BOSTON – Gracie Gold, with a name made for an Olympian, looked like one at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Still to be decided is who joins her at the Sochi Games after two-time defending champ Ashley Wagner tumbled to the ice twice in her free skate to finish a distant fourth.
Gold won her first title in a runaway Saturday, but there was plenty of intrigue behind her in the standings. Fifteen-year-old Polina Edmunds was second, and 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu third in a resurgent performance.
U.S. Figure Skating officials will announce Sunday which three women go to the Winter Games, taking into account past performances. They will have a lot to think about.
Gold is the only no-brainer.
She wasn’t perfect Saturday, but she didn’t need to be after building a big lead in the short program. She finished with 211.69 points to beat Edmunds by more than 18.
“The nerves are something I’ve battled with and have let get in my head, but tonight I was strangely calm,” she said.
Skating last, the 18-year-old Gold realized what she had accomplished before she even completed her program. After landing her last double axel, she pumped both fists.
“I knew that was it,” she said.
Gold was second behind Wagner in 2013, and with another year’s seasoning, she now connects with her music along with just nailing the jumps.
Edmunds was competing at senior nationals for the first time after winning the junior title last year. U.S. officials were trying to confirm that she was eligible for the Olympics under the governing body’s rules because she hadn’t competed at a sanctioned international senior event.
She doesn’t have the expression yet of the older skaters, but her poise was far beyond her years.
She fell on a triple flip yet landed two triple jumps after that for six total. Once her marks were announced, she sweetly waved to the camera, her smile wide and her eyes wider.
“There’s a lot of strong skaters here, but in the end we were the three, and I think that has something to say for itself,” she said.
Nagasu finished fourth at the Vancouver Games as a 16-year-old, but that bubbly confidence seemed long gone in recent years. A U.S. champion at age 14 in 2008, she was seventh the last two years.
Nagasu wore a serious expression for most of her James Bond-inspired performance Saturday, avoiding any major mistakes. When she saw she was in second behind Edmunds, she leaped out of her chair and buried her face in her hands.
Nagasu didn’t expect to get any sleep Saturday night. Her voice cracked as she made her case for the team.
“As the only person who’s already been to the Olympics, I really want to go back again,” she said.
Not only was Wagner by far the most accomplished skater in the field, she was considered the Americans’ best chance for a medal in the sport other than ice dance world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White. She was fifth at worlds, helping the U.S. earn a third Olympic berth, and won the bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final.
But her program fell apart right at the start. She crashed to the ice on the second jump of a triple-triple combination, and after that, her normal liveliness had drained away from her skating. Wagner fell again on a triple loop and failed to cleanly land two other triple jumps.
“I felt like lead,” Wagner said. “I’m in shock that that’s when I put out at nationals. I’m embarrassed that I get so much attention for the skater that I am and that’s when I put out.”
Now the 22-year-old Wagner is at risk of just missing out on the Olympics for the second straight games. In 2010, she was third at nationals when the U.S. had only two spots.
“Nobody’s safe,” she said.
Seven in a row for Chan
Patrick Chan won his seventh consecutive Canadian title on Saturday night.
Three-time world champion, the favorite heading into the Sochi Olympics next month, scored 277.42 points.
“You know what? I’m so proud to be Canadian, so proud to skate for Canada, and to go to these next Olympics being seven-time national champion is huge,” Chan said.
“It’s so easy to overlook it, but I still want to make mistakes like yesterday that keep my humble and make me realize how nationals isn’t easy and I can’t overlook it, and today was a hard-fought program. And that makes me feel like yes, I deserve the seventh title, and I can enjoy it.”
Kevin Reynolds was second with 242.45 points, and Liam Firus third at 238.13.
Earlier, Kaetlyn Osmond successfully defended her women’s title with 208.23 points, and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won the pairs.