American trio believes future is bright
SOCHI, Russia -- For the second consecutive Olympics, no American stood on the podium in women's figure skating. But the United States did place all three of its skaters in the top 10 -- and the trio could be back for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Current U.S. national champion Gracie Gold finished the highest, placing fourth overall, 11.20 points behind bronze medalist Carolina Kostner. Ashley Wagner was seventh and 15-year-old Polina Edmunds ninth.
"As soon as I landed in Sochi, I knew I was signed on for the next four years," said Wagner, the oldest of the three at 22. "Working with Raf [new coach Rafael Arutyunyan], he's been able to do so much with me in six months. To see how much he trained me in just one month, I can't even imagine what a year with him would be like technically, and what four years would be like.
"I want to start setting myself up. It's a changing of the guards now and I'm ready to be there."
Wagner likely was referring to Kim Yu-na, the 2010 gold medalist who finished second Thursday and announced this was her last competition. This was also the final Olympics for Japan's Mao Asada.
Meanwhile, 18-year-old Gold said, "I definitely have two Olympics in me. I don't know about three."
Gold and Wagner had mostly an outside chance at making the podium when the night began and that hope became much more difficult to reach when Russia's Adelina Sotnikova and Kostner skated superb programs to take substantial leads. To medal, each remaining American skater would have to skate the routine of her life -- and also hope that Kim collapsed in the night's final performance.
"It was really hard," Gold said of skating immediately after Sotnikova received a thunderous ovation from the Russian crowd following her routine. "I knew all the leaders were going to bring it tonight. It was tough -- no one wants to go when they announce your name and it's silent."
Other than a fall on a triple flip, Gold was as impressive as she was at last month's nationals and received a score of 136.90, which put her in fourth place with 205.53 points.
Wagner was a controversial addition to the U.S. team. The former two-time U.S. champ fell several times in her two programs and finished fourth at nationals, but was named to the team over third-place finisher Mirai Nagasu. Wagner showed she belonged here by skating three clean programs, including the short in the new team competition that helped the U.S. take the bronze. She also skated clean in Thursday's free program and clearly showed her pleasure when she completed it.
"This Olympics was for myself and no one else," she said. "It wasn't for the judges. It wasn't for the United States Figure Skating Association. I stepped on the ice and I skated for myself, to prove to myself that I belonged here. Three clean performances, for any competition that's not too shabby. This was the best I've skated the entire season and I'm building going into worlds."
Edmunds is the youngest of the three and has been described as the "future of American skating" by coach Frank Carroll. She fell on a triple flip and said it was her hope to finish higher but was pleased just to finish in the top 10 at such a young age.
"I'm really happy with my skate because the judges hadn't seen me like the other competitors," she said. "Really, the only thing I could do was skate a good program and show them what I could do for competitions to come, and I'm happy I did that."