Jan 8, 2014, 6:30 AM EDT
Four years after they represented the U.S. at the Vancouver Games, Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu return to the U.S. Championships this week in Boston for another shot at the Olympics, but they aren’t the headliners in the chase for the team’s three spots in Sochi.
Instead, such distinction belongs to reigning and two-time national champion Ashley Wagner, who just missed out on the Vancouver team by placing third in 2010, and teenager Gracie Gold, who vaulted to a second-place finish at Nationals a year ago in her senior debut.
The ladies skate Thursday and Saturday nights at TD Garden with the Olympic selections being announced Sunday at a noon press conference.
“I’ve been training really hard going into Nationals, which is obviously such an important event this year,” said Wagner, who at age 22 is the favorite for a third straight U.S. title. “I want to do everything that I can do make sure I’m ready.”
Gold will look to do the same after her first season on the senior Grand Prix circuit. A year ago at Nationals she was ninth after the short program – beset by nerves – before she won the free skate, launching her to a silver-medal finish.
“The senior ladies – this is a big event,” Gold told reporters last week on a conference call. “I just need to trust my training in order to have a steadier Nationals this year, but with the same great outcome.”
Any color of medal for the girl called Gold would put Gracie in a strong position to be named to one of the three spots on the U.S. team this year after she won bronze at Skate Canada and placed fourth at the Grand Prix stop in Tokyo.
But nothing is certain for Wagner or Gold as a flurry of talented skater nip at their boots for the chance to head to Russia.
Agnes Zawadzki is one of them, the 19-year-old Chicago native having placed third at the last two U.S. Championships.
Zawadzki had struggles through the Grand Prix season, however, placing sixth and seventh at two events after changing back to her old coach, Tom Zakrajsek, in October, who also works with reigning U.S. men’s champion Max Aaron.
“I felt like that definitely was not what I wanted to present for the season, especially with the Olympics approaching,” Zawadzki said in an interview with NBCOlympics.com. “But I sat I’ve felt more consistent and confident with Tom and he’s kicking my butt. We’re working so hard.”
Boston-based Christina Gao also had difficulty at her Grand Prix assignments, placing fourth at Skate Canada and eighth in Paris. She’s taken the year off from Harvard to focus on her Olympic quest, but will need to snap a streak of four straight fifth-place finishes at Nationals in order to have a chance to make the team.
“[The Boston skaters] have such great programs this year that when we’re training together it’s such a good energy prior to the Olympics,” Gao said. “I can only imagine what it will feel like inside TD Garden. I’m really excited because I have a ton of friends at Harvard who I’ve told need to come and get tickets so they can come and watch.”
But there are other skaters for fans – and competitors – to watch, as well. Nagasu is perhaps the most notable, having been fourth at the 2010 Olympics and recently placing third at the Cup of Russia in November, the season’s final Grand Prix stop. Like Gao, she’ll need to up a string of two-straight seventh-place finishes to earn a shot at Sochi.
Injuries have derailed Flatt’s efforts, the 2010 national champion now making a comeback of sorts at 21 years old. The Stanford junior qualified via regional and sectional events and – always known as a steady skater – will look to deliver two reliable programs in Boston.
Courtney Hicks, fourth at Nationals a year ago, is coming off a solid season in which she won two Senior B events, just a step below the Grand Prix level. The 18-year-old beat Gold at the season-opening U.S. Figure Skating Classic in September in Salt Lake City and was fifth at Skate Canada.
Samantha Cesario, 20, aims to build off of two top-five finishes on the Grand Prix circuit from the year while Polina Edmunds, the reigning U.S. junior champion, won two junior Grand Prix gold medals this season and looks to make a splash at the age of 15.
Two-time U.S. champion Alissa Czisny ended her Olympic bid earlier this season with an ongoing injury, while two-time U.S. medalist Caroline Zhang struggled to a 10th-place finish at Skate America in October.
Wagner, who has placed fourth (2012) and fifth (2013) at the last two World Championships, says that the third-place finish that left her off the team in 2010 at Nationals has certainly motivated her.
“2010 absolutely still drives me,” she told reporters last week. “I owe it to myself for everything that I’ve given up – the sacrifices, the struggles – to make it onto this Olympic team and to do everything that I possibly can to make it onto the podium.”
NBC will air live coverage of the Ladies’ free skate Saturday night from 8 to 11 p.m. Eastern, as well as host a livestream of the event on NBCOlympics.com.
— Christina Gao (@christina_gao) January 4, 2014
Sep 4, 2015, 7:57 AM EDT
Merritt left the hospital less than a week after winning a bronze medal in Beijing.
Sep 3, 2015, 4:46 PM EDT
Canadian sprint sensation plans to compete collegiately in 2015-16.
Sep 3, 2015, 3:49 PM EDT
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, David Rudisha and Wayde van Niekerk were among the Beijing stars in Diamond League action.
Sep 3, 2015, 12:08 PM EDT
The course designer attached a camera to his helmet and traversed the dirt, rocks, going over a bridge and through a tunnel.
Sep 3, 2015, 11:38 AM EDT
The 2016 U.S. Olympic team is now at eight athletes across all sports.
Sep 2, 2015, 4:02 PM EDT
The four-time U.S. champion isn’t retiring yet.
Sep 2, 2015, 3:37 PM EDT
Some of the names most associated with Los Angeles professional sports teams are Olympians.
Sep 2, 2015, 11:27 AM EDT
One event includes 2015 World champions from three different events.
Sep 2, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
“I can hardly imagine that it is possible given the schedule.”
Sep 2, 2015, 9:19 AM EDT
An African nation has never hosted an Olympics.
Sep 1, 2015, 5:11 PM EDT
Budapest, Hamburg, Paris and Rome previously announced bids.
Sep 1, 2015, 1:51 PM EDT
Walsh Jennings and April Ross will have little to no wiggle room in Olympic qualifying next year.
Sep 1, 2015, 12:36 PM EDT
She could become the second oldest Olympic singles player since the sport returned to the Games in 1988.
Sep 1, 2015, 8:58 AM EDT
A competition will be held to pick a new logo.
Aug 31, 2015, 4:20 PM EDT
Olympic champions came through and potential future Olympic stars broke out.
Aug 31, 2015, 2:47 PM EDT
One world record and many near marks on the track and in the field.
Aug 31, 2015, 12:09 PM EDT
Kidney failure, a Segway and goat blood.
Aug 30, 2015, 6:14 PM EDT
The Nigerian team is led by an NBA veteran.
Aug 30, 2015, 5:01 PM EDT
It can’t become official until later this week.
Aug 30, 2015, 10:25 AM EDT
“I’m going to cut the goat … and drink the blood.”
- Mixed results for World champions in Zurich 0
- Los Angeles’ ties to the Olympics 1
- Five events to watch at Zurich Diamond League 0
- Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid is official 1
- Top ten storylines from World Track and Field Championships 0
- USOC, Los Angeles agree to 2024 Olympic bid, reports say 1
- U.S. finishes World Championships with fewest medals since 2003 3
- Emotional Bode Miller medals in race that mattered most (63)
- Russian women kissing after relay victory at World Championships causes stir (62)
- IOC drops wrestling from 2020 Olympics (47)
- South Korea filing official complaint over Yuna Kim’s Olympic silver (39)
- Zola Budd, 47, dominates college runners in 5K (33)