An uphill climb for Americans

The names roll off the tongue one after the other: Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Kristi Yamaguchi, Nancy Kerrigan, Michelle Kwan, Tara Lipinski, Sarah Hughes, Sasha Cohen.

All won gold or silver medals in women's figure skating at the Winter Olympics. They are part of an American tradition dating to the 1952 Games in Oslo. Since then the United States has won 19 medals in women's figure skating. No other country has won more than five.

But the good times have come to a grinding halt. No American woman has so much as medaled at the world championships since the last Olympics in Torino. That drought left the United States with just two spots on its Olympic team in Vancouver instead of the usual three. And don't expect that to change anytime soon.

Teenagers Rachael Flatt, 17, and Mirai Nagasu, 16, will represent the United States. And while both are solid skaters, neither is expected to mount a serious bid for a medal yet. The last time that happened was 1964. South Korea's Kim Yu-Na is the favorite this year. Flatt won the United States national championship last month.

“Being the heavy the favorite is not always a good thing, because of the amount of pressure,” Nagasu said. “It is the Olympics so the whole world is watching. I feel like, hopefully, I'll just be able to stand next to Yu-Na and while she's carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders I'll just be holding it up with a finger.”

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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