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2014 U.S. National Championships

Gold fulfills destiny, Scores her first ladies title and Olympic team spot

by Liz Leamy

(12 January 2014)  It was a night where a clean and aggressive program meant the difference between winding on the top of the podium or not, and it was the money players, in the end, who walked away with the hardware in the celebrated ladies event at the U.S. Championships yesterday.

Last night, Gracie Gold, the 18-year old jumping sensation who stole the show two days ago with her resounding first-place finish in the short, stepped up like the star she had been deigned to be two years ago when she claimed the 2012 U.S. junior title and skated a fine performance that earned her first national title as well as a berth on the 2014 Olympic team.

This talented skater, who moved to Los Angeles last September in order to work with the iconic Frank Carroll, proved herself to be every bit the sought-after American star the sport has been searching for these past few years with a graceful and aggressive portrayal to Tchaikovsky’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ that earned her a total score of 211.69, making her the only skater of the event to break 200 points.

Thrilled with her program, a visibly elated Gold said this was a moment of a lifetime in the press conference following the competition.

“This night was a dream come true and is definitely one of the best nights of my life,” said Gold. “It’s almost too good to be true, but it happened.”

Her performance featured all the stuff of a great program, including big jumps, smooth fast crossovers and beautiful high-speed spins. She did a triple Lutz-triple toe, double Axel-triple toe, triple Lutz, triple Salchow-double toe-double toe and double Axel with height, velocity and skill. Although she had a slight fall out on a triple flip, the landings of her jumps were all fluid and balletic, as were her connecting turns, steps and spins.

“I’m so proud of myself,” said Gold, who arrived later at the hotel with her mom and Carroll, to rousing hugs and applause from her friends at the door.

Polina Edmunds, the San Jose, California-based wonderkid who took this event by storm the other day with a second-place finish in the short, skated a technically packed program that earned her silver with a total score of 193.63 as well as a celebrated Olympic team berth.

Although she missed a triple flip, the dynamic Edmunds, 15, the 2013 U.S. junior titlist, knocked out six triples with the expertise of a seasoned championship-level lady, including a triple Lutz-triple toe, triple flip-triple Salchow, triple Lutz, triple loop-double toe and two double Axels. Artistically, she was also exceptional and flew around the ice with the lightness of a feather and grace of a prima ballerina to her program to Grieg’s ‘Peer Gynt’ choreographed by Marina Klimova, the Russian Olympic gold medalist.

“There were a lot of strong skaters, but in the end we [the top four] were the strongest,” said Edmunds, who trains in San Jose, California. “It’s always been my dream to go to the Olympics.”

Mirai Nagasu, the effervescent California-based contender who surprised everyone with a stunning third-place performance in the short, took bronze with a clean, fast free skate to an arresting James Bond medley.

Skating with purpose and confidence, the spunky 20 year old performed with the same abandon and skill she used to clinch the 2008 U.S. title and an Olympic team berth back in 2010.

She did a big triple flip-double toe, double Axel-triple toe, triple Lutz, triple toe-double toe-double toe, triple flip, triple loop and double Axel as well as gorgeous, well positioned spins and spirals. (Since then, she has dealt with some challenges including jump inconsistency issues and injuries.)

Although she was not selected for the 2014 Olympic team, Nagasu fought like a champion and was a huge crowd favorite. She received a standing ovation at the conclusion of her performance, and had a total point score of 190.74.

“It’s really emotional for me, I really wanted to do my best and hope they pick me for the Olympic team,” said Nagasu at the end of the event. “I did what I had to today and I’ll have to respect any choice they (the U.S. Figure Skating team selection committee) make.”

Ashley Wagner, the 22 year-old two-time U.S. titlist and 2013 Grand Prix final gold medalist, had a bit of a disappointing free skate and finished fourth overall with a total score of 182.74. (Due to her high international and U.S. standings, she was selected to be on the Sochi Olympic team over Nagasu.)

Wagner, who is popular among her skating peers, fought through her dramatic program to Prokofiev’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ which featured some nice triples, including a triple loop-double Axel sequence, triple flip-double toe and lovely layback spin. She fell on a triple flip-triple toe and triple loop, however.

“I wasn’t at my best last night and I’m extremely pleased [at being selected],” she said. “I’m happy that my federation was able to see beyond one bad skate and I can’t believe I’m going to represent the U.S. in Sochi.”