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2014 U.S. National Championships

Gold Grabs Top Honor
Illinois Native Steals Spotlight with Big Triples and Fluid Skating

 by Liz Leamy

(10 January 2014 Gracie Gold, the flaxen-haired Illinois-based 2013 U.S. silver medalist who several seasons back had been deigned as one of the country’s up-and-coming skating sensations, showed herself to be a veritable force with a fiery first-place performance in the ladies free skate last night.

The dynamic 18 year-old, who started working with the iconic Olympic coach Frank Carroll in Los Angeles last August, racked up the highest numbers of the night, a 72.12, with her memorable program to music from the Greek Adagio Concerto.

Adorned in a red and gold dress, Gold wore her hair in a high bun and opened up with a huge, fluid triple Lutz-triple toe. She followed up with a fast layback, solid triple loop and strong double Axel.

Notably, this was the first time Gold had ever performed the program in a big arena (since it only had been created by Lori Nichol, the illustrious Canadian-based choreographer a few months ago after she finished fourth at the NHK Trophy) and she delivered it as if it were a seasoned piece.

Throughout her performance, Gold skated with control, grace, confidence and attack, all the components necessary to be a true skating star, and showed huge improvement from earlier in the season when she used a Gershwin medley.

More than anything, Gold skated this program, something that had been a goal for her going into this important Olympic qualifying event.

“I’ve been working really hard on the program,” she said. “I’m glad I did a good job.”

Polina Edmunds, the 15-year old 2013 U.S. junior titlist, scored the second-highest marks of the night with her high-charged performance to peppy Cha Cha music by the Ballroom Orchestra. The program, for which she was awarded a 66.75, featured a triple Lutz-triple toe, triple flip and double Axel.

The California-based teen, who trains in San Jose with her mother, Nina Edmunds, a former Russian skater, and also Frank Carroll on a semi-regular basis for jumps, was the last competitor of the night but kept nearly everyone in the arena bound to their seats with her technically packed program.

“I knew how to get out there and skate like I’ve been training,” she said. “I’ve been training this program really well all year.”

Mirai Nagasu, the 2008 U.S. titlist and member of the 2010 U.S. Olympic team who has dealt with consistency issues over the past few years and placed seventh at the last two Nationals, skated a great short and wound up third.

This program to ‘The Man I Love’ by George Gershwin, was defined by super-fast spins, high triples and gorgeous spirals and was of a superior quality. At the conclusion, Nagasu received a standing ovation.

“I’ve only matured from my struggles and want to stay focused and do the best I can,” said Nagasu, 20. “I have to remain focused and think about the free skate.”

Ashley Wagner, the 22-year old reigning U.S. champion, was fourth with her program to ‘Shine Like a Diamond’ by Pink Floyd. Although she was strong, she stepped out of the second jump in her opening triple Lutz-double toe combination and had a tiny wobble on the landing of her triple loop, which on this night of fine competition, made a difference in her standing.

Still, Wagner skated with her characteristic spunk and energy and is fired up about the free skate.

“I’m in a good position to move up,” said Wagner, who is known to be one of the strongest come-from-behind contenders in the sport.

Ashley Cain of Texas placed fifth, earning big scores for her super-charged performance to “Flamenco” by Didula. This skater, who is coached by her parents, Darlene and Peter Cain, is known to be an extremely hard worker and dedicated skater.

“Ashley practices the way she skated this program here,” said Jimmie Santee, Professional Skaters Association executive director whose brother, David, a World silver medalist and seven-time U.S. men’s medalist, held a seminar last December in which she participated. “She is totally committed out there.” Scott Brown, the assistant coach of Gracie Gold, choreographed her program.