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Gracie Gold now the face of U.S. ladies skating

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Gracie Gold appeared mature well beyond her 18 years.

She dressed in a sophisticated blue blazer covering a black shirt with circular earrings, and to her right was Polina Edmunds, three years her junior and the angelic-looking high school sophomore who finished second to Gold in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Gold is no longer the up-and-coming teenage prodigy. She is now the national champion with aspirations of overthrowing the heavily-favored Japanese and Korean skaters in the Sochi Olympics and is the middle child on the U.S. ladies team between Edmunds and Ashley Wagner.

“It was a whirlwind, so many emotions,” Gold said of making her first Olympic team. “I started skating when I was eight, so for the past 10 years it’s been a lifetime goal. You have to want it more than anything else.”

Gold, Edmunds and Wagner were named to the Olympic team on Sunday, a day after Wagner placed fourth behind bronze medalist Mirai Nagasu in the long program.

“It’s a professional friendship because we are competitors, but they’re all amazing people,” Gold said.

Wagner, 22, was the two-time defending U.S. champion and sentimental choice for the team, having just missed a spot in Vancouver four years ago. Alissa Czisny, who won the title in 2009 and 2011, is now the only American woman to win the U.S. Championship and not make it to an Olympics since 1963 champion Lorraine Hanlon, who would finish fourth in 1964.

“It’s been a really hard four years, and I’ve been working really hard,” Wagner said. “I’m happy the federation was able to see beyond one bad skate, and I can’t believe I’m going to represent the United States in Sochi. Everyone’s been so supportive, and I’m so happy to be where I am right now.”

Gold, whose twin sister Carly also skates at the senior level, was born in Newton, Mass., in the outskirts of Boston, where the championships were held this week. She shifted west to represent Wagon Wheel Figure Skating Club in Crystal Lake, Ill., and west again to train with the legendary Frank Carroll in El Segundo, Calif.

The 2012 U.S. junior champion won the silver medal at Junior Worlds that season, before placing second as a senior at the U.S. Championships in 2013. She finished sixth at Worlds in London, Ontario, last March, and in this fall’s Grand Prix circuit, was third in Skate Canada and fourth in the NHK Trophy.

“I don’t think I have to do anything extraordinary,” Gold said. “I just have to go in and do my job. I think the Olympics are slightly less stressful for me because getting to the Olympics is a lifetime dream. The hardest step is qualifying. Skating is what I love to do, so as long as I’m healthy and it doesn’t interfere with my life, I’ll keep competing.”

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