Did Mirai Nagasu Lose Out on the Olympics Because of Her Race?


There are a lot of possible reasons why Mirai Nagasu lost a spot on 2014’s US Olympic squad to Ashley Wagner, despite finishing ahead of her on Sunday’s Nationals. A thought-provoking Wall Street Journal op-ed is one of the few articles to make it explicitly about the race of both women involved:

Wagner’s flowing blond hair, bellflower-blue eyes and sculpted features mark her as a sporting archetype: She’s the embodiment of the “golden girl” the media has extolled when they’ve waxed poetic about idealized ice queens of the past, from Norway’s Sonja Henie to East Germany’s Katarina Witt, a marketer’s dream who’s already signed up tent-pole sponsors like Nike, Pandora Jewelry and CoverGirl, which assessed her Teutonic beauty as being worthy of serving as one of their global “faces.”

This a strong claim from op-ed writer Jeff Yang indeed, but a persuasive one when he puts it in the context of news outlets reporting on Tara Lipinski taking home the 1998 Gold with headlines like, “American beats Kwan,” or questioning Kristi Yamaguchi’s 1992 Olympic win when American xenophobia against Japanese people was at a high. Despite the dearth of headlines explicitly expressing this sentiment, one could see Nagasu fitting less well into a marketable all-American image as playing a role here, especially when the three lady figure skaters who are competing at Sochi, while talented, do fit that mold.

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