Mirai Nagasu woke up the morning after the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championship finals to the news the U.S. Figure Skating selection committee had awarded fourth place finisher, Ashley Wagner, the last spot on the Olympic team, and that she, the third place finisher, was named an alternate to the team. Nagasu’s hopes for Olympic gold were over. What happened to Mirai Nagasu reminded me of ten other female figure skaters who had their dreams of Olympic gold end in disappointment.
1.Michelle Kwan. I saw Kwan skate for the first time at the 1996 U. S. Figure Skating championships, when she performed “Salome: Dance of the Seven Veils” free skate program. Kwan is an inductee in both the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame and World Skating Hall of Fame, and winner of silver and bronze Olympic medals. The only skating honor that has eluded her is an Olympic gold medal.
2.Chen Lu. The 1992 Olympic games in Albertville, France were the coming out party for China’s, Chen Lu. Lu placed 6th at the Albertville games, and went on to win bronze medals at the 1994 Lillehammer and 1998 Nagano Olympic games. That she never won Olympic gold is a more of a commentary on Olympic judging than on Lu’s skating skills.
3.Rosalynn Sumners. Sumners competed in the era of the powerful East German, Katarina Witt. At the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics, Sumners lost the gold by 0.1 to Witt, winning the silver, her only Olympic medal.
4.Surya Bonaly. Bonaly was one of the most athletic female figure skaters on the ice during the 1990s. Her personal story is what drew my attention. An orphaned black baby born in Nice, France, adopted by a French white couple. Suraya never won an Olympic medal, finishing 5th at the Albertville Olympics, and 4th at the Lillehammer games. Bonaly’s trademark is a back flip one foot landing.
5.Midori Ito. Ito’s style of skating is not one I am a fan of, but at the same time, I admire her athleticism. Ito was the first woman to land a triple axel at an Olympic Games competition. Ito’s only Olympics appearance was at the 1992 Albertville games, where she won a silver medal.
6.Debi Thomas. In 1988, Thomas was the first black female figure skater to compete in the Olympics. Possessing a compelling presence on the ice, and good musicality, U.S. hopes were high she would win the gold. However, when Thomas missed her opening combination jumps, she had to settle for the bronze medal. Katarina Witt took the gold. Later it was revealed that Thomas was secretly married before the Olympics, which may have accounted for her lackluster Olympic performance.
7.Josée Chouinard. Chouinard is a beautiful skater, with an expressive style of free skating, became an unwilling participant in the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan drama. During the 1994 Olympics, Tonya Hardings lacings broke, and Chouinard was asked to take to the ice early. A flustered Chouinard took the ice, performing a beautiful, but flawed program. Chouinard finished 9th in the Albertville and Lillehammer games.
8.Nancy Kerrigan. Kerrigan is a picture of elegance and grace as she seemingly glides across the ice wearing skating costumes equally elegant. Kerrigan placed 3rd at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, and 2nd in the 1994 Lillehammer games. The Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan tabloid fodder has been well chronicled, but Kerrigan with a familiar grace has flown above it all.
9.Nicole Bobek. Watching Bobek skate was like watching a high wire performer walking across a tightrope with courageous desperation. At times Bobek would be skating beautifully, and then it would happen, a fall or a missed jump, and the program would fall apart. When Bobek skated with confidence, she was a spectacular and dynamic skater. Bobek came in 17th place at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, then her skating spiraled down afterwards due to injuries, and coaching changes. Bobek was arrested in 2009 on drug charges, but with the help of friends is on the road to redemption.
10.Denise Biellmann. Biellman was at the top of her game in the 1980s. What puts her on my top 10 list is her exuberant and carefree skating style. Biellmann is more famous for the Biellmann spin, a spin she invented, than for the lack of Olympic medals in her trophy case.
Be encouraged Mirai Nagasu, while you will not be a part of the 2014 Sochi games, you have a head start on the competition for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic games. And, remember your disappointment has put you in the company of some fantastic women figure skaters.