US Olympic Figure Skating 2014: Breaking Down Team USA's Women's Team
After the nail-biting U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston and dramatic overnight deliberation by the selection committee, three women have been named to Team USA's Sochi roster: Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner and Polina Edmunds.
The selection didn't come without controversy. After finishing fourth in nationals, two-time U.S. champion Wagner ended up making the team due to her past successes and the strength of her international resume. This left bronze medalist Mirai Nagasu, who finished fourth at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, off the team.
Nevertheless, Gold, Wagner and Edmunds will be taking their talent to Sochi to try to make their Olympic dreams come true. Here's what you need to know about them.
U.S. Championship result: 1st
Career highlight: This! Winning the gold medal at the 2014 U.S. Championships and making Team USA is by far the biggest thing that Gold, just 18, has done in her career. She was expected to share the spotlight with Ashley Wagner at the championships in Boston, but she wasn't expected to run away with it.
More background: Gold just recently started working with Frank Carroll, the famous figure-skating coach who used to work with Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek. Carroll aimed to add more maturity to Gold's programs, and so far, so good.
Gold is best known for her speed on the ice and the bright red lipstick she always wears in competition. She is very close to her fraternal twin sister, Carly, who is also a figure skater.
U.S. Championship results: 4th
Career highlight: Winning back-to-back U.S. Figure Skating Championship titles in 2012 and 2013.
More background: At 22, Wagner is the veteran on the team and by far the athlete with the most experience internationally.
Wagner didn't finish on the podium at the national championships, but she qualified for the team due to her "body of work," as noted by Christine Brennan of USA Today.
After finding out she'd be going to Sochi, Wagner said, "I am at a loss for words right now. It has been a really long four years. It wasn't my night last night. I am happy my federation was able to see beyond one bad skate," via Yahoo Sports' Martin Rogers.
In addition to her 2012 and 2013 national titles, she finished fourth and fifth in the last two world championships, the highest showing of any American. Back in 2010, Wagner finished one spot out of qualification for the Vancouver Olympic team. She has used the disappointment to fuel her success over the last three years.
U.S. Championship result: 2nd
Career highlight: This, by far. Edmunds, 15, was an afterthought coming into the U.S. Championships in Boston, her very first senior-level competition. But she skated the programs of her life, won the silver medal and sealed her spot on the team.
More background: The surprise of the team, Edmunds—who only made the Sochi age requirement by six weeks—actually had the most technically demanding routine out of all the competitors at nationals.
The fearless high school sophomore was the 2013 national junior champion, and she works part-time with Gracie Gold's coach, Frank Carroll. Even though she's new to international competition, her mother's family is from Russia, so she'll feel at home in Sochi.
Storylines to Watch
Can Gracie Gold skate in Sochi the way she skated in Boston?
Gold dominated the competition at nationals and fully deserved to skate away with the gold. But the teen hasn't performed that well on the world stage yet, and it remains to be seen if she can earn her spot as America's sweetheart by skating her best under Olympic-sized pressure.
Will Ashley Wagner redeem herself at her first Olympics?
Wagner has been trying to get to the Olympics after narrowly missing the Vancouver team four years ago, but she did not skate her best in Boston and had to rely on the selection committee's bump to earn her spot. She'll be looking to prove that her selection to the team was not an error.
How will Polina Edmunds handle the harsh international spotlight?
Edmunds isn't just a novice on the world stage; she's practically an unknown. In just her second senior competition, Edmunds will be looking to announce herself on the Olympic stage and prove that her stellar skating in Boston wasn't just a fluke.
How They Compare to US Teams of Old
There's no five-time world champion Michelle Kwan on this team. Olympic gold medalists Sarah Hughes and Tara Lipinski and silver medalist Sasha Cohen don't have counterparts either.
In fact, this United States women's figure skating team has the least international success of any team in American history. The United States has been struggling on the world stage for years, failing to medal at the world championships in the past seven years.
But the one good thing this team has is star power. Gold and Wagner have been the faces of American figure skating over the past year, and with heaps of sponsors and talent, they are poised to win over the hearts of America.
Edmunds is no doubt the future of Team USA, and many will tune in to see how she handles herself on such a big stage.
What’s Team USA’s Outlook in Sochi?
The U.S. team will be big underdogs headed into Sochi.
South Korea's Kim Yuna is expected to win the gold, and Japan's Mao Asada and Italy's Carolina Kostner are favored to fill out the podium, as they have many times before.
Team USA just hasn't proved that it can medal at the biggest international events. Wagner has had the most success on the world stages, finishing fourth and fifth in the last two world championships. Gold competed in her first world championships last year, finishing sixth. Sochi will be Edmunds' first time on the international stage.
But all three skaters certainly have the talent to make an impact if they skate their best, and as has been proven time and time again, anything can happen at the Olympics.
It will be fun to watch in Sochi and see if Wagner, Gold or Edmunds can sneak onto the podium and bring female figure skating in the United States back into the spotlight where it belongs.
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