This was the triumph that Gracie Gold might have enjoyed last year had she not buried herself in the short program. This was the night that she had fantasized about ever since, standing atop the podium in an Olympic year, savoring a gilded moment.
“This night was a dream come true,” declared the 18-year-old Gold after she had blown away the field Saturday night to win the women’s title at the US Figure Skating Championships at TD Garden and become the eighth different face atop the women’s podium in 10 years. “Definitely one of the best nights of my life.”
Gold, who was born in the Greater Boston area and recently went to California to seek a motherlode, posted a glittering 211.69 score to finish a whopping 18 points ahead of 15-year-old newbie Polina Edmunds, with former champion Mirai Nagasu third and two-time champion Ashley Wagner a deflated fourth.
Thus the dilemma for the USFSA’s international committee, which will vote on the three members of the Olympic team that will be announced at noon on Sunday. Gold, a member of last year’s world team, figures to be automatic. Edmunds, who already has star quality and a shimmering future, could be named as well since she posted Olympic qualifying scores at junior competitions during the season.
If Edmunds is picked, the question then would be whether the selectors will select Wagner, who had a nightmarish long program with two falls, ahead of Nagasu, who turned in an extraordinary performance that put her back on the podium after a two-year absence. “I don’t know what my federation will do,” said the 20-year-old Nagasu, who was fourth at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. “I’ll have to respect any choice that they make.
Based on their criteria, which stresses consistency during this season and last, Wagner has a strong case. Besides her 2013 title and a fifth-place finish at the world championships that helped earn back a third Olympic spot for the United States, Wagner collected a bronze medal at last month’s Grand Prix final in Japan. But when her crown was on the line she collapsed, finishing eight points out of the medals.
“It’s embarrassing,” said Wagner, who fell on the back end of her opening triple flip-triple toe and again on her triple loop and omitted a double jump to finish fifth in the free skate. “It’s embarrassing as a two-time national champion to put out a performance like that. So, I did what I did and now we’ll see what happens.”
Nagasu, by her own admission, has had a roller-coaster ride during the past quadrennium, both on and off the ice, and she dumped her coach this season. But she’s the only American woman who has competed at the Games. “I know I haven’t always been the most consistent,” she conceded, “but I know that under pressure I’m pretty good most of the time. Like at the Olympics.”
Even though she’s deemed to have a qualifying result, it’s possible that the selectors could leave off Edmunds, last year’s junior champion who skated an ethereal program with seven triple jumps, including an opening triple lutz-triple toe combination.
“I’m young, but I’m age-eligible for the Olympics,” said Edmunds. “Some of my role models like Tara Lipinski — she was 15 when she went to the Olympics. I think tonight was the night we all had to prove ourselves, and we did.”
There were no questions about Gold, who landed four triples in the first minute and submitted a sparkling effort whose only flaw was a stumble on the triple flip. It was by far her best performance of the season, one that brought everybody in the building up out of their seats, and it made for easy work for headline writers. “GRACIE GETS GOLD,” she mused. “That’s everything I dreamed of. It’s almost too good to be true — but it happened.”