U.S.: No Great Hopes for Medals in Women Skating

The United States chose two young but promising female skaters to be enrolled in Olympic team late Saturday.

No sooner the United States Figure Skating Championships had ended, than  the teenagers Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu bubbled over with joy.

“We’re young and spirited and have lots of enthusiasm, so I think that will bode well for the Olympics,” said Flatt, 17, who won the national title on Saturday with a free skate buoyed by her fearless jumping.

Nagasu, the 2008 national champion and the runner-up Saturday, also has high hopes as an Olympian bound for next month’s Vancouver Games.

But youth and energy will take a skater only so far at the Olympics, where the competition will be tougher and the judges less forgiving than they were at nationals.

Flatt and Nagasu are also facing the lowest expectations the United States women have had in nearly 50 years. At these Olympics, there will be no established American stars, just rising ones.

No Michelle Kwan, the nine-time national champion, who is no longer skating. No Sasha Cohen, the 2006 Olympic medalist, who mounted a comeback to make her third Olympic team but finished fourth over all at the nationals. Cohen had been second after the short program but fell on a jump and had several other errors in her free skate. (Ashley Wagner was third over all.)

“The U.S. is not on top of figure skating right now,” said Nagasu, a high school junior from Arcadia, Calif., whose parents are from Japan. “I think that’s an embarrassment because of the rich history the U.S.A. has.”

Two American ice-dancing teams — Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto — are top contenders to win an Olympic gold medal. Three American men — Jeremy Abbott, Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir — are also among the medal contenders in their event.

At the Olympics, Flatt and Nagasu — relative newcomers on the senior skating scene — will face veteran skaters like Canada’s Joannie Rochette, 24, a silver medalist at the 2009 worlds, and Japan’s Miki Ando, the former world champion, who won her two Grand Prix assignments last year. Ando, 22, is the only woman to land a quadruple salchow in competition.

But their most daunting competition will come from the reigning world champion, Kim Yu-na of South Korea. At 19, Kim has a rare combination of spectacular skating skills, grace and dramatic flair.

The New York Times has contributed to the report.

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