Last American Olympic Champion

layman

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I was re-watching Sarah Hughes 2002 Olympic Long Program and I realized that she's the last American Lady to win and that it has almost been 20 years since that victory.

Those Olympics were so special for her. She went in as an underdog, the 3rd American lady...a long shot to even medal. All the press and the spotlight were on the top two Americans (and honestly looking back I think the trio of Kwan, Cohen, and Hughes was as strong as the trio of Yamaguchi, Harding and Kerrigan had been a decade earlier). Sarah skated like she had nothing to lose. She was not defending anything. She just wanted to skate two clean programs (for herself as much as anything). She was so relaxed and composed...and ended up skating the two programs of her life! I think it was a transcendent moment for US (ladies) skating.

I do wonder why it has been (almost) 20 years though since a US lady has won. I don't think the federation is doing anything differently now than they did back then. Then as now, the federation put all their eggs in one basket, seemingly believing that they could only promote one "star" at a time. Sarah seemed to benefit from the neglect.

I can only hope that will work for the next American lady to step out of the shadows, shock the world and claim the spotlight.
 

Sylvia

Wishing I could go back to the Lake Placid JGP
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... was Meryl Davis/Charlie White :) (you didn't specify the discipline in your thread title :D)
 

aftershocks

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I think Sarah skated a bit tight in her 2002 Olympic sp. I don't recall her being perfectly clean in that segment, where she placed 4th. Perhaps that's why she came out more relaxed in the free program, likely feeling as if she had nothing to lose, which she didn't.

Sarah skated with freedom and joy in her fp. And she seemed to be soaking up every moment. That's an approach every athlete hopes for, but it's never easy to access.
 

Vash01

Fan of Yuzuru, Three A's, T&M, P&C
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... was Meryl Davis/Charlie White :) (you didn't specify the discipline in your thread title :D)
I was thinking of Evan Lysacek (2010) because the discipline was not mentioned in the title.
 

overedge

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IMO Sarah being the last American woman to win the Olympic gold has less to do with what's happened in the US since then and more to do with how skating has developed in the rest of the world. The competition is tougher now. Also sthere are more international competitions throughout the year - e.g. the Grand Prix series (as in those events being put into a series rather than stand-alone events), the GPF, Four Continents. Skaters outside the US have more opportunities to compete internationally and to see what the rest of the world is doing.

Also, the last US Olympic women's gold medalist being 20 years ago doesn't mean that US skating is doing something wrong. The Olympic gold is not the be-all and end-all of skating accomplishment. The US still has a very consistent record of women skaters qualifying for Worlds and Olympics, and winning other medals (e.g. Kwan, world silver 2002, world gold 2003, world bronze 2004; Cohen, world silver 2004 and 2005, Meissner world gold 2006, etc. etc.)
 
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aftershocks

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^^ Yes, that's the same thing I recently mentioned in the U.S. ladies thread. Obviously, all the major skating powers have gone through up and down periods among various disciplines over the years.

Now, there's a lot more depth around the world, rather than in only the handful of European and North American countries that dominated for so long. And as we know, the U.S. and Canada began their dominance starting in the 1950s, when they took over from European countries that were suffering in the aftermath of WWII devastation.

A number of talented European skaters and coaches also emigrated to Canada and the U.S. after the war.
 

aftershocks

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I do wonder why it has been (almost) 20 years though since a US lady has won. I don't think the federation is doing anything differently now than they did back then.
:lol: Read @overedge's post. And then check out some recent conversations in the U.S. ladies thread. The reasons why involve a combo of factors, none of which are that mysterious or head-scratching.

The whole issue has been lamented too often like a broken record, in the U.S. ladies thread.

ETA:
Then as now, the federation put all their eggs in one basket, seemingly believing that they could only promote one "star" at a time. Sarah seemed to benefit from the neglect.
The U.S. simply benefited from a deep ladies field with a dominating icon at the top for a decade. Neither Sasha nor Sarah were ever 'neglected' by U.S. fed. I don't agree with your view in that regard.
 
