Ashley Wagner picked for Olympic skating berth

BOSTON — At the end of last season, it seemed clear Gracie Gold had surpassed two-time national champion Ashley Wagner as the leading U.S. woman's figure skater, even though Gold had been one place behind Wagner at the 2013 national and world championships.

Now there is no doubt, given Gold's dominance of this year's national championships, which ended with the 18-year-old winning her first title and Sunday being named to the Olympic team.

And there also was little doubt Wagner would get one of the three women's spots on the team, despite a fourth-place finish at nationals that included a desultory short program and a dismal free skate, performances she called "embarrassing."

U.S. Figure Skating picked the top two championship finishers, Gold and Polina Edmunds, 15, for the team for next month's Games in Sochi, Russia, but bumped third-place Mirai Nagasu, 20, in favor of Wagner, 22, in what seems to be an unprecedented move.

U.S. Figure Skating officials were as vague about how the choice was made as they were in creating selection rules that allowed a skater's body of work over the past year to carry a significant but nonspecific amount of weight.

"If you look at Ashley Wagner's record and performance, she has the top credentials of any of our female skaters," U.S. Figure Skating president Patricia St. Peter said. "We don't use a single competition as the sole measurement for who should participate in the Olympic Winter Games."

Said Wagner, who in her short program had a major jump mistake and in her free skate fell twice and failed to cleanly land two other triple jumps, "This one horrible performance is not what makes me the skater that I am. (The federation) is giving me the opportunity to go into the Olympics and make everyone forget about this."

Nagasu, whose fourth-place finish at the 2010 Games was the higher of the two U.S. women, said in a statement she was disappointed and "though I may not agree with it, I have to respect the decision the federation made."

The elevating of Wagner apparently is unprecedented when applied to a skater who competed at a pre-Olympic nationals, the Chicago Tribune reported. Skaters previously have been named to Olympic teams after not competing at nationals because of injuries: Todd Eldredge in 1992, Nancy Kerrigan in 1994, pairs team Jenni Meno and Todd Sand in 1998, and Michelle Kwan in 2006.

On the men's side, Jeremy Abbott, 28, was named to his second Olympic team after winning his fourth national title with a championships-record 274.27 points.

"I'm just a small-town boy," said Abbott, from Aspen, Colo. "I never thought that I would be here."

Abbott beat Evan Lysacek at the 2010 nationals before the last Olympics but finished ninth at the Games as Lysacek won the gold. Lysacek isn't competing this year because of injuries.

Jason Brown, 19, won the free skate and jumped from third after the short program to second overall with 270.08 points and was selected to fill the second U.S. spot.

There were no surprises in the ice dance and pairs selections.

In ice dancing, top-three finishers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, and siblings Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani were picked. Davis and White, the defending world champions and 2010 silver medalists, are considered the United States' only serious medal contenders among the four skating disciplines.

The top two pairs made the team, champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, and Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay, who train at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex. This is the second straight Olympics in which pairs who train at the Manatee County facility made the team.

Winter Olympics

When/where: Feb. 7-23,

Sochi, Russia

Ashley Wagner picked for Olympic skating berth 01/12/14 [Last modified: Sunday, January 12, 2014 11:17pm]

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