Around the Horn: Revisiting the Ashley Wagner / Mirai Nagasu Controversy

Nagasu

Offender Phil already blogged last week about the Ashley Wagner / Mirai Nagasu US Skating scandal, but I wanted to revisit this again and get some different opinions from the Offender bullpen.

But first, a quick recap: Ashley Wagner, with her photogenic blonde and All-American visage performed terribly last weekend during the US olympic trials, while Mirai Nagasu performed a harder routine and had higher scores. But Nagasu, who took the bronze home over the weekend and finished just off the podium at the 2010 Olympics, was left off the team, despite finishing ahead of Wagner in Boston. More drama ensued when NBC reported during its broadcast that Nagasu would appeal the decision, but the 20-year-old has since decided to back down.

There are accusations of racism, corporate greed and media image over the past few days. With Kim Yuna of Korea returning, and a strong Japan team, there were even theories that the US committee and NBC felt that the American public would confuse Nagasu with the “other Asians.”

Or was it a big picture / the forest from the trees assessment of Wagner’s overall record over Nagasu? And why do you think Nagasu has backed down and is not fighting for her “rightful” spot? Or do you even care?

QUENTIN: The Olympics always provokes a complicated response from me until I’ve finally decided to cheer for everyone. As a kid, we cheered for Hong Kong. Then we cheered for Canada. Then now the US. I might as well cheer for everyone regardless of his/her nationality.

ROGER: The whole issue is just strange. I was always under the impression that U.S. Olympic Trials was just that – a contest to pick who would make up the official olympic team roster depending upon their podium placement. It’s like that for many other olympic sports, winter or summer, right? I’m sure there are many reasons for why Nagasu, who won/earned her place to be on the olympic team, is not going to Sochi (past performance, national rankings, consistency, etc. when compared to Wagner). But for me, it’s a head-scratcher – what’s the point of olympic trials then? You follow the rules, work your butt off, qualify for the olympic team and then you don’t qualify for the olympic team. This “occurrence” must be a soul-crusher for Nagasu. An appeal is warranted. But I’m sure after a lot of family and team discussion and advice from professional experts, appealing could ultimately backfire on Nagasu because such an action, so close to Sochi, could be seen as tarnishing the olympic spirit and taint the future reputation of Nagasu. It’s an unfortunate and tough position for this 20 year old skater to be in. Hopefully she can rebound from this and continue to find her joy for skating.

ALFREDO: I hadn’t heard about this controversy until you mentioned it, Anderson. Up here in the Bay Area, I think we have a very different, perhaps skewed, view, of the topic of “race/performance/recognition.” I tutor kids at Berkeley High, and about two months ago we had been working on college application essays. After class, I overheard two of the students, both Asian, although one was clearly of mixed origin – talking in the hall.

Clearly Asian: “Do you think you’ll really be able to get away with putting down ‘caucasian’ on your UC app?”

Possibly Asian: “I hope so.”

IRIS: I feel devastated for Nagasu. It does seem a bad message to send if one performs well when it counts most and then is denied their opportunity. However, I don’t think it was racism. To be fair, although the event in question is often considered the Olympic trials, it was actually the “US Nationals,” which they hold every year. Taking into consideration the two skaters’ past performances, the figure skating committee probably decided that giving Nagasu a spot would give her a nice opportunity to participate in the Olympics, but giving Wagner a spot would give the U.S. a chance at actually medaling and that’s what it’s all about. It’s such a hard, cut-throat life to be an Olympic hopeful. I knew a swimmer in high school who trained daily for most of her life for it, commuting from Cerritos to Mission Viejo, and had medals up the wazoo, but never actually made it to the Olympics.

EMMIE: Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about the Olympic trials (or Wagner & Nagasu). I’ve been under the impression that they’re absolute in deciding the U.S. teams, but perhaps current rankings and past performances are also factors, like Roger suggested? I definitely feel for all Olympic hopefuls and athletes – so much sacrifice and (often) heartbreak involved.

PHILIP: Already wrote about this issue, though I’m inclined to believe that Wagner was chosen more for her “marketability” than out-and-out racism. Based on her prior performance, I’m sure the powers-that-be were certain that Wagner would make the cut and were planning accordingly and when that plan was dashed–well, can’t let a little thing like your sure thing not coming through stop you from your original plans, right?

And Alfredo, if this is the first time you’re hearing of this controversy, that means–gasp–you don’t read my blogs. I’m hurt. (sounds of lone tear falling down my cheek).

