Gracie Gold wins U.S. championship
BOSTON -- Gracie Gold, with a name made for an Olympian, looked like one at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Still to be decided is who will join her at the Sochi Games after two-time defending champ Ashley Wagner tumbled to the ice twice in her free skate to finish a distant fourth.
Gold won her first title in a runaway Saturday night, but there was plenty of intrigue behind her in the standings. Fifteen-year-old Polina Edmunds was second and 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu third in a resurgent performance.
U.S. Figure Skating officials will announce Sunday which three women will go to the Winter Games, taking into account past performances. They will have a lot to think about.
Gold is the only no-brainer.
She wasn't perfect Saturday, but she didn't need to be after building a big lead in the short program. She finished with 211.69 points to beat Edmunds by more than 18.
"The nerves are something I've battled with and have let get in my head, but tonight I was strangely calm," she said.
Skating last, the 18-year-old Gold realized what she had accomplished before she even completed her program. After landing her last double axel, she pumped both fists.
"I knew that was it," she said.
Gold was second behind Wagner in 2013, and with another year's seasoning, she now connects with her music along with just nailing the jumps.
Earlier in the evening, Charlie White and Meryl Davis won a record sixth straight U.S. ice dance title, earning an all-but-certain trip to their second consecutive Olympics.
The duo did so with a personal best at the national championships, with the highest score possible for their free skate routine.
The reigning Winter Games silver medalists danced their way to that sixth national title -- one more than the record five they had shared with American ice dance pioneers Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto.
"Coming into this competition, there was no secret we were going after that sixth title, the sixth record-breaking title," Davis said. "It's such an honor for us."
With Davis' shaggy, blonde mop of hair whirling around the ice and White's tied back by a tiara, the world champions gave an energetic and emotional performance to "Sheherazade" by the Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. They finished with 200.19 points -- their most ever at nationals -- thanks to a 119.50 that was a perfect score for the elements in their free skate.
"With the Olympics in the season, it really ups the ante," White said. "What a great time to be an American ice dancer."
Evan Bates and Madison Chock were second with 181.44 points, and siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani, with 170.44 points, were third.
"I feel like rock stars," Alex Shibutani said.
Earlier, hometown favorites Simon Shnapir and Marissa Castelli won the pairs championship. The men's long program is scheduled for Sunday.
The U.S. Olympic figure skating teams will be announced Sunday. The top three in dance and top two in pairs are expected -- but not guaranteed -- to get spots.
After showing up to a midweek news conference in a Boston Bruins T-shirt and ski cap, Shnapir turned to a Saville Row-style shirt and tie -- accessorized by a gun holster -- for a James Bond-themed routine with Castelli that earned them the pairs title.
"I grabbed her hand and I said, 'Let's just stay out here for a second and enjoy this moment,'" Shnapir, of nearby Sudbury, said after the victory put them in position for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. "Who knows if we'll ever have an opportunity like this again?"
Skating to the music from "Skyfall," Castelli and Shnapir totaled 205.71 points to protect the lead they built with the top performance Thursday in the short program.
"Right now we're just still in shock ourselves," said Castelli, of Cranston, R.I. "We're just trying to process everything."
Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay finished second with 201.72 points. Caydee Denney and John Coughlin moved up to third, with 201.43, after receiving the highest score in Saturday's free skate.
"We didn't leave anything on the table. We skated just as hard and as passionate as we could," Bartholomay said. "We're both just completely on cloud nine right now. We are aware that second place is not locked in. But we gave it everything we had against some tremendous competition."
Skating in front of their home crowd on the rink the Bruins call home, Shnapir tossed Castelli high into the air for a triple twist and then threw her into a high-point-value quad salchow that she finished with a fall -- their only major mistake of the routine. He also did a triple toe loop when she went around twice, costing them some points.
They were shaken, but not stirred.
"We left some points on the table, but we're really thrilled with the result here," Shnapir said, adding that they did not consider ditching the quad. "There really wasn't a decision. We'd been doing it all year. ... We don't make any changes last minute."
When they finished at the center of the rink where their hometown Bruins play, Shnapir struck the Bond pose: standing sideways with his hands up, ready to turn and fire. The crowd showered them with appreciation, and the judges did the same, handing them scores of 132.58 for the free skate -- the third best on the day, but good enough to protect their lead.
That's because they finished the short program more than six points ahead of the second-place Zhang and Bartholomay. The 2013 third-place finishers skated a clean program and earned 135.22 points to a mistake-free "Les Miserable" routine that brought the crowd to its feet.
Denney and Coughlin, skating to "Phantom of the Opera," earned the highest score of the day with 136.03. The 2012 champions sat out last year because he had hip surgery.
After years of narrow pairs fields, this year's competition was deeper, with a half-dozen teams capable of reaching the podium at nationals.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.