BOSTON — Gracie Gold won her first U.S. figure skating title Saturday night and all but guaranteed herself a spot at the Olympics.
Still to be decided is who joins her in Sochi after two-time defending champ Ashley Wagner finished a distant fourth after a mistake-marred free skate.
Fifteen-year-old Polina Edmunds was second, and 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu was 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.
“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.”
Gold wasn’t perfect, 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.
Skating last, the 18-year-old Gold knew 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 in the year since, she now connects with her music along with just landing the jumps.
Edmunds was competing at senior nationals for the first time after winning the junior title last year. She doesn’t have the expression yet of the older skaters, yet her poise was far beyond her years.
She fell on a triple flip but landed two triple jumps after that for six total. After her marks were announced, she sweetly waved to the camera, her smile wide and her eyes wider.
“Tonight was the night we all needed to prove ourselves, and I think I did prove myself,” 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 finished 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 leapt out of her chair and buried her face in her hands.
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 tumbled to the ice on the second jump of a triple-triple combination, and from that moment on, 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.
When it was over, Wagner stared blankly into the stands as the fans voiced their support for all her past successes.
Waiting for her marks, Wagner’s head hung in shock, then she turned to her coach and shook her hands in frustration as she described what had just happened.
Now she’s 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.