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U.S. Figure Skating Championships preview: Ladies

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The 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships commences this week and serves as the qualifier for the U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Team, which means an extremely drama-packed week of skating. The senior ladies are set to take the ice on Thursday, January 9 for their short program.

The ladies discipline will be an exciting one as so much is on the line and three spots are open for the Olympic team. Many assume that Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold are headed to Sochi, but you never know until nationals has concluded and the team is officially determined. So who should you watch? Here’s your guide for the ladies:

Ashley Wagner just missed the 2010 Olympic Games and her disappointment from that season has turned into a fire inside of her that has led her to win the last two national championships. She has been on the rise on the international scene as well finishing fifth at the 2013 World Championships and winning the bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final. She still has work to do on an international level, but on a national level she is the one to beat.

Another strong competitor is Gracie Gold, who won the silver medal at last year’s national championships. Gracie has had a tough season as she changed coaches and moved to California to work with Frank Carroll just a few short months ago and she is still making adjustments. She won the bronze at Skate Canada, but has struggled quite a bit to find her way this season, changing dresses and even her short program music all within the last few months. It’s a lot of change and being that she just came onto the scene in the 2012/2013 season it is difficult to know how she will handle not only all the changes, but the pressure of an Olympic season.

Known for her powerful jumps, Agnes Zawadzki is another skater to keep an eye on, as she was the one to capture the bronze at the last two U.S. Championships. Agnes has had a rough season, changing coaches and finishing sixth and seventh, respectively, during the Grand Prix this season, but if she can continue that bronze medal streak for yet another year it should be enough for her to make the Olympic team.

Coming in fourth place at last year’s U.S. Championships and recently overcoming Miki Ando at the Ice Challenge in Austria, Courtney Hicks is another one who might just snatch up one of those spots to Sochi. Skating to Evita in her free skate, Courtney overcame Gracie Gold to win the U.S. Classic in Salt Lake at the start of this season, yet finished sixth at Skate Canada. If Hicks can pull off two clean programs, she might just be able to overtake her competitors.

Other possible contenders include Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu, 2010 Olympians, who are both fighting to get back on top. Christina Gao is also a possible contender as she is looking to break her streak of placing fifth four years in a row. She has a ton of potential, but seems to be her own worst enemy. It would not be surprising to see Samantha Cesario up in the mix as she has begun rising in the ranks along with new comer Polina Edmunds, who is making her senior ladies debut after winning the 2013 junior U.S. Championships.

Many expect to see Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold on the podium and on their way to Sochi, yet it remains unclear who will be joining these two ladies on the Olympic Team. There are quite a few options and if there’s one thing we can be sure of, in an Olympic year, just about anything can happen. NBC and the Ice Network will be airing this event, so check your local listings. Stay tuned this week to watch the drama unfold for the U.S. ladies.

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