Was Mark Mitchell robbed?

When was Mark Mitchell robbed?


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  • Poll closed .

Erin

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10,215
As I've said in other threads, I've been watching a lot of 1990s skating lately and one thing that has come up a few times is that Mark Mitchell thinks that he was robbed from being on the World/Olympic team many times. The background is:

  • In 1990, Mark finished 3rd at US Nationals, when there were three spots. However, defending silver medallist Chris Bowman had withdrawn from nationals after the short program due to back issues. At the time, there was a "named skater" rule, where a federation could send the medallist from the previous year and two other skaters, but they could not just send three skaters that didn't include the medallist. So basically, USFSA could send Chris Bowman + two skaters or they could just send two other skaters. They could not have sent three skaters not named Chris Bowman. I don't remember if anyone made arguments that Mark should have finished in the top two (I haven't rewatched this event yet), but I'll throw that as an option too.
  • In 1991, Mark finished 4th at US Nationals when there were three spots, so he did not get named to the team. Mark skated really well at US Nationals and there are arguments that he should have finished in the top three.
  • In 1992, Mark finished 3rd at US Nationals when there were three spots. However, defending World bronze medallist Todd Eldredge had withdrawn from nationals due to back issues. There are also arguments that Mark skated better than Paul Wylie at US Nationals. USFSA chose to send Eldredge to both Olympics and Worlds, but split the Olympics/Worlds assignment between Wylie (Olympics) and Mitchell (Worlds). Mitchell still thinks he should have gone to the Olympics.
  • Mark skated a great long program at 1992 Worlds. I haven't actually seen his short program, so I'm not sure if there is an argument that he should have medalled, but I'm throwing this as an option for fun.
  • Mark was one of the favourites to win US Nationals in 1993. Bowman and Wylie had retired. Eldredge was probably one of the other favourites, but he had the flu. Scott Davis ended up skating great and was the surprise winner. I feel like this was pretty non-controversial, so I'm leaving this one out of the poll.
  • Mark had a great short program at 1993 Worlds and even got a 6.0. His long program was not as good and he was fifth in the free, fourth overall. I also feel like this was pretty non-controversial and I'm leaving it out of the poll too.
  • In 1994, Mark finished 5th at US Nationals, so I'm going to assume he had a bad enough performance that you couldn't make an argument for him to finish in the top two. I've never seen his short and ABC cut off half his long, so it's really hard to know for sure. But I do recall that he was pretty upset by the pros returning, so I'm putting that as the option for 1994.
  • Mark became a coach. In 2008, his student Katrina Hacker finished 6th at US Nationals, behind three age-ineligible skaters (so third of age-eligible skaters) when there were three spots available. However, she was not selected for the World team. Instead, Kimmie Meissner (2006 World champion and fourth place finisher at 2007 Worlds) was selected, even though she finished behind Katrina in 7th place at US Nationals.
  • In 2018, Mark's student Ross Miner had the skate of his life and finished 2nd at US Nationals when there were three spots. However, due to Body of Work criteria, he was not selected for the World or Olympic team. Vincent Zhou and Adam Rippon were selected ahead of Ross.
So, which of these times, if any, was Mark actually robbed? I think most of these events are available on YouTube if people want to watch to make sure their selection(s) are really correct. I would be interested in seeing discussion of why people made selections. You can choose as many as you want if you think that Mark was really robbed a lot.
 
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caseyedwards

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16,111
Rippon over Miner was idiotic! You have two journeyman. Who cares who goes? Why rippon? Made no sense. Miner beat rippon fair and square. His international results were a few GP medals. Big deal. No one ever thought anything of rippon. Plus rippon was a Quadless journeyman
 

tony

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9,003
Why did I know there would be a certain reply in this thread? 😆

I think 1992 O is the strongest case, but I can’t say how I would’ve felt in real-time.

I thought he promised he was retiring during the 2018 selection for Pyeongchang?
 

Foolhardy Ham Lint

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5,791
So many sad memories to rekindle.