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kwanfan1818

I <3 Kozuka
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The first GPF was 1995-6, when Hughes was about 10, so it was around when she became a senior at the grand old age of 13. She was the 2001 and 2002 GPF bronze medalist.

There were a lot of Senior B's when she was skating, but, they were mostly in Europe and not many skaters outside Euros countries competed. It's relatively recently that 4C's countries send their skaters regularly to internationals, aside from a few select ones, mostly in the Fall, like Nebelhorn, which has been helped by the creation of the Challenger Series, where skaters earn SB scores.

Hughes never competed at 4C's back then as a senior medallist. Nikodinov did in 1999 and 2001, when she won bronze at US Nationals and medalled at 4C's. (None of the medalists did in 2000, when Nikodinov --- 4th at US Nationals -- won, and Stacey Pensgen -- 6th at US Nationals and 3rd/4th at JGPs -- won silver or in the Olympic season.)
 

layman

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I just realized that Sarah's Olympics were the last judged under 6.0. No American lady has ever won under the New Judging System. Do we think the NJS has hurt American ladies?

As @aftershocks has pointed out (many times), I think we have fine athletes who are all capable of doing well, yet I don't believe that American coaches have really served them. I don't think American coaches have kept up with the changes in scoring.

For instance, when was the last time we saw an American coach really take advantage of the NJS the way we saw Eteri (famously) do at the last Olympics by placing all Zagitova's jumps in the second half of the program?

As has been endlessly discussed, Eteri's skaters don't seem to have the best skating skills, packaging, music, spins, jumps...you don't see the same kind of "skating" excellence as we did from the Americans during the 6.0 Era, but we are no longer in the 6.0 Era and Eteri seems to know what to do and how to use the NJS to help her students win.

I believe that if an American lady (and it does not even have to be the top American lady) were to approach Eteri right now and ask to train with her (and her team), Eteri would take them (another feather in her cap). I just wonder if we have anyone willing to go train in Moscow.

If I were the US Federation, I would be on the phone with Eteri right now and say "we will give you Kolesnik, if you take one of our girls." There is literally no time to waste. 2022 is right around the corner (and 20 years is a long time).
 
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Perky Shae Lynn

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As has been endlessly discussed, Eteri's skaters don't seem to have the best skating skills, packaging, music, spins, jumps...you don't see the same kind of "skating" excellence as we did from the Americans during the 6.0 Era, but we are no longer in the 6.0 Era and Eteri seems to know what to do and how to use the NJS to help her students win.
You are all over the place. Eteri's girls are not the best at anything but they win because the coach manipulates the system? The other coaches must be incompetent or unmotivated... Or perhaps, the skaters can't execute because of how challenging such programs are?

As far as "skating" excellence goes. You are telling me that Tara & Sarah had "skating" excellence? Michelle didn't develop it overnight either. Skating excellence requires maturity. But under this system, and with Eteri's factory, skaters don't have a chance to mature. Kostornaya is as close to a whole package as we've seen in a long time. No guarantee she won't be replaced by fresher meat within two years.

And finally, why would you want American skaters to go to Eteri? One Martha Karolyi was enough.
 
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layman

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And finally, why would you want American skaters to go to Eteri?
Good point. I am torn about this. If an American skater does not go to Eteri then I am sure someone else will...perhaps it will be Young You or Kaori Sakamoto...or Evgenia.
 
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attyfan

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I just realized that Sarah's Olympics were the last judged under 6.0. No American lady has ever won under the New Judging System. Do we think the NJS has hurt American ladies?

As @aftershocks has pointed out (many times), I think we have fine athletes who are all capable of doing well, yet I don't believe that American coaches have really served them. I don't think American coaches have kept up with the changes in scoring.

For instance, when was the last time we saw an American coach really take advantage of the NJS the way we saw Eteri (famously) do at the last Olympics by placing all Zagitova's jumps in the second half of the program?
...

