SAN JOSE, Calif. — Adam Rippon won a reprieve after his subpar, fourth-place performance at the U.S. figure skating championships when a selection committee awarded him a berth on the Pyeongchang Olympic team over second-place finisher Ross Miner.
The announcement, made Sunday morning, was based on the superiority of Rippon’s body of work over the last year when compared with that of Miner, said Samuel Auxier, president of U.S Figure Skating. Jason Brown, who was a 2014 Olympian but finished sixth here, was named the first alternate to the Pyeongchang Olympic team. Miner was designated the second alternate.
As expected, two-time U.S. champion Nathan Chen, 18 — who performed five quadruple jumps in his long program Saturday night to become the runaway winner — was chosen for the team, as was third-place finisher Vincent Zhou, 17, who was the 2017 world junior champion.
Zhou also reels off quadruple jumps with apparent ease. Rippon is considered more of an artist than a jumper and is popular among skating fans for his musicality and performance skills.
“We feel we have a very strong team, the right team, based on the selection criteria,” Auxier said, noting that the selection process had been complicated by the “somewhat flawed” performances Saturday night from some of the top men.
“I’m really glad the selection committee looked at my body of work over the last two seasons,” said Rippon, 28, who was the 2016 U.S. men’s champion but missed the national and world championships last year because of a broken leg.
He qualified for the Grand Prix Final in 2016 and again this season, which carried great weight with the selection committee.
“I feel like I have a really great resume. I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done over the past four years,” Rippon said. “Four years ago I didn’t know if I wanted to continue skating. And a year ago I was sitting in a cast, so I’ve had my share of ups and downs but I’ve been very consistent and I’m very grateful for this opportunity. And I feel that my experience will help me have my best performances at the Olympic Games, and it feels amazing to say that.”
Auxier said the committee found Miner’s resume to be weaker than Rippon’s over the designated competitions (U.S. and world championships as well as Grand Prix events) over the last year.
“We are looking for the athletes that consistently performed across the Grand Prixes, internationally, who can get the scores and who are most likely to perform well at the Olympics,” Auxier said. “Ross had an amazing, lights-out performance. He’s a great example for our young skaters. He’s been a tremendous athlete over the years in terms of giving some great performances and being a great example for our association. And congratulations to him for really putting it out (Saturday) night.
“However, we had to look at the body of work, and Ross does amazing at U.S. championships (two third-place finishes and a runner-up finish in 2013 before this year) but frankly he has struggled at some of the international competitions. We looked at all sorts of statistics: head-to-head competition, average scores and momentum within the scores leading up to the Olympics, and that’s where we really had a challenge with Ross. His average score was the lowest among the pool that would be considered for the Olympics. He had some really challenging skates, which led us to the conclusion that we weren’t sure if we put him out at the Olympics he would perform to the extent that he was a possibility for a medal.”
Zhou said he was overwhelmed to have been chosen for the Olympic team.
“There’ a certain feeling that comes with the word ‘Olympian,’ and it’s really hard to describe, but to have that attached to my name is more than I can ever ask for in my entire life,” he said. “I’m so grateful to everyone who’s been a part of my process. My two teammates are very deserving as well of these Olympic spots.”
Chen echoed those sentiments.
“It’s been a dream of mine to be selected for as long as I can remember,” he said. “I think all three of us really deserve to be on this team.”
As expected, U.S. pair champions Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim were designated as the lone U.S. pairs entry for the Pyeongchang Olympics.
The husband-and-wife team’s medal chances are virtually nonexistent: Their top finish at the world championships was seventh, in 2015. Although they perform intricate and difficult throws and twists, they often stumble on side-by-side jumps and can’t match the top pairs in the world in that area.