With three spots available for ladies on the 2014 U.S. Olympic figure skating team, a missed triple-triple combination put reigning national champion Ashley Wagner in fourth place after the Jan. 9 short program round of the 2014 U.S. championships in Boston. But the 22-year old skater isn't panicked about Sochi, according to a Jan. 9 post-event interview with NBCOlympics.
Although she narrowly missed claiming a spot on the two-woman 2010 Vancouver squad after coming in third at nationals behind Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu, Wagner isn't letting the specter of a repeat outcome hamper her focus. She referenced another Olympian's encouraging words when discussing her 2014 chances with reporters. After calling her fourth place position "a great one" entering the Jan. 11 free skate, Wagner shared a post-skate interaction with Tara Lipinski. The veteran skater reminded Wagner that she too had finished fourth during the short program at nationals in 1998, but went on to win the silver medal and a ticket to the Nagano Winter Games, where she bested national champ Michelle Kwan to take the gold.
Although Wagner acknowledged that it won't be an easy task to catch current leader Gracie Gold, who posted a monster short program mark of 72.12, she's up for the challenge of being the underdog. She told reporters "I prefer to fight" over being hunted.
Despite her current placement, Wagner's success and consistency over the past season should earn her a ticket to the Winter Olympics. In addition to being a two-time national champion, she was also the only U.S. woman to qualify for the Grand Prix Final in December 2013, where she earned the bronze medal amid a tough field of competitors. Barring a major meltdown, she's likely to be joined by Gold.
Nagasu, 20, also looks good to earn her second Olympic berth, if she can hold on to a podium spot following the free skate. Reigning U.S. national champion Polina Edmunds sits in second place, but her lack of senior level experience will very likely hamper her Olympic chances. Agnes Zawadzki, who had a good chance of claiming the third available berth entering nationals, suffered a disastrous short program which left her a disappointing 13th.
The ladies free skate at the 2014 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships is set to begin at 6:45 p.m. Eastern time on Jan. 11, with Wagner scheduled to hit the ice at 10:09 p.m. Gold will close out the program at 10:43 p.m. shortly before the national champion is named. The identities of the skaters making the 2014 Olympic figure skating team will be revealed following the men's free skate on Jan. 12.