ST. LOUIS -- There's been lots of fuss over whether Michelle Kwan will be able to skate in the Olympics.
The more pressing question is whether she can skate at all.
U.S. skating officials said the nine-time national champion was examined by a doctor. Kwan said she pulled a groin muscle last month and wasn't healthy enough to compete in these championships -- the event in which the Olympic team is selected. She had been hoping to be back on the ice jumping Friday.
Kwan filed a petition to compete in Torino and a committee will convene after the women's final Saturday night to determine the team. Only the U.S. champion earns an automatic berth, leaving two spots up for grabs.
"We have this public criteria and we're going to go strictly by this criteria," said U.S. Figure Skating president Ron Hershberger. "If we don't, it doesn't create a level playing field."
According to U.S. Figure Skating rules, the following events are taken into consideration: The U.S. Championships, the Grand Prix Final, the 2005 World Championships, Four Continents, the Junior Grand Prix Final and the World Junior Championships. Kwan has only skated in one of those competitions. She was fourth at the 2005 World Championships.
Several members of the committee have already excused themselves from the voting:
• Judges who are on the women's panel for these nationals: Joe Inman, Lorrie Parker, Steve Winkler, Paula Naughton and William Smith;
• Coaches: Ken Congemi (coaches Bebe Liang, currently third in nationals), Peter Oppegard (Kwan's brother-in-law);
• Athletes: Amber Corwin (a competitor in the women's field);
• Olympic gold medalist Carol Heiss Jenkins told ESPN.com she will not attend the meeting because she is coaching Miki Ando of Japan. Heiss Jenkins said it would be a conflict of interest for her to be on a panel that would select any of Ando's Olympic competitors.
If precedent means anything, Kwan shouldn't worry too much. No U.S. skaters who have ever filed for a medical bye to compete in the Winter Games has been denied since at least 1992.
Todd Eldredge competed in Albertville in 1992 despite missing nationals with a bad back. Nancy Kerrigan was put on the team in 1994 after being whacked on the knee (ironically the same year Kwan was bumped from the team) and pairs skaters Jenni Meno and Todd Sand were selected to the 1998 Olympic team even though they withdrew from nationals shortly before the free skate because Meno injured her ankle in practice.
Amy Rosewater is a freelance writer based in Baltimore.