This time, Gracie Gold did not crash and burn. She was as calm and cool as the music she skated to, "Piano Concerto."
Last year at the US Championships, Gold resolved into a bundle of nerves in the short and found herself in seventh place. A magnificent long program rocketed her all the way to second. This time, she is not going to need to pull 6 places to win a silver.
Everyone will be chasing her after her performance in the US Figure Skating Championship ladies short program Thursday at TD Garden.
Gold is known for her big jumps - and when she is on, she is really, really something to watch. Her jump combination was a triple lutz, triple toe. That is about as difficult as it gets, and she executed it flawlessly. Her rotation is so tight in her jumps she actually looks blurry.
The last time I saw anyone rotate that fast, it was 1998, when Tara Lipinski triple looped her way to Olympic gold in Nagano.
From the opening jump combination right through her final spin in the short program, Gold skated up to her name. She's got the goods make the podium in Sochi, something the American women have not done since 2006.
I have to say, I love Ashley Wagner's Pink Floyd music selection. It suits her womanly style. The problem was no amount of flair could make up for her botched jump combination. The program overall lacked a power punch.
We'll see if she comes out guns a blazing for the long program on Saturday night. Fourth place sounds very far away from first or second. Wagner will need a performance of a lifetime.
Mirai Nagasu was marvelous skating to "The Man I Love." She finishes everything, is polished right down to her fingertips, and pays attention to every detail. Nagasu was a member of the 2010 Olympic team, and is no stranger to big-time competition. She missed the podium by one place four years ago, and now in third place, she is in position become a two-time Olympian.
The final skater of the night proved to be the biggest surprise. Fifteen-year-old Polina Edmunds brought the house down with her spirited "Cha Cha Cha." This kid nailed her jumps, skated with terrific energy, and looked like she was having more fun than anyones in the building. She's sitting in second place.
I guess when you are 15, you don't think too much about this being "a final chance" to make the Olympics. She could skate eight more years easily.
Kudos to Christina Gao. She moved to Boston in 2010 to attend Harvard, is taking time off from her studies, and turned in an elegant program, including one of the best triple triples of the night. Gao moves effortlessly between her jumps, and everything's connected seamlessly. Coaches Mark Mitchell and Peter Johannson convinced her to compete another year, and now I know why.
I have to give Hannah Miller a shout-out. She represents the Lansing, (Michigan) Skating Club. Same little club that I represented from age 9 to 17. Miller is part of a terrific hockey family. Ryan and Drew Miller both play in the NHL. Those are some mighty fine skating genes.
Saturday night it will all come down to the prime time long program. We learned Thursday to expect the unexpected. Gracie Gold will win if she stays on her feet. She has the best name in skating.
Now she needs to live up to it.
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