USA’s figure skating team includes fresh faces and Olympic veterans with strong medal potential.
The U.S. will send three ladies, three men, three ice dance and one pairs team to Pyeongchang. The number of Olympic slots for each country is determined by finishes at last year’s World Championships. The U.S. skating team includes only five returning Olympians; the remainder of the 14-member contingent will make their Olympic debuts in Pyeongchang.
Olympic gold medal favorite Nathan Chen continued his undefeated season by winning his second U.S. National championships, which double as the Olympic Trials. Known for his consistent ability to whip off quadruple jumps, Chen made history at last year’s nationals as the only man to complete seven quadruple jumps (two in his short program, and five in his long program).
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A top three finish at the trials does not guarantee a spot on the Olympic team, as the selection committee also considers a skater’s performance in the previous season’s international competitions as well. That helped Adam Rippon, who finished fourth at the Trials after singling two planned triple jumps. Given his international standings in the past season, however, he was named to the Olympic team in place of second-place finisher Ross Miner. Young talent Vincent Zhou, who has the ability to spin off multiple quad jumps in a single program, as Chen does, rounds out the squad.
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On the ladies side, newcomer Bradie Tennell continues to steal the spotlight. Tennell, the U.S. junior champion in 2015, earned her first senior national title. She had been sidelined by stress fractures in her back in 2015, but returned this year with a breakout performance in November at Skate America —her first international competition — to earn bronze and ignite hopes for an Olympic berth. A consistent jumper, Tennell has the technical prowess to propel her to the Olympic podium in February.
She will travel to Korea with Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen. Nagasu, among the few ladies attempting the challenging triple axel jump, competed in the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, and finished third at the Olympic Trials in 2014, but was left off the team in favor of Ashley Wagner, who finished fourth at the time. This time, Wagner again finished fourth and was named as the first alternate to the team.
Karen Chen, last year’s national champion, has had a rocky season, and finished third to make her first Olympic team.
In ice dance, reigning national champions Maia and Alex Shibutani couldn’t retain their national title, finishing second, but made their second Olympic team. They are joined by new U.S. ice dance champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Olympic vets Madison Chock and Evan Bates.
Alexa and Chris Knierim, the married pairs team, won the pairs title and earned the sole U.S. spot in that event for Pyeongchang. The couple has had a strong season after returning from a year off the ice following Alexa’s abdominal surgery last year.
The full U.S. figure skating team for the Pyeongchang Olympic Games:
Madison Chock and Evan Bates
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue
Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani
Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim
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