In the fairy tale fashion that has been associated with her straight-out-of casting presence and name right out of a Valerie Tripp novel, Gracie Gold erased a seemingly insurmountable deficit to Polina Edmunds for her second U.S. senior championship Saturday in St. Paul, Minn. The 17-year-old Edmunds was perched in an eight-point lead after the short program and performed the fourth-highest scoring long program in competition history Saturday before the 20 year old’s “Firebird” routine surpassed her by three points.
“I am just over the moon,” Gold told the U.S. Figure Skating Media Department afterwards. “I was so happy with how I skated tonight. Obviously, to win another U.S. title, means so much to me. I trained so hard for this competition and couldn’t let anything go. I needed to be the best ‘Firebird’ I could be. I am really so happy, so thankful and so blessed.”
Gold, Edmunds and Ashley Wagner were named to the World Championship team, announced by U.S. Figure Skating early Sunday, with Mirai Nagasu as the first alternate. Sound familiar? The first Worlds on American ice since 2009 at Los Angeles will be March 28-April 2 in Boston. It was two years ago in that city where Gold captured her first title and was selected for the Sochi Olympic team with bronze medalist Nagasu named an alternate. Tyler Pierce and Hannah Miller are the second and third alternates for Boston.
The win for Gold also chalked up another national title for legendary coach Frank Carroll and choreographer Lori Nichol. This season on the Grand Prix circuit, Gold was second at Skate America, was leading the Trophee Eric Bompard before the Paris terrorists attacks cancelled the free skate, and earned fifth at the Barcelona final.
Just off the podium in fourth in Sochi and the 2015 Shanghai Worlds, Gold seems poised to contend with the Russian teenagers. The 147 points she posted in the free skate Saturday were one off the record high Wagner produced one year ago, and it was extra special for the Gold family, as it was the first time her twin sister, Carly, also competed at the senior National level.
Speaking of siblings, fresh off finally winning their first U.S. ice dance gold medal, Maia and Alex Shibutani will lead a contingent to Boston that includes Madison Chock and Evan Bates, plus Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. Five times, the Shibutanis had been on the podium at Nationals before claiming the top prize. Pairs champions Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea, with silver medalists Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim are also headed to Massachusetts. The men’s team will be announced later Sunday following the national championship.
Also announced Sunday is the Four Continents team that will compete Feb. 16-21 in Taipei, and it is the same as the Worlds group, with Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran composing one additional pairs team. Karen Chen and Courtney Hicks are the second and third alternates for Four Continents in ladies singles.Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage, of Scottsdale and Flagstaff, are the second pairs alternates for Worlds and first for Four Continents.
Pierce and Bradie Tennell will represent the U.S. in the World Junior Championships March 14-20 at Debrecen, Hungary, with U.S. junior medalists Emily Chan, Vivian Le and Megan Wessenberg the alternates. Ice dancers will be: Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter, Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons, pus Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit. Pairs teams are: Chelsea Liu and Brian Johnson, Joy Weinberg and Maximiliano Fernandez, and Lindsay Weinstein and Jacob Simon.