If I were the US Federation, I would be on the phone with Eteri right now and say "we will give you Kolesnik, if you take one of our girls." There is literally no time to waste. 2022 is right around the corner (and 20 years is a long time).
Why? Frank Carroll is American enough ... and in 2010 he (and Evan)demonstrated the advantage of back loading jumps. Why more US coaches haven't copied him, I don't know, but it is not unique to Eteri ... and considering that the USFS (along with other US athletic groups) are in enough trouble for placing medals over athlete well-being, the risk is too great.
 

VGThuy

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I think Alyssa Liu is going to do in Ladies what Nathan Chen is doing for men in that the even younger skaters and their coaches are seeing what they're doing and will follow suit. I know we had multiple quadsters before Chen but I think Chen is changing the game in American coaching. I remember the huge amount of pushback against him when he came out at 2016 Nationals with his quad routine, but now that pushback has sort of been shut down thanks to his success.
 

layman

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Why? Frank Carroll is American enough ... and in 2010 he (and Evan)demonstrated the advantage of back loading jumps.
I wonder why Carroll never applied that same thinking to any of his ladies. After all, both Mirai and Gracie came in fourth at the Olympics (while training under Carroll). I wonder what it would have taken (from a coaching perspective) to give those ladies that final "push" to get them on the podium.
 

VGThuy

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Timing? Gracie was almost World Champion in 2016. He didn't foresee Zagitova doing all of her jumps in the second half and being as consistent as she was. Med saw that but fell short in closing the TES gap. It was great that Mirai rotated her jumps in Vancouver. The scores could have gone one way to give her a bronze but it was close. Yuna Kim had the GOEs and built up the reputation for high, nearly impenetrable PCS comparatively. Mao Asada was going for 3Axels and was Kim's direct rival. Rochette had the PCS and solid jumping technique. Mirai did have the second highest TES of that LP, and did win the SP at Worlds a month later.
 

overedge

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I wonder why Carroll never applied that same thinking to any of his ladies. After all, both Mirai and Gracie came in fourth at the Olympics (while training under Carroll). I wonder what it would have taken (from a coaching perspective) to give those ladies that final "push" to get them on the podium.
The coach and the skaters can only do what they can do, and do it as best as they can. If there are better skaters, on the night or throughout the season, that's how it goes. It doesn't mean the coach and the skaters didn't do their best. There were some really good ice dancers who might have been world champions while Torvill and Dean were competing. But no one was going to beat T&D.
 

MacMadame

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I remember the huge amount of pushback against him when he came out at 2016 Nationals with his quad routine, but now that pushback has sort of been shut down thanks to his success.
It was also shut down due to him becoming a more complete skater, which it seems is very popular among the fans, sometimes more than winning.

Anyway, I think the reason US Ladies aren't always on the podium at Worlds anymore is less about coaching and more about how sports are financed in the US and also about women having more choices. That last one, in particular, is key.

I am a parent of a daughter and a son and I did start them both in figure skating lessons. However, I never really wanted them to be elite skaters. I knew my daughter would eventually be "too big" and I didn't want her to be in a sport where body image is so, so important and eating disorders or at least disordered eating run rampant. And then there is the grooming and the sexual abuse.
 

aftershocks

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I think the reason US Ladies aren't always on the podium at Worlds anymore is less about coaching and more about how sports are financed in the US and also about women having more choices. That last one, in particular, is key.
^^ +1000

ITA with @MacMadame that complex factors are involved (e.g., young athletes in the U.S. today and elsewhere have a number of different sports to choose between, many of which are less expensive than figure skating). The current situation in the U.S. ladies discipline shouldn't be looked at so simplistically. And in any case, U.S. ladies are still very competitive. Witness China's and Taiwan's successful attempts to lure some U.S. ladies with Chinese heritage to join their programs.

ITA also with @Perky Shae Lynn that @layman's comments are "all over the place." It's almost as if layman is trying to push buttons to get some kind of debate started. Or maybe layman is sincere enough, but misguided in the way she/he is looking at this topic.

I would remind layman that Eteri herself spent a number of years in the U.S. learning all she could about the U.S. training system, and apparently a great deal about the concept and practice of 'packaging' ladies skaters. Eteri utilizes a lot of 'gimmickry' but it has seemed to work, particularly for Julia Lipitnitskaya (in her memorable Schindler's List program) and for Alina Zagitova in her Olympic year senior debut with tutu and backloading galore, and in the mid-program sleight-of-hand costume changes last season for several of Eteri's skaters.

