The United States figure skating team got off to a rather rocky start at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Aside from a stellar performance in the ice dance short dance from Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Team USA failed to finish in the top three places in any team short program event.
However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel for the United States, led by Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner.
The 18-year-old rising star Gold put on a virtually flawless performance in the team ladies' free skating event, as she recorded a final score of 129.38. That was good enough to finish second to Russia's phenom Julia Lipnitskaia.
Her nine-point performance was the best that the United States was able to manage in any singles competition throughout the team events. Those points turned out to be crucial, as Team USA came away with the bronze medal.
Here's how the medal count for the 2014 Olympic Games currently sits:
Gold is extremely polished at such a young age. She is very technically sound and her jumps are consistently clean. In fact, during her performance in the team ladies' free skate, she nailed all 11 of her jumps.
Not only is Gold an impressively mature skater, but she also has a mature attitude to boot. After her dazzling performance, she was one of the first to praise Russia's Lipnitskaia.
During an interview with Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News, Gold had some kind words for her young opponent. "She's dynamite, guys. She's completely unfazed. She has no spine, but she has iron in her bones. She goes 'Ding, ding, ding. I'm not tired.'"
This young skater has many years of fantastic routines ahead of her. The United States is lucky to have such a young, fierce competitor on its Olympic team.
Another young American skater that really surprised audiences in Sochi is Ashley Wagner. At 22 years of age, Wagner was a controversial addition to Team USA this year. She finished in fourth place in the Nationals and the country can only send three skaters to Sochi.
Regardless, Wagner was chosen—and she proved all of her doubters wrong immediately.
She skated in the ladies' team short program on Saturday, and many did not know what to expect. She simply dazzled, as her charming attitude, clean lines and solid jumps afforded her a score of 63.10. That was good enough to place her fourth and earn seven points for Team USA.
Her score was crucial, as she kept the United States within the top five countries in the team competition, which allowed them to move on to the free skate.
Wagner expressed her feelings as she headed out onto the ice in front of a large crowd just after her disappointing Nationals performance during an interview with Mary Pilon of The New York Times:
It was tough going out there after a disappointing Nationals so it was important for me to redeem myself. I got the triple-triple out there, so I'm pleased. It was a different kind of pressure because it’s the team event.
Even though she skated a nice routine, Wagner was more recognized for her reaction to her score:
During an interview with Chris Chase of USA Today, Wagner explained her reaction:
I know roughly when I skate a good program where the score should end up. So yeah to score that low was very disappointing for me. But honestly this performance was more for myself and mentally getting beyond this past couple of weeks. And I wanted to do everything I could to help out the team, and I really feel that I delivered on that part.
She certainly did deliver, and she will continue to do so as the 2014 Olympics head toward the individual rounds of the figure skating competition.
With these two young stars on Team USA's Olympic roster, the United States should not only find success through its remaining time in Sochi, but also for many years to follow.