To be clear- the core of this has nothing to do with 3 spots. It's about the unwritten rule- the sportsmanship to step aside when you're injured, or if things look doubtful, at least give the alternate a heads up (granted, we don't know for sure that team Flatt didn't do this) and tell her to BE READY just in case. Also let USFS know. I was surprised when I read Hersh's article and Raith said he had no idea about Flatt's injury.I kind of agree. For me, it comes down to "what rotten luck. Rachael had a stress fracture and couldn't perform her best. If she had the U.S. probably would have gotten its third spot back." If there had been a last minute replacement chances are that person would have finished lower than eighth and it would have come down to "what rotten luck. Rachael had a stress fracture and didn't get to compete. I she had, the U.S. probably would have gotten the third spot back."
Remember when Kwan stepped aside in Torino? Granted, she bothered to make the trip in the first place...but when it became CLEAR AS DAY that she wasn't going to be ready, she stepped aside, giving alternate Emily Hughes enough time to pack up and take her place. Sometimes, even in skating, IMO- it's not ALL about the individual. Sometimes it's best to put the good of the team ahead of your own personal benefit.
In the end, it's not about the 3 spots, or the woulda-coulda-shoulda. Remember last year when Nagasu tanked the FS at worlds? Yeah, that could have happened again had she gone. If you're injured, and it's hampering your performance level- as was the case for Flatt- you aren't doing the team any favors. It doesn't matter if the alternate can do any better, but it's fair if the alternate(s) is(are) healthier...JMHO.