U.S. ladies have long been known for their top-notch sophisticated packaging which backed up and enhanced their technical and artistic abilities, e.g., Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Rosalynn Sumners, Jill Trenary, Debi Thomas, Caryn Kadavy, Tiffany Chin, Kristi Yamaguchi, Alissa Czisny, Sasha Cohen, Michelle Kwan. OTOH, Janet Lynn was a very organic, laid back, natural skater who didn't really require any extra 'packaging' per se. Her skating spoke for itself. She was a force of nature. In the old days, singles ladies skaters from the former Soviet Union were not very competitive, and they lacked a certain amount of sophistication in their costume selection and overall presentation. Even artistically brilliant Oksana Baiul and technically brilliant Irina Slutskaya lacked sophistication in the 'packaging' department. The more mature Maria Butryskaya brought a sense of style and panache to her skating, though she wasn't as gifted technically.

It would be helpful to gain a better sense of the historic developments, milestones, and fluctuations within the sport before tossing off over-generalizations. Many developments in figure skating have tended to be driven by politics; by television coverage starting in the 1960s; and for a short time U.S. fed enjoyed a small advantage with the ISU via tv contract leverage, which no longer exists. The integration of the sp in the early 1970s, and the elimination of figures from competition and effectively from training have both impacted the sport in ways that have never been significantly or thoughtfully examined.
 

UGG

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Sarah’s short program was terrible- she should have been like 8th going into the long program. She completely deserved all 1st place ordinal in the LP but her short should have buried her and it didn’t because the ordinals were all over the place. It’s really crazy to me that an Olympic Champ has a 10th place ordinal😂😂
 

aftershocks

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^^ An interesting observation @UGG. I tend to agree, however Sarah was talented and she had a lot of support from U.S. fed contrary to what layman said earlier. Therefore, the politics involved was in Sarah's favor, and I'm not sure there was enough deep talent from other countries to have Sarah pushed down too far in the standings in the sp. I'd have to revisit the competition for further recollection. In any case, ideally it was Michelle, Sasha, and Irina politically expected to vie for gold. With MK making the mistake on the triple flip in the fp, and Sasha and Irina both failing to skate clean and take advantage of MK faltering, the outcome was a crap shoot. Sarah entered the fp fray with nothing to lose and with stars in her eyes and the 'wind beneath her wings.' :lol: :wuzrobbed


I would be on the phone with Eteri right now and say "we will give you Kolesnik, if you take one of our girls."
Say what? :huh: :duh: NO. That's not gonna happen. Let's leave Vadym and his recent, shocking break-up with Avonley and the resultant questioning of his current status and future opportunities out of this, please.

Good point. I am torn about this. If an American skater does not go to Eteri then I am sure someone else will...perhaps it will be Young You or Kaori Sakamoto...or Evgenia.
:rolleyes: :drama: Please stop. Eteri is very popular and she deserves credit, as far as it goes, within the Russian system, which she has elevated via her knowledge gleaned from her years spent in the U.S. combined with her coaching, physical education, and choreography training, in addition to her prior competitive experience. Eteri is an accomplished coach and a compelling personality within the sport. She has succeeded largely due to her deft understanding of politics, personal discipline, psychological manipulation, and no-holds-barred mojo-in-action. None of that makes her a miracle worker nor a magician. IMO, the bottom line is that Eteri got where she is through good, old-fashioned hard work, desire, luck, aggressiveness, and applying her above-average intellect to achieving her goals.

