Ladies save best for last
This time Grace Gold did not crash and burn. She was as calm, cool and as the music she skated to. “Piano Concerto.” Last year at these same U.S. Championships, Gold resolved into a bundle of nerves in the short and found herself in 7th 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.
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. 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, 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 over all lacked a power punch. We’ll see if she comes out guns a blazing for the long on Saturday night. 4th place sound very far away from first or second. Wagner will need a performance of a lifetime.
Miria Nagasu was marvelous skating to “The Man I Love.” She finishes everything. Is polished right down to her finger tips, 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 she is in position become a two time Olympian.
The final skater of the night proved to be the biggest surprise. 15 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 anything in the building. I guess when your 15, you don’t think too much about this being “a final chance” to make the Olympics. She could skate 8 more years easily.
Kudo’s to Christina Gao. She moved to Boston in 2010 to attend Harvard, its 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, everything connected seamlessly. Coaches Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson 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 tonight to expect the unexpected. Gracie Gold will win if she stays on her feet. She has the best name in skating, now she need to live up to it.