Gold’s Silver Lining
By Kitty Xie
Skating fans finally know what the Gold’s hype is all about. In an incredible lights-out free skate Saturday night, 17-year-old Gracie Gold catapulted from the abyss to the mountaintop, clinching the national silver medal in her first senior season.
In ninth place after a disastrous short program on Thursday, she experienced a plethora of emotions in the forty-eight hours that followed—sadness; then anger; then, as coach Alex Ouriashev put it, “[The desire] to be selfish—to own the free skate.”
And own it she did. Gold, sparkling in royal blue, nailed a total of seven triple jumps to declare her irrefutable arrival into the senior ranks and, to a standing ovation, pumped her fists and sobbed. Her titanic mark of 132.49 was the highest of the night by more than ten points, and the second-highest free skate score ever achieved at US Nationals. She stayed in the lead until reigning champion Ashley Wagner took the ice and, despite two consecutive falls, barely edged Gold for a second straight championship.
Wagner, the first U.S. woman to repeat consecutively as national champion since Michelle Kwan in 2005, is already facing criticism for her victory, which many have deemed controversial. However, with a comfortable thirteen-point cushion over Gold after the short program, she never quite wavered from striking distance of the gold medal. This guarantees her a spot on the 2013 World Championships team, alongside none other than Gold. The two powerhouses will need a combined finish of no lower than thirteenth place to earn back America’s three entries in time for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
In second place after the short program, eighteen-year-old Agnes Zawadzki dazzled until she fell on a triple Lutz and underrotated a double axel-double toe loop-double loop combination to drop to third place overall, claiming the bronze medal for a second year in a row. Newcomer Courtney Hicks, meanwhile, soared through all of her jumps to claim the pewter medal—an accomplishment all the sweeter for the broken leg which she suffered less than a year ago.
Despite a graceful and sensitive free skate, eighteen-year-old Christina Gao stayed firmly in fifth place. Keen eyes noted a significant absence from Gao’s Kiss & Cry entourage—head coach Brian Orser, who spent his week at the European Championships with pupil Javier Fernandez, who claimed Spain’s first gold medal at the event.
But not all tears were shed for joy. Nineteen-year-old Mirai Nagasu, who trailed Wagner and Zawadzki after the short program, battled a raging flu throughout her free skate. She stumbled out of a triple flip and underrotated two other jumps to fall to seventh, and cried into her hands before leaving the CenturyLink Center.
2013 U. S. National Championships – Other results
Men: 1. Max Aaron 255.00; 2. Ross Miner 251.29; 3. Jeremy Abbott 249.33.
Ice Dance: 1. Davis/White 197.44; Chock/Bates 175.91; 3. A/M Shibutani 174.21
Pairs: 1. Castelli/Shnapir 180.61; 2. Scimeca/Knierim 172.75; 3. Zhang/Bartholomay 118.83
Photo: U.S. Figure Skating