No bad: just good and ugly for U.S. women at world skate

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Alissa Czisny in an all-too-familiar-position in Saturday's world free skate. (Jean-Paul Pelissier / Reuters)

Alissa Czisny in an all-too-familiar-position in Saturday's world free skate, when she fell five times. (Jean-Paul Pelissier / Reuters / March 31, 2012)

Her free skate was not flawless, with errors on two jumping passes, but it still earned the second highest technical scores.

“I’m through the roof right now," Wagner said.  "I was so nervous going into it. I think I managed my nerves very well. I approached everything one step at a time. I cut out a few pieces of choreography because I was focusing on the technical elements. I did what I needed to do, and it’s huge for me.”

Wagner had taken responsibility - too much of it - for having lost the third U.S. women's spot at worlds in 2008, when she finished 16th.  (The other two skaters were as much to blame, since their 7th and 10th places also added up to more than the combined 13 points needed for three.)

Saturday, needing to finish 12th or better to keep the second spot jeopardized by Czisny's implosion, Wagner left no doubt.

That's the good part.

The bad part is the U.S. will now go a fifth season with only two women's spots, and its women's world medal drought has been extended to a new record of six seasons.  The longest previous gap since World War II, after which women's skating boomed in the United States, came in the three seasons following the 1961 plane crash that killed the entire elite of U.S. skating.

It isn't only that the rest of the world, notably Japan and Russia, is producing more talent.  (Wait until the next group of Russian women are old enough for senior worlds.)  The U.S. is producing much less.

Added to the dismal men's performance, it leaves a lot of unanswered questions about U.S. Figure Skating's leadership because the drop in results has reduced the general U.S. public's interest in the sport to an all-time low.







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