Ashley Wagner performs her free skate.
(Photo: Winslow Townson, USA TODAY Sports)
BOSTON - Ashley Wagner has been selected for the Sochi Olympic team despite finishing fourth at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Wagner was named to the team Sunday with national champion Gracie Gold and 15-year-old Polina Edmunds, who finished second. Mirai Nagasu, a 2010 Olympian, was left off the team despite finishing third.
After a four-minute meltdown in her free skate Saturday night, Wagner's Olympic dreams were on thin ice. The results of nationals factored into the selection process but clearly Wagner's body of work mattered more.
U.S. Figure Skating president Pat St. Peter paused before announcing Wagner's name when revealing the team. The list was alphabetical so the last choice was going to be Nagasu or Wagner.
"This competition is not the only event that USFS considers in selecting the team," St. Peter said. "It's the results and participation in events over the course of the past year-plus. So if you look at Ashley Wagner's record and performance, she's got the top credentials of any of our female athletes."
Q SOCHI: Reaction to Wagner's selection
LEFT OFF: Nagasu not on team despite 3rd-place finish
When Wagner's name was announced and when she came out to where the news media was gathered, she had tears in her eyes. She was smiling, but it seemed she was in an awkward spot.
"I'm at a loss for words right now," Wagner said. "It's been a really long four years. It wasn't my night last night but ... I'm happy the federation was able to see beyond one bad skate. I cannot believe I'm going to be able to represent the U.S. in Sochi. I think we have an incredible team. I'm so proud of what we've been able to accomplish so far.
"I'm on cloud nine. Everyone has been so supportive over last couple of days."
In pairs, hometown favorites Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, the national champs, and Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay, the second place finishers, are headed to Sochi. Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, the 2012 champs who returned after missing much of last season due to Coughlin's hip surgery, were third and left off the team.
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Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who won a record sixth U.S. title, Madison Chock and Evan Bates and siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani are the three dance teams.
Of the top four contenders in women's skating, the 22-year-old Wagner has been the most consistent, winning back-to-back medals at the Grand Prix final and finishing in the top five at the last two world championships. Four years ago, Wagner missed out on a trip to the Vancouver Olympics by 4.08 points. So she certainly can relate to the devastation Nagasu must feel.
After finishing fourth in the Vancouver Olympics, Nagasu's career went south. At 20, she entered nationals as an afterthought, years removed from all that promise and that little girl from ages ago who won gold at the 2008 U.S. championships when just 14. After the Vancouver Olympics, she missed making the worlds teams the past three years.
"The only thing I can brag about now is that I 'm the only person with Olympic experience. So I know how hard it can get," Nagasu said after her free skate. "I don't know what my federation will do. All I can say is I did what I had to today. ... I'll have to respect any choice that they make."
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