Would a U.S. Figure Skating Olympic Team Trials better promote skating in the U.S?

The next USFSA President should seriously consider initiating a US Figure Skating Olympic Team Trials, for the 2018 season.

The national championships should, as in most sports, play the definitive role in deciding the qualifiers to trials; an exciting 2 day competition of the top 4-6 skaters/teams in each of the 4 disciplines, skating live to determine the team in primetime.

Why can’t it be done argument? - It has not been done in the past because USFSA wanted to keep control over the selection process and television rights, of which they say they’d lose considerable control due to the USOC involvement.

Why should there be an Olympic Figure Skating Team Trials?

Olympic Trials events always do better than a “National” championship; the name alone attracts attention.

The USOC does not determine who is selected for Olympic teams; USFSA judges and officials do, just as USA Gymnastics Judges and Officials do at the U. S. Olympic Gymnastics Team trials

There should not be large fields in the Olympic Figure Skating trials. It needs to be only the select few with an actual chance for selection; ideally the top 6 skaters/teams from each discipline at Nationals.  The skating trials should have a made for TV structure.

What are the real challenges to advancing the idea of such a figure skating Olympic Trials?

Officials within United States Figure Skating mainly think more in terms of not relinquishing power without considering the advantages of an Olympic Trials (OT) to promote the sport as a part of the Olympic family.  Also, the increased visibility it would bring to the sport and marketing of the skaters contending; going into such an OT and those making the Olympic Team after the event.  

There will be a lot of “worriers” who will profess it would financially kill nationals. However, nationals’ lives just fine 3 years out of 4 without the Olympics. Then there will be those who worry about the athletes. They’ll say it will burn out the athletes having to do another event prior to the Olympics. Some fans railed against the Four Continents Championships (4CC) in this regard, but as we all know, our A team does not go to the 4CC in Olympic years, so that competition would be reserved for non-trials qualifiers.

Adapting a skating trials to the ISU events schedule and Olympic start dates would be a quadrennial decision.  To accommodate this, the US Championships in Olympic years might need to move to late December as I am sure USFS would want 2-3 weeks in between Nationals and Trials.

What are the positives of holding a U.S Figure Skating Olympic Team Trials?

The success of swimming, diving, gymnastics, and other Olympic trials tells me that even if you make not a dime from it, the promotional value for the athletes leading into the games can only drive more viewers to the Olympics and provide higher visibility for the skaters as well. The USOC and TV will be able to create storylines and fluff; introduce the athletes in a way that the nationals do not allow. Just the title  U.S. Olympic Team Trials alone carries so much power while US Figure Skating Championships; that sounds nice if you like the sport. US Olympic Trials tells me, this is it, and this is big!

If U.S. Figure Skating leaders are smart (and I believe they are), they should begin studying the pros and cons  of working with the United States Olympic Committee to inaugurate a U.S Olympic Figure Skating Trials event in the 2018 Olympic Season.

Peter Murray

Editor, Blazing Blades