It was an evening of upsets as the U.S. Figure Skating Championships reached their pinnacle Saturday.
Gracie Gold overcame a massive 7.69-point deficit to shock Polina Edmunds and the figure skating world with a resounding effort in the women's free skate to win her second national title in three years.
Alex and Maia Shibutani also overcame a deficit to finish first over favorites Madison Chock and Evan Bates in the ice dance, and Tarah Kayne and Danny O'Shea took home their first gold with a record showing in the pairs finale.
Saturday's gold medalists also punched their tickets to March's world championships in Boston—the first time the event will take place in the United States since 2009 in Los Angeles.
Here is a look at the results from a thrilling Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota:
|Championship Ladies||Competitors||Short Program (Thursday)||Free Skate (Saturday)||Total Score|
|Championship Dance||Competitors||Short Dance (Friday)||Free Dance (Saturday)||Total Score|
|Gold||Alex Shibutani, Maia Shibutani||74.67||115.47||190.14|
|Silver||Madison Chock, Evan Bates||75.14||111.79||186.93|
|Bronze||Madison Hubbell, Zachary Donohue||71.10||107.71||178.81|
|Championship Pairs||Competitors||Short Program (Thursday)||Free Skate (Saturday)||Total Score|
|Gold||Tarah Kayne, Danny O'Shea||69.61||142.04||211.65|
|Silver||Alexa Scimeca, Christopher Knierim||67.35||129.45||196.80|
|Bronze||Marissa Castelli, Mervin Tran||64.12||114.92||179.04|
Gold fittingly followed Edmunds as the final skater Saturday and landed seven triple jumps in choreographic sync that drew four Level 4 marks.
"This is probably the best program Gracie Gold has ever skated and it got stronger as it went on," Amber Lewis of Ice Musings wrote.
Bonnie D. Ford of ESPN.com echoed that sentiment:
Best complete program I've ever seen from @GraceEGold.— Bonnie D. Ford (@Bonnie_D_Ford) January 24, 2016
Three-time national champion Ashley Wagner was third with 207.51 total points, including 135.47 in the free skate. She was smooth until her final jump, when she managed only one rotation on a triple lutz. Her miss wouldn't matter, however, following Gold's remarkable outing.
Gold compared her flawless program to a "necklace that's just been strung" while elaborating on her outing, courtesy of U.S. Figure Skating:
The title was Edmunds' to lose after she jumped to a convincing lead with a 70.19-point outing in the short program Thursday followed by a 137.32-point performance in Saturday's free skate that in many years would've been sufficient to win.
Many believed Edmunds had secured the title, such as Internet celebrity Michael Buckley, who was in town for the event:
Polina Edmunds rises to the challenge and makes her claim to the title! #USChamps16— Michael Buckley (@buckhollywood) January 24, 2016
Reigning Olympic pairs gold medalist Meryl Davis, who has stepped away from the sport but not retired, also chimed in:
The Shibutanis overcame a 0.47-point deficit with a resounding effort in the free dance, posting a 115.47 score to bring their total tally to 190.14.
Team USA congratulated the siblings:
The Shibutanis are former world bronze medalists, but that was a distant five years ago. They hadn't reached such heights again until Saturday, and there was plenty of disappointment in between—including a second-place finish to Chock and Bates at last year's nationals by a mere 3.75 points.
"It's all been building to this point," Alex Shibutani said, per Rachel Cohen of the Associated Press (via TwinCities.com). "What we have is very special. We never really doubted what our potential was. That's what has gotten us to this point."
Chock and Bates finished a respectable second but were handicapped by again altering their program—the third time this season they've done so.
The favorites to win the title will still likely get an invite to the world championships but were nonetheless disappointed.
"We're going to take this to fuel us to come back stronger," Bates said, per Cohen.
Kayne and O'Shea cruised to the pairs title with a record 142.04 points in the free skate, a comfortable 14.85 points ahead of second-place Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim, who were hindered by several hiccups Saturday.
Knierim fell on an attempted side-by-side triple toe loop, and Scimeca landed on both feet on a one-throw jump and with both hands down on another.
Two-time champion Marissa Castelli finished third with partner Mervin Tran with 179.04 points.
Kayne and O'Shea are headed back to the world championships after missing out last year because of a third-place finish at the nationals. Their disappointing showing stemmed from Kayne's hip surgery in July 2014, which forced her to miss the Grand Prix campaign that year.
"In a sense, it is hard to imagine [winning] after the surgery," Kayne said, per Olympic sports reporter Phil Hersh. "But we have been working so hard. Anyone who knows us personally probably could see this coming."
The duo became the seventh different pair to win the U.S. title in eight years and will hope to represent the Americans better at the world championships than in recent years—no Team USA tandem has finished better than sixth in pairs since 2006.
But Saturday was a moment of celebration following their first national title in their fourth season together. Scott Carroll of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune shared an image of Kayne and O’Shea's celebration following the win:
Pairs figure skaters Tara Kayne and Danny O’Shea, who train at the Ellenton rink, won the U.S. championship today. pic.twitter.com/HVaatGKIrQ— scott carroll (@scottcarroll15) January 23, 2016
All that remains Sunday is the men’s championship free skate at 2:15 p.m. ET, where Max Aaron, who is gunning for his second national title in three years, will look to hold on to a narrow 0.93-point lead over Ross Miner after a remarkable performance in the short program Thursday. Two-time silver medalist Adam Rippon lurks in third, trailing by 3.82 points.