I think Alyssa Liu is going to do in Ladies what Nathan Chen is doing for men in that the even younger skaters and their coaches are seeing what they're doing and will follow suit.
Possibly, and fair enough in terms of them both setting an example. Still, I have to point out that although Nathan was seen as being extraordinarily talented, no one could predict his amazing, groundbreaking success. He suffered from Osgood-Schlatter's disease in his teens, and the physical struggle and growing pains were real. Who would have thought he'd be able to come back and then some :kickass: from the injury he suffered at 2016 Nationals exhibition, after he'd set the men's division on notice that he was a rising star. In 2016, Nathan was assigned to attend both senior and junior Worlds (the latter where he probably would have won with health on his side; he'd have done better at jr Worlds in prior years too had he been at full strength). But he subsequently had to withdraw from those events and undergo surgery.

That layoff turned out to be a blessing in disguise because Nathan was able to use his rehab time to learn important physical regimens for preventative health and strategic training. He entered the 2016-17 season primed and eager to learn and compete as many quads as possible. If the lesser artistically talented Boyang Jin could cop a bronze at Worlds in his senior debut season flaunting a quad lutz/ triple combo, Nathan was rarin' to go and game for the challenge. Little did we really know though how quickly Nathan's star would rise-and-rise, until it all came together for him in that seminal moment at 2017 U.S. Nationals.

At this point, I wish everyone would relax a bit about Alysa Liu, and allow her talent and her promise to develop as it will in its own time, without intense pressure and over-scrutiny, and heavy over-expectations.
 
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aftershocks

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I remember the huge amount of pushback against him when he came out at 2016 Nationals with his quad routine, but now that pushback has sort of been shut down thanks to his success.
Let's be honest though that the 'pushback' was largely coming from the fans and the camp of the guys who were already on top quadsters who realized that Nathan Chen possessed the artistic talent, cool moxie, and above all MULTIPLE FREAKIN' QUADS that could beat them, hands down! At that time, the top guys were only at the point of attempting to cleanly incorporate 3 quads in a fp. Meanwhile, here's this young gun Nathan showing the world that five and six quads in a fp was not only possible, but doable with NO MISTAKES. And that mastering quads on all of the basic jumps was not 'years into the future,' but was already happening! So we started hearing whisperings that Nathan lacked PCS skills. He was still young and growing in artistry, and still defining his style. But everyone in-the-know, was aware of Nathan's artistic talent (underpinned by his ballet and gymnastics background). That talent was on full display in Nathan's 2015 junior Worlds fp to classical music, effusively praised by CBC commentators (including Kurt Browning). Looking back, it's apparent that Nathan can skate to anything: classical, blues, hip-hop, jazz, modern, show tunes, opera, rock 'n roll, popular music, or edgy experimental compositions.

The terminally behind-the-times ISU was freaked out by Nathan's quadificence too, and so they scuttled very quickly with much consternation to make changes to the scoring system, in order to maintain judging control of placement outcomes. Manipulating PCS alone was not gonna help with high-flying Nathan Chen on the senior horizon. :D LOL, suddenly Nathan's extraordinary feat grabbed the ISU's full attention. This, after the ISU had been forewarned by fans (especially me) for years that quads being so heavily over-weighted in the scoring was unfair and was causing an imbalance in the men's discipline.

As I've said many times, the ISU had already waited for far too long to figure out the impact that quads would have. They were meandering around during the 1990s and early 2000s doing nothing about the fact that numerous guys were challenging themselves with training and competing quads. Then, after Plushy's 2010 Olympics 'macho quads' hissy fit and the resulting embarrassment, the ISU unwisely responded with a hammer, enforcing the importance of quads by giving them too much point value, and also stupidly giving full credit for quads with falls, in the advent of brave Patrick Chan doing his quad + artistry thing, but not always perfectly. After their scandal-induced quad-value haste, the ISU subsequently had to rethink and re-modify, when it should have been obvious that their 'quad domination' rules changes post-2010 Olympics was an ill-advised way to go from the get-go.

In any case, it's always the hard work and talent of the athletes which underpins and drives the measure of interest and success the sport continues to marginally hold. Nathan was and is inspired by his contemporaries, and by the athletes who came before him, including Plushy, Johnny, Evan, Daisuke, Stephane, Patrick, Joshua, Jason, Yuzuru, Javi, Jeremy, Adam, Brezina, Shoma, Boyang, Kolyada, et al.
 

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