BEVERLY: I call bullsh*t!!!!! It infuriates my scientific side which says a+b=c, and how a group of people can say otherwise. I never did like figure skating because the scores are beholden to opinion and opinion is subjective. I totally think Nagasu was jilted. And although my opinion is objective (just as much as the Olympic committee who chose Wagner), to me it’s a case of the ‘pretty girl wins again’ and ‘pretty’/’marketable’/’approachable’/etc must still mean ‘white’. I understand why Nagasu didn’t submit an appeal (she may want to continue in the sport and these people hold the keys to that door), but she deserves to. And if she doesn’t and doesn’t want to continue in it, a nice tell-all book is in order. >:(

4 thoughts on “Around the Horn: Revisiting the Ashley Wagner / Mirai Nagasu Controversy

  1. I would be devastated, too, Phil – EXCEPT – you didn’t factor in that I was just pulling a double cross to see if you – sniff sniff – cared about whether I read your blogs or not. Now that I see you do, there’s no need for you to make the apology I was prepared to demand of you. Congrats, you passed the test!

  2. Like you, Roger, I want to think that there has been a fair process that most people can’t see, and maybe we’re all jumping into conclusions. (Did I just say that? Ohforgodssake! Unfair! Dodgy! Dodgy dodgy dodgy dodgy! There) But maybe Beverly is right, too.
    Now, Philip and Alfredo, you two are ridiculously funny! Hahahaha!

  3. What I’m surprised everyone has failed to mention is one VERY important component to this year’s Olympic team nominations.

    It is one of the main points that makes this so controversial. United States Figure Skating claims that they chose Ashley Wagner for the Olympic team despite her placing behind Mirai Nagasu at the Olympic trials because of her better “body of work.” However, this criteria was not applied to Polina Edmunds, also chosen for the Olympic team. Polina Edmunds placed 2nd at the Olympic trials, but that competition was her first EVER senior level competition. Her record as a qualifying skater was zero before Nationals because she had only previously competed at the junior level. So if better “body of work” is the criteria the United States Figure Skating association chose the team by, why was Polina Edmunds chosen over Mirai Nagasu?

    The better “body of work” criteria that was applied to Ashley to get her onto the Olympic team, was ONLY applied to Ashley.

    Aside from this, I believe the second most important factor to point out (which you’ve already blogged about, but I’d like to overview) is that the top 3 placers at the Olympic trials have been chosen for the Olympic team EVERY year in history. The only exceptions have been competitors with injuries. Why is this year any different?There is no real explanation, and Ashley’s better “body of work” is not a consistent argument, as I’ve already pointed out.

    For everyone reading this and motivated to help – it is not to late to fight for justice for Mirai Nagasu.

    The nominations of the Olympic team made by the United States Figure Skating association still have to be approved by the United States Olympic Committee’s Board of Directors first. The nominations, at least those of the U.S. figure skating team, are not finalized until January 27th, 2014.

    One thing you can do is tweet and email the US Olympic Committee Board before they finalize their decisions in approving U.S. Figure Skating’s Olympic team.
    Here is a list of Twitter accounts and email addresses of members of the US Olympic Committee’s Board of Directors. There are sample emails and tweets provided so you can just copy and paste, easy as that! What we are asking is that the USOC hold off on approving the nominations of the U.S. figure skating team until the United States Figure Skating association answers the many allegations that NBC and corporate sponsors influenced their decision in choosing the team.

    Their contact info is here: http://www.asiancemagazine.com/2014/01/21/one-more-chance-to-help-mirai-nagasu

    If you are reading this and are willing to take a stand, please take just a few moments to help. Even just copying and pasting a tweet will only take a minute and could contribute in making a big impact.

    Another thing you can do is sign this petition to get the United States Figure Skating president to reconsider their decision:
    http://www.change.org/petitions/u-s-figure-skating-president-patricia-st-peter-send-mirai-nagasu-to-sochi?share_id=twBMdJnvZe&utm_campaign=twitter_link_action_box&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=share_petition#MiraiEarnedIt

    As of January 22nd, it’s been signed by 5,004 people!

    We still don’t know if Ashley was chosen over Mirai due to racism, favoritism, commercialism, etc. but as a person who is both Asian-American and can see the injustice in this decision made by United States Figure Skating, I know I am more than willing to take a stand and will do everything in my power to fight for justice for Mirai.

    I can only hope that all readers of this comment will do the same.

    YOMYOMF, I can only hope that my comment stands out here and has painted a clearer picture of this injustice for you. I can only hope you that you spread the word and take a stand for our fellow Asian-American.

    Thank you for your time,
    Sabrina

  4. Pingback: Don’t Cry for Me Yuna Kim | You Offend Me You Offend My Family

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