed third. But Jason Brown, a seasoned Olympic veteran from 2018, like Mr. Chen, did not make the podium standings this year and instead finished in fourth place. But the committee selected Brown as their third Olympic spot, taking Zhou along for the ride.

NBC commentator and former Olympian Johnny Weir remarked how Malinin resembled a puppy with a clumsy paw, not yet ready to perform at such a high level. Malinin’s technique was spot-on, but Weir hinted that his artistry and balance were not quite developed enough. However, the commentators pointed out that when Chen leaves the sport, Malinin will be “the next big thing” and will take the former’s place.

With the championships having come to a close, the Beijing Olympics are on their way — ready to allow these American figure skaters to shine on the world’s stage.