The U.S. Olympic men’s figure skating team was announced Monday and the immediate news was a lot of gushing and hoopla about 28-year-old Adam Rippon being selected as part of the three-person team, along with 18-year-old Nathan Chen and 17-year-old Vincent Zhou.
Why all the fanfare by the media and others over Rippon? Because he’s the first openly gay U.S. Olympic team member.
The addition of Rippon was seen as controversial by many as he came in 4th at the U.S. Nationals competition. Chen and Zhou came in 1st and 3rd, respectively. Meaning 2nd place finisher, Ross Miner, was passed over in favor of Rippon.
The question then becomes, why did Miner get passed over?
The media’s focus on Rippon being gay and juxtaposed with his fourth place win at Nationals over the second place winner made a lot of people wonder if Rippon was selected over Miner because of his sexuality.
Even the Twitter Moment title and blurb made it seem that way.
Adam Rippon is the first openly gay US man to qualify for Winter Olympics
The 28-year-old figure skater originally from Pennsylvania will join Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou in PyeongChang. His selection for the Olympic team was controversial as he finished fourth place at the US Nationals, while Ross Miner, who was not selected, came in second.
It’s true that the Olympic committee has a political aspect to it but in this case, the fact that Rippon is openly gay seems to simply be incidental.
The artistic aspect of figure skating makes it more subjective, not simply based on technical scores. Therefore, as with gymnastics, the Olympic team isn’t chosen simply from an athletes scores at the U.S. Nationals, but by their body of work throughout the year and overall track record.
It’s also a fairly common occurrence in gymnastics, as well as ice skating, for teams to be made up of athletes who place outside the top spots.
Madison Kocian finished 8th and made the team. Maggie Nichols finished 6th and didn’t. For both figure skating and gymnastics, the selection committee thinks contextually.
— Jane Coaston (@cjane87) January 9, 2018
Interestingly enough, Miner’s coach, Mark Mitchell, also lost out on an Olympic slot in 1992, despite placing third at nationals.
Miner was named second alternate, however.
Rippon said the first thing he did when he heard the news was to text Miner and tell him how much he respects him as a fellow figure skater.
So, the fact that Rippon made the team over Miner wasn’t based on his sexuality, but as with other identity groups in the past, the media and gay community are making a bigger deal out of it as it’s a first for them.