Skip to content

Preview: Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold headline Ladies’ field at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Jan 8, 2014, 6:30 AM EDT

Ashley Wagner Getty Images

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.”

U.S. Figure Skating Championships Previews: Men | Women | Ice Dance | Pairs | Schedule

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Evan Lysacek: ‘My career is coming to an end’

    Sep 2, 2014, 11:11 AM EDT

    Evan Lysacek Getty Images

    Olympic champ figure skater yet to make official decision, but shows which way he is leaning.

  2. Usain Bolt takes on all questions in India

    Sep 2, 2014, 10:57 AM EDT

    Usain Bolt AP

    Would he rather race fast cars or cheetahs?

  3. Marlies Schild retires; impact on Mikaela Shiffrin

    Sep 2, 2014, 7:41 AM EDT

    Marlies Schild, Mikaela Shiffrin Getty Images

    Schild won silver behind Shiffrin in Sochi and is one of her idols.

  4. Carl Lewis becomes full-time University of Houston track coach

    Sep 1, 2014, 2:37 PM EDT

    Carl Lewis AP

    Lewis joins staff with two other Olympic sprint medalists.

  5. Berlin, Hamburg submit Olympic bid intentions

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:09 PM EDT

    Germany flag Getty Images

    Germany is the latest rival to a potential U.S. Olympic bid in 2024.

  6. African wrestlers out of World Championships due to Ebola travel restrictions

    Sep 1, 2014, 11:27 AM EDT

    Wrestling Getty Images

    Seven from Nigeria, two from Sierra Leone out due to Uzbekistan’s restrictions.

  7. Haley Anderson wins Pan Pacs open-water 10K by .01 after jellyfish sting, move to Maui

    Sep 1, 2014, 10:44 AM EDT

    Haley Anderson Getty Images

    Olympic silver medalist swam three days after suffering allergic reaction to jellyfish sting.

  8. Gwen Jorgensen wins World Championship in triathlon

    Aug 30, 2014, 5:27 PM EDT

    Gwen Jorgensen Rich Cruse/USA Triathlon

    American overcame a 69-second deficit, passing 19 women on the 10km run to cap dominating season.

  9. Henry Cejudo withdraws on eve of UFC fight debut

    Aug 29, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT

    Henry Cejudo Getty Images

    Olympic champion cites “medical reasons” hours before weigh-in.

  10. How the FIBA World Cup impacts the Olympics

    Aug 29, 2014, 1:44 PM EDT

    James Harden Getty Images

    Statistically, the U.S. might be better off not winning in Spain in the Olympic scope.

  11. Kayla Harrison wins bronze at World Judo Championships

    Aug 29, 2014, 12:36 PM EDT

    Kayla Harrison Getty Images

    Olympic champion missed 2013 Worlds after knee surgery.

  12. Gwen Jorgensen’s glory awaits in Edmonton

    Aug 29, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Gwen Jorgensen Getty Images

    An accountant five years ago, triathlete is dominating after Olympic disappointment.

  13. Tyson Gay last place in Zurich; Jenny Simpson leads U.S. winners (video)

    Aug 28, 2014, 4:56 PM EDT

    Tyson Gay

    Allyson Felix, David Rudisha beaten in first of two Diamond League finals meets.

  14. Man with cerebral palsy towed through Ironman by twin brother

    Aug 28, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT

    tvilling

    Steen and Peder Mondrup completed the Ironman Copenhagen in 15 hours.

  15. Youth Olympics wrap with Closing Ceremony, Lionel Messi cameo (photos)

    Aug 28, 2014, 11:12 AM EDT

    Closing Ceremony

    Olympic Flag handed over to Buenos Aires, host of 2018 Youth Olympics.

  16. Rio Olympics volunteer registration opens

    Aug 28, 2014, 10:37 AM EDT

    Rio 2016 Olympics Getty Images

    Officials looking for 70,000 people over the Olympics and Paralympics.

  17. Yao Ming reflects on Beijing 2008 at Youth Olympics (video)

    Aug 27, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT

    Yao Ming, Lewis Johnson

    Chinese basketball star also updates on what he’s been doing in retirement.

  18. Thomas Bach hopes mixed-gender events in Nanjing impact Olympics (video)

    Aug 27, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT

    Thomas Bach Getty Images

    IOC president sits down with Lewis Johnson at Youth Olympics.

  19. U.S. finishes Youth Olympics with 22 medals, 10 golds

    Aug 27, 2014, 1:52 PM EDT

    Sabrina Massialas Getty Images

    How can we apply the results looking ahead to the Rio Olympics?

  20. Zurich Diamond League final preview

    Aug 27, 2014, 12:17 PM EDT

    David Rudisha Getty Images

    Diamond Races up for grabs, plus Gay vs. Powell in the 100m.