I saw Mark skate at the 1992 US National Championships in person.

I also saw Todd Eldredge attend early practices before official competition began that week in Orlando. He was really struggling on the jumps, and withdrawing must have been a difficult decision for him.

I also wonder if Todd, being both the defending national champion and the 1991 World bronze medalist, had to do a test skate to determine his fitness for the Olympic team? He still looked undertrained and shaky in Albertville, too.

In spite of two very strong and polished performances from Christopher Bowman, I thought that Mitchell should have taken the title. Yes, Mitchell stumbled on the triple toe loop in his triple flip/triple toe combination in the free. But Mark also landed a triple axel in the short and the free. Whereas, Bowman, did not.

His programs were far more cohesive without any annoying music edits reflective of the period. Also, he wasn't hammy like Bowman, who had a tendency to mug for the audience and especially the camera.

Paul Wylie, in my opinion, was lucky to be second, and clearly had the USFSA love behind him. He made glaring jump errors in both parts of the competition. Paul also had a very average international track record, either bombing the short or the free in world championship competition.

I would have ranked him third, or potentially fourth behind Scott Davis. Davis skated an outstanding short, and a very good free as well.

In 1991 at the world championships in Munich, Wylie was very lucky to skate the long program, having squeaked through qualification with a 20th place in the short.

In 1994, Mitchell was coming off a strong second place to Kurt Browning at Skate Canada.

He had also changed coaches from Ronna Gladstone to Carlo and Christa Fassi. With the hype surrounding Brian Boitano's return to eligible competition (and Mitchell's public objection to professionals potentially taking spots from Olympic level skaters), I'm sure Mark must have felt like he was on the spot for all the wrong reasons). I can only begin to imagine the pressure.

I also saw US Nationals in Detroit in person, and competition amongst the men was intense. Other than Boitano and Scott Davis, Aren Nielsen, Rudy Galindo, and Todd Eldredge all skated very well indeed.
 
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Foolhardy Ham Lint

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5,791
I thought he promised he was retiring during the 2018 selection for Pyeongchang?
Nothing like making a promise and following through. I'm sure we've all said things in the heat of the moment. Here's hoping Peter J talked him out of it.
 

tony

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9,003
Nothing like making a promise and following through. I'm sure we've all said things in the heat of the moment. Here's hoping Peter J talked him out of it.
Of course, and given the history shown here, he'd always been on the bad end of the deal within the USFSA nearly 30 years prior. Wasn't he standing with Christine Brennan during the press conference that announced the team? I don't remember if he said anything at that moment or only got quoted afterwards, but he definitely knew the night prior that Miner was off the team.
 

VGThuy

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34,123
Even though I see the case for every time he was passed over and probably agree with every time, it’s gotta be depressing to be in his shoes to have that happen so many times in his life. And I thought Yukari Nakano had it bad with the Japanese Fed.
 

Foolhardy Ham Lint

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5,791
Of course, and given the history shown here, he'd always been on the bad end of the deal within the USFSA nearly 30 years prior. Wasn't he standing with Christine Brennan during the press conference that announced the team? I don't remember if he said anything at that moment or only got quoted afterwards, but he definitely knew the night prior that Miner was off the team.
Proof that standing next to Christine Brennan for a casual chat is never 'off the record'.
 

Spun Silver

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Not sure how to vote when I lean one way in the heat of the moment and the other way after seeing how it all turned out (2018). I'm different from @caseyedwards that way. :D
 

briancoogaert

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13,482
For sure, he was an elegant and talented skater. Considering what a splatfest were the Olympics in Albertville, he could have won a medal !
 

Erin

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I've had an offline request for YouTube links, so here is as much as I can come up with. I'm posting the full (as aired) events cued up to the men's event in case anyone wants to dissect the judging.

