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
Apr 17, 2014, 1:59 PM EDT
Mark Wells previously sold his gold medal, too.
Apr 17, 2014, 12:21 PM EDT
Sochi club team is being reformed.
Apr 17, 2014, 9:56 AM EDT
Furtsch Ojeda talks about winning 4x100m relay gold at 1932 Olympics.
Apr 17, 2014, 9:10 AM EDT
Trial goes on break until May 5.
Apr 16, 2014, 6:54 PM EDT
Olympic swimming champion finished 2013 race before explosions.
Apr 16, 2014, 4:43 PM EDT
Deal takes Nike, USATF through next seven Olympics.
Apr 16, 2014, 2:57 PM EDT
Decathlon champion talks Montreal 1976, Steve Prefontaine and the greatest athlete of all time.
Apr 16, 2014, 11:31 AM EDT
Police commissioner asks spectators not to flock to Boylston Street on Monday.
Apr 16, 2014, 8:56 AM EDT
Judge will spend break reading 2,000-page court record.
Apr 16, 2014, 4:17 AM EDT
Korea Skating Union is protesting the makeup of judges, not the results.
Apr 15, 2014, 3:59 PM EDT
Survivors, first responders, those affected by attack take part in tribute.
Apr 15, 2014, 12:16 PM EDT
Teams’ tweets sent at same time Tuesday morning.
Apr 15, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT
World’s fastest man might not race again until June.
Apr 15, 2014, 11:28 AM EDT
What is the competition like in Phelps’ potential events?
Apr 15, 2014, 10:26 AM EDT
Prosecution asks for break until May 5.
Apr 15, 2014, 8:16 AM EDT
Ceremony, moment of silence to honor, remember last year’s tragedy.
Apr 14, 2014, 4:47 PM EDT
‘World’s Strongest Man’ talks about nude photo shoot, pro wrestling career, meeting Andre the Giant.
Apr 14, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
Phelps announced as headliner for meet next week, ending two-year break.
Apr 14, 2014, 1:20 PM EDT
22-time Olympic medalist expected to come out of retirement next week.
Apr 14, 2014, 12:08 PM EDT
Woman who finished 20th found day after disappearing.
- Miracle on Ice hockey player selling his Olympic gold medal 0
- Evelyn Furtsch Ojeda is first female U.S. Olympic champion to reach 100 years old 0
- Oscar Pistorius’ prosthetic leg used in testimony 0
- Summer Sanders returns to run Boston Marathon again 0
- Catching up with Bruce Jenner 0
- Boston Marathon finish line security visibility increased after backpack incident 0
- ISU receives South Korea complaint over figure skating judging 8
- Emotional Bode Miller medals in race that mattered most (61)
- Russian women kissing after relay victory at World Championships causes stir (55)
- IOC drops wrestling from 2020 Olympics (46)
- South Korea filing official complaint over Yuna Kim’s Olympic silver (37)
- Zola Budd, 47, dominates college runners in 5K (33)