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. Triathletes’ reactions to Rio Olympic water venue after test event

    Aug 3, 2015, 4:52 PM EDT

    AP AP

    “We swim in waters all around the world, and this was no different from anywhere else,” Gwen Jorgensen said.

  2. Misty May-Treanor competes for first time in 3 years, not a comeback

    Aug 3, 2015, 2:51 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    May-Treanor retired after the London Olympics and had a baby.

  3. David Boudia earns another World Diving Championships silver

    Aug 3, 2015, 8:59 AM EDT

    AP AP

    Boudia trounced one Chinese star but was beaten by a longtime rival.

  4. Katie Ledecky, Sun Yang open quests for history with golds at World Championships

    Aug 2, 2015, 12:13 PM EDT

    Katie Ledecky Getty Images

    Also, a U.S. Olympic champion’s world record was broken in a semifinal.

  5. Ronda Rousey knocks out Bethe Correia in 34 seconds

    Aug 2, 2015, 1:28 AM EDT

    AP AP

    Rousey is a 2008 Olympic judo bronze medalist.

  6. World Swimming Championships men’s preview

    Jul 31, 2015, 10:55 AM EDT

    Ryan Lochte Getty Images

    Action gets started Sunday in Kazan.

  7. USOC collecting data on polluted Rio Olympic water venues

    Jul 30, 2015, 3:42 PM EDT

    AP AP

    A US Sailing official maintained his stance on the Rio water from last year.

  8. Which Miracle on Ice item is the toughest for Jim Craig to sell? (video)

    Jul 30, 2015, 1:31 PM EDT

    Jim Craig AP

    Watch the goalie’s interview on The Dan Patrick Show.

  9. British Athletics clears Mo Farah after investigation

    Jul 30, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Farah was to have “blood data, supplements data, everything surrounding his medical treatment” investigated.

  10. World Swimming Championships broadcast schedule

    Jul 30, 2015, 10:12 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    NBC, NBC Sports Live Extra and Universal Sports will combine for daily coverage.

  11. Almaty or Beijing? IOC set to choose 2022 Winter Olympic host

    Jul 30, 2015, 8:08 AM EDT

    Sochi Olympics Biathlon AP

    Either way, the vote will mark an Olympic first.

  12. Allyson Felix to run 400m at World Championships

    Jul 29, 2015, 6:27 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Felix will be absent from the 200m at Worlds for the first time since 2001.

  13. Simone Biles turns pro

    Jul 29, 2015, 4:49 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Biles won’t be eligible to compete collegiately.