If Gracie Gold wins the women’s title on Saturday night, she’ll be the eighth different face atop the podium in 10 years. And if Polina Edmunds and Mirai Nagasu hold on to their places after the short program, they’ll present the US Figure Skating Association’s selectors with a dilemma when they vote on the three-woman team for Sochi.
If Ashley Wagner, the two-time champion, were to finish among the top five (she’s fourth going into the free skate), she’d likely be named to the squad based on her international results from this season and last. But if she has a meltdown the committee would have difficulty explaining why they left off a medalist if they tap Wagner when the trio is announced on Sunday.
The intriguing variable is the 15-year-old Edmunds, last year’s junior titlist who skated lights-out on Thursday and who has the most difficult technical long program with three triple-jump combinations, including a leadoff triple lutz-triple toe-triple toe. If she skates cleanly she’s all but certain to be on the podium and might well win. And if Nagasu, a former champion and Vancouver veteran who had a strong effort in the short, can avoid a repeat of last year’s implosion and claim a medal, she’ll make a case for herself.
Wagner, who’s bidding to become the first woman to win three titles in a row since Michelle Kwan in 2005, admitted to having a flashback that sabotaged her opening triple-triple combination. “I think I had some demons to overcome,” she said after doubling the back end. “I was definitely thinking about the short program in 2010 going into that triple flip-triple toe, so I decided to play it safe rather than be sorry.”
Wagner, who was the hunted one last year, says she doesn’t mind being the hunter again. “I really like being the fighter,” she said. “I really like going after the top prize, not being the one who has to fend everybody off.”
Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, the Skating Club of Boston duo who’ll be defending their pairs title in Saturday afternoon’s long program, are exemplars of the value of sticking together for multiple seasons. “The message to the younger skaters is, just fight through it,” says Castelli. “Sometimes we thought we were going to give up on each other and we just looked at each other, took some time off and just came back together and said, we’re not done, we’re not ready, we have more potential.’’ Being a hometown favorite can be both harrowing and heartening. So concluded Saugus native and Skating Clubber Colin McManus after he and partner Anastasia Cannuscio placed seventh in the short dance. “As I was skating around the rink I could just see so many familiar faces like my sisters and my aunts and my uncles,” said McManus. “They all had their signs and it just brought it back home for me so I was very overwhelmed but very, very happy.” . . . How many thousand empty yellow seats have there been during the first two days of the championships? Impossible to say since the USFSA isn’t giving out daily attendance figures. The association will release an aggregate figure after the event concludes with the men’s free skate on Sunday.