30 January 2018

Olympics; Right, Wrong, or What's Best?

Jeffrey anticipating that this finish would put him on the Olympic Team
It would seem that this would be a time of simply anticipating the Olympics, but it is not for many. In speedskating, it resurrects examples from many who've experienced unjust selection or even reversal of selection once on the Olympic Team as has happened to Jeffrey just recently. This has happened too many times for it not to be indicative of an inherent problem in USS discretionary selections.

Yet to me, it doesn't need to be an involved written change, but simply the overlying rule that the athlete's best interest always comes first.

I didn't involve myself in the conflicting reasons as to why Jeffrey wasn't ultimately selected because I wanted to trust the system that justice would prevail, as I had been asked to do for the last 4 years.

I am challenging now because the U.S. Olympic Team Pursuit selection process was unjust. This is a necessary rehash. Skaters, coaches, parents and followers continue to this moment question what happened and rightly so because it was not only unjust to Jeffrey, but can be unfair to the other Team Pursuit athletes, as well as the Team Pursuit decisions in the future.

Team Pursuit selection is quadrenilaly a serious issue and medals are lost because of discretionary decisions. This has happened before in 2010.

The reasons Jeffrey wasn't selected, stated by the selection committee (not National coaches), seem valid IF the goal is to take fewer skaters and be less prepared.

The committee decided:

  1. "We don't plan on using a 4th Team Pursuit skater in the Olympics, but if we were to race you [Jeffrey], we won't win a medal. And if we won't win a medal, we don't want to bring our 4th best Team Pursuit skater and we will just use a sprinter instead." -False reasoning because skaters' performances ebb and flow. Also, luck is involved. As well as the fatigue factor on the 2nd day of Team Pursuit racing with back to back races (1 hour apart). And the National team coaches both recommended Jeffrey as the 4th Team Pursuit skater. The sprinter to now be used is already on team, who has not even raced the 2 races used to decide a 4th skater as well as he does not have a qualifying time for either of the 2 races that the ISU requires to skate the Team Pursuit as a specialist, if he were a specialist. This was more a staff (less tuned to the nuances and necessities of this present Team Pursuit) driven decision rather than a coaching driven decision, which crosses the expertise of those coaches who should be making such a decision.
  2. "We simply don't take alternates." -false. "Alternates" is not a Team Pursuit selection term. The team is a "4-man team" with potential "specialists" for the purpose of giving the skaters every chance, over 3 heats of racing, to have the option of 4 skaters is necessary and responsible (3 race at a time, but a 4th man is used to replace a skater that could be tired from the previous heat, someone is sick/hurt, used for an "easier" heat to save another skater's energy, etc). There was an extra quota spot. Use it! As a team, the business strategy is: always be prepared. The team is simply not fully prepared for this 2018 Olympics.
  3. There was a concern over taking a Team Pursuit specialist without an individual race (the said ISU requirement). -It is already known there only needs to be "intent" to skate an individual race, which they can make happen. It is a loosely used term.
  4. Having been in this sport for 50 years, no reasons like these warrant leaving someone off an Olympic team spot that can potentially bring home a medal.
The 4th Team Pursuit spot could easily have been taken to the Olympics and would indicate that all skaters' best interest are considered. There was simply no downside to any skater, coach, the organization (USS), nor the USOC. It was a decision simply against the athlete than for the athlete.

This should bother the public who believes they have their athletes' back, especially all those invested in the skater.

This should bother the aspiring skater who would only want to see a fair path to make an Olympic Team.

This should bother the USOC that it is an exclusionary action that goes against their own written Olympic Creed.

Why keep bringing this all up? There was an injustice, and something needs to be done for the future of this sport. In order for there to be change, there needs to be a recognition of the wrong, a willingness to accept criticism and a passion to make a difference in this world for the future athletes. Don't we want to get better? Don't we stand for excellence?

-Nancy Sr.