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. Japanese swim star Kosuke Hagino potentially out of World Championships

    Jul 2, 2015, 11:29 AM EDT

    Comments Off on Japanese swim star Kosuke Hagino potentially out of World Championships
    Japan's Kosuke Hagino competes in the me Japan's Kosuke Hagino competes in the me

    A suspected elbow fracture may force Hagino to pull out.

  2. Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross historically dominant at World Championships

    Jul 1, 2015, 10:07 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Walsh Jennings had never been part of such a rout with Misty May-Treanor.

  3. USOC eyes majority support for Boston 2024 ‘relatively soon’

    Jun 30, 2015, 7:33 PM EDT

    Boston 2024

    “We’re not discussing right now the possibility of not submitting a bid.”

  4. Usain Bolt pulls out of July track meets

    Jun 30, 2015, 2:37 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Bolt flew to Munich to treat an injury.

  5. Brazil’s president offers Barack Obama ‘standing invitation’ to Rio Olympics

    Jun 30, 2015, 2:25 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Obama has never attended an Olympics as president, and this is his last chance.

  6. Simon Shnapir retires from figure skating

    Jun 30, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Shnapir won Olympic bronze in Sochi.

  7. Missy Franklin named top NCAA female athlete

    Jun 30, 2015, 10:37 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Franklin beat out another Rio 2016 Olympic hopeful for the honor.

  8. Cristiano Ronaldo ‘a possibility’ for Rio 2016 Olympics

    Jun 30, 2015, 9:19 AM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo Getty Images

    Ronaldo debuted at the Olympics two years before his first World Cup.

  9. Angela Ruggiero to become fourth women’s player in Hockey Hall of Fame

    Jun 30, 2015, 8:59 AM EDT

    AP AP

    The 2015 Hall of Fame class also includes four men’s Olympic medalists.

  10. Michael Phelps’ career in photos on his 30th birthday

    Jun 30, 2015, 8:10 AM EDT

    Michael Phelps

    Most decorated Olympian of all time turned 30 on Tuesday.

  11. Michael Phelps’ potential record chases at Rio Olympics

    Jun 30, 2015, 7:50 AM EDT

    Michael Phelps AP

    Phelps still trails a legendary gymnast, U.S. track and field champions and one of his 2004 Olympic swimming teammates.

  12. Five takeaways from U.S. Track and Field Championships

    Jun 29, 2015, 2:45 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The U.S. appears headed for a historically strong World Championships medal haul.

  13. Boston 2024 releases Olympic bid version 2.0 (photos)

    Jun 29, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT

    Boston 2024 Olympic Stadium

    “The critical issue that everyone asks is, ‘Can we run a privately funded Games with a surplus?'”

  14. Yannick Agnel withdraws from World Swimming Championships

    Jun 29, 2015, 11:09 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Agnel isn’t the only men’s swimming star who will be absent from Worlds.

  15. Justin Gatlin wins 200m at U.S. Championships in another personal best

    Jun 28, 2015, 8:39 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The women’s 800m final was the craziest of the day.

  16. Bernard Lagat emotional after missing first Worlds team since 2005

    Jun 28, 2015, 3:53 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Three first-time Worlds members in the women’s 5000m.