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2014 Olympic watch: Ladies, pairs skaters begin Sochi quest at U.S. nationals

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The process of formally selecting the members of the 2014 U.S. Olympic figure skating team will begin in earnest as the pairs and ladies, including the heavily favored Ashley Wagner, hit the ice Jan. 9 to take part in the first round of senior-level competition at the U.S. national championships in Boston.

Reigning U.S. pairs champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir will go head to head with 2012 national champs Caydee Denny and John Coughlin, who skipped the 2013 event because Coughlin was injured, for the pairs gold. The two teams are heavy front runners to take the two available berths in Sochi, but a strong performance by reigning U.S. silver medalists Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierem could earn them a surprise spot on the team. The pairs short programs will begin at 4:15 p.m. Eastern time on Jan. 9.

After the pairs finish their short programs, the ladies, headlined by two-time national champion and reigning Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Wagner, will hit the ice to perform their short routines. Wagner, who narrowly missed a trip to the 2010 Olympic Games after finishing third behind Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu at the 2010 nationals, is expected to claim one of the three available spots on the Sochi women's team. Although she called not making the Vancouver squad "absolutely devastating," Wagner said in a recent interview that she'd "taken all the thoughtful steps to get" to Sochi, and that she planned ease the stress of competing at nationals by viewing it as just "another day at the rink."

Also likely to make the Olympic team is 18-year old Gracie Gold, who placed sixth at worlds in 2013. Gold and Wagner, who placed just ahead of her in fifth, secured the U.S. three spots at the 2014 Olympics. The third berth could go to one of several talented ladies, including Nagasu, Flatt, 2013 Ice Challenge gold medalist Courtney Hicks, or reigning U.S. bronze medalist Agnes Zawadzki. The ladies' short programs will begin at 7 p.m. following the event's opening ceremonies.

The 2014 U.S. Olympic figure skating team will be officially announced on Jan. 12 following the conclusion of the 2014 national championships.



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