Olympic dreams dashed for Williston native

Observer file photo
Ross Miner, a native of Williston, took second place in the U.S. nationals earlier this month in California.

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

Ross Miner had the performance of his career with his last shot at the Olympics on the line.

At the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships earlier this month in San Jose, Calif., Miner, 26, who grew up in Williston and now lives in Boston, skated to a second-place finish.

In most sports, that would guarantee a spot on the Olympic team. But figure skating’s governing body, U.S. Figure Skating, occasionally invokes a subjective criteria to choose its three-man Olympic roster. With the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, just a few weeks away, the organization held a selection committee meeting immediately after the contest.

Victoria Hildebrand, a Williston resident who coached Miner early in his career and now judges national skating competitions, was at the U.S. Nationals.

“He was the performance of the evening,” she said of Miner. “He brought the house down.”

In the afterglow, Miner waited about three hours while the selection committee weighed whether to stick with the top three results or use a criteria based on a skater’s overall body of work in national and international competitions.

“People were wishing him luck after the event, which is kind of odd,” said Miner’s Boston-based coach Mark Mitchell.

In the end, U.S. Figure Skating chose the fourth-place national finisher — 28-year-old Adam Rippon — to leapfrog Miner and join the first- and third-place finishers on the Olympic team.

Mitchell has been in the sport since the early 1990s and can recall only one other time U.S. Figure Skating invoked its discretion in Olympic team selection in a case that didn’t involve accommodating a top-level skater recovering from injury.

“The criteria they use is very vague,” he said. “Ross was clearly an underdog, and anytime someone comes in and upsets the apple cart, it can go into debate.”

Miner could not be reached this week for comment.

Miner had announced earlier this year that this would be his last season competing, according to Hildebrand. He had risen to a nationally elite level in his late teens before an injury set him back. Over the past five years, he has been working to return to his pre-injury form, setting up this year to be his final shot at an Olympic spot.

“He finished his career with an outstanding performance at nationals,” Mitchell said.

“We are all really proud of him,” Hildebrand added.

Miner declined an invitation to compete in an international competition later this month, Mitchell said, adding that he envisions Miner pursuing a career in coaching or professional skating performance.

Miner grew up on Southfield Drive, splitting his ice time between hockey and figure skating at Cairns Arena in South Burlington as a child.

“He was a performer as well as an athlete,” Hildebrand said. “It was clear he had a real aptitude (for figure skating). He had a passion for it.”

His family moved to Boston when he was 13 to further his figure skating career.

“It was clear to some of us that if he was going to excel, it would be better for him to be around skaters who were skating at a higher level and be around superior coaching,” Hildebrand said.

The move paid off in an elite amateur skating career that included four top-three national championship finishes over a seven-year span, a career that culminated in California with Miner’s best performance when he needed it most — but a career punctuated with the bittersweet ending of U.S. Figure Skating’s decision to askew convention and leave him home for the Olympics.