1990 US Nationals - ABC coverage of men's free: https://youtu.be/TTw-6kEPqlM?t=1982
1991 US Nationals- ABC coverage of men's free: https://youtu.be/AUDFZ_lFyq4?t=3413
1992 US Nationals - fluff on the controversy, interview with Todd, Chris SP: https://youtu.be/bQpI-trB4gY?t=213
1992 US Nationals - ABC coverage of men's free: https://youtu.be/bQpI-trB4gY?t=1686
1992 Worlds - Mark's SP: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgiEUuiCfDQ
1992 Worlds - CBC coverage of men's short: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8sLBhdMwYg
1992 Worlds - Mark fluff piece and free: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50rlZ3q8HRE&feature=youtu.be
1992 Worlds - CBC coverage of men's free: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llth9TIdmFk&feature=youtu.be
1993 US Nationals - ABC coverage of men's free, maybe not super relevant since it isn't in the poll, but worth watching for the fluff piece at the beginning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLCJTsZxhyc
The quality on that video is not great, so if anyone wants to actually watch something other than the fluff piece, this video is better quality and has the program that inspired the use of "chack" as a verb, along with Rudy Galindo's best skate outside of 1996:
1993 Worlds - CBC coverage of men's short if you want to see Mark's 6.0: https://youtu.be/3iKusHWENqw
1993 Worlds - (mostly) CBC coverage of men's free: https://youtu.be/eBprBc7sHns
1994 US Nationals - Mark's short: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoW18fQ5B0o
1994 US Nationals - ABC coverage of men's free (apologies for the terrible quality of this video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLAvx65k63U
I couldn't find a full version of Mark's free from 1994 Nationals. I was also hoping for a fluff piece complaining about the pros returning, but couldn't find that either. I do have his full free program from 1993 Skate Canada, where I recall he skated quite well: https://youtu.be/yN_81ucLcsg?t=2322
2008 US Nationals - NBC coverage of ladies free: https://youtu.be/uFkyaRNoon8?t=2350
2018 US Nationals - complete coverage of men's short: https://youtu.be/9B3A1hEIF7A
2018 US Nationals - complete coverage of men's free: https://youtu.be/0zSRtIaJbPQ

Some of these videos I haven't seen before, so I'm off to watch Mark's 1992 Worlds SP and 1994 Nationals SP.
 
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Wyliefan

Trying to appease the skategods
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I had no idea they'd broken down the Olympic team selection process to that extent in '92!
 

BittyBug

The missing ingredient
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No way should Wiley have placed ahead of Mitchell in 91, but having lived through that era, the one thing that doesn't necessarily come across in video is that Mitchell's jumps didn't have the amplitude or height of most of the other men, so that probably played into the judges' marks. Still, from an artistic perspective, Mitchell's LP definitely held it's own against Wiley's LP, yet the judges poured it on for Wiley an skimped for Mitchell. :rolleyes:
 

skateycat

Shortest One in the House
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2,664
Oh golly gee! My sister and I were in the audience for the 2018 US Nationals free skate and we were both on our feet for Ross Miner! But we are in no teknik, so we were not surprised by the outcome of the team selection. Sad, disappointed, but not surprised.
 

Foolhardy Ham Lint

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5,791
Oh golly gee! My sister and I were in the audience for the 2018 US Nationals free skate and we were both on our feet for Ross Miner! But we are in no teknik, so we were not surprised by the outcome of the team selection. Sad, disappointed, but not surprised.
I wonder if Adam Rippon ever sent MJM and Ross Miner flowers, thanking them for his Olympic experience.
 

Foolhardy Ham Lint

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5,791
No way should Wiley have placed ahead of Mitchell in 91, but having lived through that era, the one thing that doesn't necessarily come across in video is that Mitchell's jumps didn't have the amplitude or height of most of the other men, so that probably played into the judges' marks. Still, from an artistic perspective, Mitchell's LP definitely held it's own against Wiley's LP, yet the judges poured it on for Wiley an skimped for Mitchell. :rolleyes:
Watching Mark on TV versus seeing him in person are two completely different experiences.

What television doesn't convey are his quick rotation, fluidity, and the distance across the ice his jumps cover.
 

