U.S. Champions Crowned at 2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships
The coronation of a new generation of skaters was ushered in Saturday night, as a radiant Gracie Gold, 18, and first-year senior Polina Edmonds, 15, captured the gold and silver medals in a dazzling ladies final. Twenty-year-old Mirai Nagasu, who finished fourth at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, put distractions of the past behind her to earn the bronze medal and stake a claim for one of three Olympic berths.
The surprise of the night was seeing two-time champion Ashley Wagner, 22, with a pewter medal hanging around her neck. Wagner, the most successful U.S. lady during the 2013-14 Grand Prix season, earned the bronze at last month's Grand Prix Final and had been considered a medal-contender for next month's Olympic Winter Games.
Now, her fate - and the fate of the four ladies on the podium - rests in the U.S Figure Skating International Committee's hands. On Sunday, the committee will select only three ladies who will make the trip to Sochi.
Gold was blistering hot on an unseasonably warm, humid night in Boston, scorching the former U.S. record by 10 points for a total score of 211.69. With a packed TD Garden and nerves running high, each competitor knew what was at stake. Gold credited her new coach, Frank Carroll, with helping her stay focused.
"The nerves are something I've battled with and [have] let them get into my head," Gold said. "But tonight I felt strangely calm. And Frank's got an eye. We just found a quiet corner [and] waited for the six skaters."
Gold, skating in the final spot, had to follow a dynamic performance thrown down by Nagasu, who had the crowd on its feet well before hitting her last pose. When her 190.74 points were announced, placing her in second with just Gold to follow, Nagasu jumped to her feet. As she walked off the ice, she said she was surprised when the tears began to fall.
"I am so happy, I'm really at a loss for words," an emotional Nagasu said. "It's how I wanted to skate. It was a really, really great skate. Hearing the crowd like that, I'm just so happy. I'm a little bit speechless. I didn't know if I would be able to get to this. I'm just at a loss for words."
With expectant new energy pulsing through the crowd, Gold reached inside and stayed calm.
"It was tough following Mirai," Gold said, "but I actually think all of my Grand Prixs helped me with this. At Skate Canada, I was last following two standing ovations."
Edmunds, the youngest on the podium, showed the composure of a veteran on her way to 193.63 points.
"I was trying to stay calm," she said. "I was just thinking of all the skaters here, [how] I have nothing to lose because I am the 2013 junior champion, coming up, and this is my first year senior, and of course I have the dream to go to the Olympics. I knew that I'm young, but I thought that I need to stay calm, and skate my best."
Wagner, who was far off the mark with 182.74 points, made no excuses.
"It's embarrassing. It's embarrassing as two-time national champion to put out a performance like that," she said. "So, I did what I did and now we'll see what happens after this. Luckily I had a decent season, that definitely helps my case, but other than that I'm embarrassed for that program."
Jeremy Abbott has put an exclamation point on the end of his career at the U.S. Championships. Skating last in the free skate, with a number of tremendous performances before him, Abbott delivered what could be his best ever performance at the event he has now won four times. With a record total score of 274.27, Abbott is the 2014 U.S. men's champion.
"I always enjoy this competition more than anything," Abbott said. "It's always magic and I always feel it and I'm going to be sad not going back on the ice next year. But I'm really, really excited to go to Sochi. Really excited!"
After a record-breaking skate in the short program, Abbott opened his free skate with a huge quad toe before a big triple Axel-double toeloop. He would add four more triple jumps to go with his classic skating skills, footwork and spins.
Finishing a career-best eighth last year, Jason Brown vaulted up the standings this year to earn the silver medal with the winning free skate and 270.08 points overall. Featuring a huge triple Axel-triple toe combination, Brown also added a big 93.34 points for his components to aid him to his best career finish at the event.
Finishing in third place was 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron, who earned a total of 260.44 points. Aaron opened with a quad Salchow-double toe combination and would add six triple jumps to earn the top technical score of the event.
It was a record-smashing night for the powerhouse ice dancing team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White. The reigning World Champions and Olympic silver-medalists on Saturday became the first team to break 200 points en route to a record sixth-consecutive U.S. title at the 2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston.
Davis and White's free skate to "Scheherazade" earned a perfect 60-point component score on their way to a 200.19 total.
In the highly competitive landscape of American ice dancing, the medals of last year did not change hands.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates, skating an emotional performance to "Les Miserables," again earned the silver medal with 181.44 points. Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani had the crowd clapping along to a Michael Jackson medley to take home the bronze with 170.44 points. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, skating to a "Bohemian Rhapsody" concerto, won the pewter medal with 168.27 points.
The U.S. will send three ice dancing teams to into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, next month. That team will be announced on Sunday.
Once again, the night belonged to Davis and White, who will ride this momentum all the way to Sochi. The reigning World and Grand Prix champions, who earned the silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games, will be among the favorites for the gold medal.
"We're so proud of everything we've accomplished, and it meant so much to be able to come in here, take that title and head into the Olympics with it," Davis said shortly after stepping off the ice at the TD Garden. "We're working to earn gold."
The United States has never won an Olympic gold medal in ice dance.
For Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, Saturday's victory was doubly sweet. The Boston pairs team defended their title and likely punched their ticket to Sochi with 205.71 total points.
Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay (201.72) edged out 2012 U.S. champs Caydee Denney and John Coughlin (201.43) by just 0.29 points to claim the silver medal. Both the silver and bronze medalists turned in strong free skates, topping Castelli and Shnapir in the segment. Denney and Coughlin, fourth after the short program, won the free skate with 136.03 while Zhang and Bartholomay, second after the free skate, held strong with 135.22 points.
"We're both just completely on cloud nine right now," Bartholomay said. "As for the decision, from the committee as to who goes, we are aware second place isn't locked in. We gave it everything we had."
Castelli and Shnapir's gutsy free skate was rewarded with 132.58 points. The Skating Club of Boston team became the first to attempt a throw quadruple Salchow at the U.S. Championships, but Castelli fell on the landing.
"We're a little disappointed with ourselves today," Castelli said. "I felt I could have brought some more power and energy. I've totally been doing that quad all week."
As for Sunday's decision on which teams will go to Sochi, the veteran Coughlin was just pleased to see his sport represented well.
"You always hope at a U.S. Championships in an Olympic year to be part of everyone throwing down and giving it everything they have," he said. "I think everyone got their money's worth today."
For more information on all of the events at the U.S. Championships, including recaps and results from all of the events, visit icenetwork.