The United States won bronze in the inaugural team figure skating event at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, primarily thanks to strong individual performances from budding and current superstars.
It was a small first step for the women's figure skating team in an image rehab after none of the contestants reached the podium in Vancouver.
While Mirai Nagasu was left to simply an alternate role (the rest of the team can be found here), two names in particular stick out as performers who can thrust the United States back into the spotlight and earn a spot on the podium.
|Wednesday||Feb. 12||Pairs Free Skating||NBC||10:45 a.m. ET|
|Sunday||Feb. 16||Ice Dance Short Dance||NBC||10 a.m. ET|
|Monday||Feb. 17||Ice Dance Free Dance||NBC||10 a.m. ET|
|Wednesday||Feb. 19||Ladies Short Program||NBC||10 a.m.. ET|
|Thursday||Feb. 20||Ladies Free Skating||NBC||10 a.m. ET|
Ashley Wagner has been under the microscope for quite some time after an iffy performance in events leading up to the Games. Her selection over Nagasu was a bit strange, but understandable given her impressive international track record.
The microscope is not going anywhere, as Wagner presents arguably the team's best chance to medal before the events in Sochi reach their conclusion.
Not only that, Wagner garnered global publicity in the team event, not just because of her strong performance, but because of her strong reaction to the score it was assigned by judges:
She was given a 63.10 and finished in fourth behind Japan's Mao Asada, who actually fell during her set. Wagner was none too thrilled about the end result, via the Los Angeles Times' Chuck Schilken:
'I know roughly when I skate a good program where the score should end up,' said Wagner, who was penalized by the judges for an under-rotated triple-triple combination. 'So, yeah, to score that low was very disappointing for me.'
Wagner is a bit of a wild card. Her past credentials show a skater who is more than capable of turning in jaw-dropping performances worthy of medals. She has seen her reputation be devalued as of late, but on the biggest stage of them all, Wagner—now a sneaky underdog—is the veteran who can end up on the podium for the United States.
After a victory in the U.S Championships in Boston a month ago, Gracie Gold made her Olympics debut to much fanfare at the age of 18 and posted an eyebrow-raising second-place score of 129.38 in the women's free event.
Gold is a household name now as the leading lady for the United States. Her rise in popularity has only intensified with such a strong performance, which turned out to be a career-best skate.
Despite such a high score, Gold believes she can do better and keep the momentum going now that the team event is over, via the New York Daily News' Flip Bondy:
"I think I'm getting my stride," Gold said. "I'm thrilled, definitely relieved. Each experience I learn something more about myself. Someone named Gold has never won gold, I'm told."
It is hard to argue that anyone has seen the best Gold has to offer. Even with the hype and seemingly endless marketing ploys based off her last name, Gold has done nothing but deliver the goods, as Dave Zirin of The Nation puts it:
Hate the marketing, hate the hype....but Gracie Gold KILLED IT.— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) February 9, 2014
With a gigantic amount of momentum heading into individuals, Gold has more than enough talent to take down the likes of South Korea's Yuna Kim and Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia and end up at the top of the podium (sorry, no corny puns here).
While young for the stage and facing an amazingly deep field, it is unwise to bet against Gold.