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. Usain Bolt not happy with Tyson Gay’s reduced ban

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:21 PM EDT

    Olympics Day 15 - Athletics Getty Images

    “It is sending a bad message,” Bolt said.

  2. Gabby Douglas helps girl’s dream come true with Make-A-Wish

    Jul 22, 2014, 4:58 PM EDT

    Gabby Douglas

    Amarissa, 13, is a former gymnast who suffers from lupus.

  3. David Boudia ponders a third diving event leading to 2016

    Jul 22, 2014, 12:24 PM EDT

    David Boudia Getty Images

    Olympic champion finished his season in Shanghai last week.

  4. Guide to the Commonwealth Games

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:35 AM EDT

    Usain Bolt Getty Images

    Top sprinters from Jamaica, swimmers from Australia and more gather in Glasgow.

  5. First Olympic golf qualification rankings released

    Jul 21, 2014, 6:09 PM EDT

    Rory McIlroy AP

    U.S. stars would not make the Olympic field if it was determined today.

  6. Big 12 commissioner says men’s Olympic sports could be cut

    Jul 21, 2014, 3:13 PM EDT

    Bob Bowlsby AP

    NCAA’s current lawsuits may cut funding.

  7. Dutch cyclist cheats death twice, avoids both Malaysian Airlines flights

    Jul 21, 2014, 2:11 PM EDT

    Maarten de Jonge `

    “It’s inconceivable,” Maarten de Jonge said.

  8. 90-plus-year-old men set 3 world relay records at USATF Masters

    Jul 21, 2014, 10:43 AM EDT

    Champion Goldy

    Extraordinary men include war veterans, longtime NASA worker, Methodist minister.

  9. Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics chief quits

    Jul 21, 2014, 8:33 AM EDT

    Kim Jin-sun AP

    Kim Jin-sun had been the committee’s president since October 2011.

  10. Mariel Zagunis wins silver at World Fencing Championships (video)

    Jul 18, 2014, 3:09 PM EDT

    Mariel Zagunis Getty Images

    U.S. Olympic flag bearer returned to the podium after missing medals at 2012 Olympics, 2013 Worlds.

  11. Henry Ellard, former NFL All-Pro receiver, competes at USATF Masters

    Jul 18, 2014, 10:10 AM EDT

    Henry Ellard Getty Images

    Ellard triple jumped at 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials.

  12. Jesse Owens biopic cast headliners revealed

    Jul 17, 2014, 3:42 PM EDT

    Jesse Owens AP

    Multiple Owens biopics in the works.

  13. Lifetime doping bans not legal, WADA president says

    Jul 17, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Craig Reedie Reuters

    But a four-year ban would stand up in court.

  14. Olympians, Paralympians at the ESPYs (photos)

    Jul 17, 2014, 1:49 PM EDT

    Jamie Anderson

    Sochi stars and a 12-time Olympic medalist were at Nokia Theater.

  15. Monaco Diamond League on world record watch; preview

    Jul 17, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT

    Absel Kiprop Getty Images

    Asbel Kiprop goes after 16-year-old mark in 1500m.

  16. South Korea men’s hockey team might not qualify for 2018

    Jul 17, 2014, 10:53 AM EDT

    South Korea hockey Getty Images

    Host countries aren’t assured spots in the Olympics anymore, and South Korea is ranked very low.

  17. Paralympic champion Josh Sweeney receives Tillman Award at ESPYs

    Jul 17, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT

    Josh Sweeney AP

    Sweeney, a Purple Heart recipient, scored the gold-winning goal in Sochi.