Sylvia

Wishing I could go back to the Lake Placid JGP
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AFAIK, Adam and Ross are friends (still) and Ross never blamed Adam personally for USFS' decision not to select him to the Olympic team, according to what Adam wrote in his book. I will say, from my limited personal experience, that I think Ross is one classy guy, and he seems to be enjoying his current coaching role in the MJM program.
I've had an offline request for YouTube links, so here is as much as I can come up with.
Thanks so much, @Erin, for taking the time to find and post these links! I'm looking forward to watching Mark Mitchell's videos when I get a chance.
 

Erin

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10,215
I watched 1990, 1991, and 1992 US Nationals again and have lots of thoughts.

Some overall opinions that apply across the years:
  • Todd Eldredge's programs were dreadful in that time period. I mean, I knew that already, but I forgot just how bad. He didn't really get good programs until 1994-95, although the Chaplin program in 1993-94 showed some progress. The presentation marks (or "composition & style") he got in both 1990 and 1991 were ridiculous and I don't know how he got higher second marks than Mark, ever. On the plus side, he had hudge jumps - in particular, his triple axel covered so much ice. He was also doing the most difficult programs, jumpwise.
  • To me, Paul Wylie had the best choreography by far, especially in 1992, where the program was really well-placed to the music. What I also really appreciated about his skating was the tension and precision in his movements, which no one else really had. When Paul placed an arm or a leg in a position, he didn't just let it go wherever, he really pushed it to the exact positions. Mark had nice lines, but he didn't have that sharpness that Paul had. Paul was really not into combinations though.
On to the specific years:
  • 1990 - I really don't think there should be any controversy here. Mark's subsequent interviews have indicated that he was upset he didn't get the spot over Chris Bowman and I don't know if Mark ever understood the named skater rule, which is kind of sad. I don't think he has ever said he should have finished in the top two, but that would be a stretch. I think there could be an argument to put him ahead of Todd in the free (and two judges did) and his presentation marks relative to Todd are ridiculous, but Mark was far behind after the short. I don't think there is a case to put him ahead of Paul at all.
  • 1991 - I actually think this is his best case for saying he was robbed and you could make an argument that the top four in the free skate could be reversed (Mark-Paul-Chris-Todd instead of Todd-Chris-Paul-Mark). Again, I think his presentation marks are too low. That said, this was really not even a close decision. He only got one ordinal over Paul, and Paul actually got two first place ordinals.
  • 1992 - I think this was a really close decision that could have gone either way and the judging between Paul and Mark reflected that. It was a 5-4 decision between the two and I can see arguments for both. I don't think he was "robbed" but just on the wrong end of something that could have gone either way. I am surprised at how clearly Bowman won, as I think you could argue for him to be as low as third and it would have made sense to have mixed ordinals between the top 3. To the point made above that Wylie should have been behind Scott Davis, that's a non-starter. Scott made several mistakes in the program, only landed three clean triples, and was not in the same league presentation-wise as the top three that year.
  • As to whether Mark should have been sent over Todd in 1992, as much as I didn't care for Todd's skating then, the international judges clearly felt differently than me. Todd had been told by his doctor that he would be ready in two weeks and I can see why the selection committee wanted to bet on the reigning bronze medallist. It's interesting that this decision has so much controversy, while sending Nancy Kerrigan over Michelle Kwan in 1994 was not considered controversial at all, even though Nancy was not even a reigning World medallist at the time. I assume that is because of the benefit of hindsight - the decision to send Todd looks like a bad one because he finished 10th, while it looks like a good decision to send Nancy since she finished 2nd. But I also wonder how much Mark's complaining about it has played into the controversy.
Overall, I don't think my opinion about it has changed a lot since I first saw these events years ago. I enjoy Mark's skating and think that he was probably under-appreciated by the judges. I think it's bad luck that he missed out on going to events twice because of someone's withdrawal, but only one of those was even a USFSA decision. I feel like his coach needs to take some responsibility for informing him of some things that maybe could have reduced his persecution complex. Just as he should have been better informed about the body of work rules leading up to 2018.
 
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