Gracie Gold Proves She's Peaking at Right Time with National Championship

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2014

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 11:  Gracie Gold takes a curtain call after winning the ladies competition at the Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at TD Garden on January 11, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Gracie Gold got a medal to match her name at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday, Jan. 11 in Boston. 

Gold has struggled with the pressure of big moments before, but this time she found herself with a greater sense of peace: "The nerves are something I've battled with and have let get in my head," Gold said via the Associated Press (h/t Sports Illustrated), "but tonight [Saturday] I was strangely calm."

The 18-year-old certainly looked calm on Saturday night. With her gold medal and a spot on the Olympic team in 2014, Gold had one last skate for the appreciative Boston fans: 

The calm she spoke of may not have been all that strange. She had a huge lead after the short program. She did not skate her best on Saturday but still scored a 211.69 to win by more than 18. 

Coming in second was 15-year-old Polina Edmunds, and in third was Mirai Nagasu—who is a veteran of the 2010 Olympic team. As you'll notice, not in the top three was Ashley Wagner. The two-time defending champion of the event struggled to a distant fourth-place finish. 

Despite the poor finish, Wagner was named to the 2014 Olympic team. As passed along, Gold will be joined by Edmunds and Wagner on the trip to Sochi. 

Gold's selection was the only no-brainer in the group.

She was runner-up in this competition last year and has been getting better ever since. When she took the top spot in this competition, there was no way she was going to be left off the team. 

Now she is in a position to leave Sochi as a star. The KARE-TV sports director in Minneapolis, Eric Perkins, is one of many who are beginning to notice Gold's star power:

What is promising for Gold is that she is continuing to get better. Her dominant short program displayed how much smoother and more elegant Gold has become in incorporating the music into her movements. 

Her improvements are not by accident. Gold made the bold move to switch coaches. Gold switched coaches and locations as she began to work with longtime coach Frank Carroll and had to move from Illinois to Southern California to do so.

That was a lot of change to take on with the Olympics so close on the horizon. Apparently, it was the right call.

Gold will have to continue to improve if she wants to bring home a medal from Sochi. The competition is deep, and prior to this event, it was Wagner who was viewed by most as America's only hope to capture an individual figure skating medal.

With Gold rounding into form, however, it would be foolish to rule her out of standing on a Sochi podium.