Gracie good as gold as she captures U.S. Figure Skating Championships title

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BOSTON — Saturday night in Boston it was a gold for Gold.

Two-time national champion Ashley Wagner fell twice in her free skate, opening the door for teenager Gracie Gold – with a name to match – to capture her first U.S. Championships at TD Garden.

Fifteen-year-old Polina Edmunds scored a 193.63, bettering Wagner by 10 points to seal silver. 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu also finished ahead of Wagner, taking the bronze medal.

“It’s embarrassing as two-time national champion to put out a performance like this,” Wagner said after her free skate. “As soon as they called my name my legs felt like lead. I couldn’t shake it out.”

The U.S. Figure Skating Association will name the three women to its Olympic team Sunday at a press conference. A committee selects the team on the past year’s results, not just those from Nationals.

Wagner has been in the top six at the World Championships the last two years and has won medals at the Grand Prix Final, including a bronze in December.

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“We’ll see what happens after this,” Wagner said. “Luckily I had a decent season so that definitely helps my case.”

Edmunds, whose mother grew up in Russia, stated her case for the team.

“I think tonight was the night where we had to prove ourselves and I did prove myself,” said the teenager, who was skating in her first-ever senior event. “I think Ashley is a phenomenal skater, but everyone has been working hard for these Nationals. The results are the results. Everyone has a dream to go to Sochi.”

She added: “I would be pretty disappointed because I was in second place.”

Gold was the one who undoubtedly proved herself the most on Saturday night, only bobbling on one triple jump but staying upright for the four-plus minutes of her free skate to “Sleeping Beauty.”

After landing her second double Axel of the free skate, Gold pumped her fists as she skated, obviously overcome with the reality of her effort.

“I knew that was it,” she said. “It was kind of unreal. It was like a fairy tale.”

Gold, Nagasu and Wagner all skated two Grand Prix events this season while Edmunds competed in the junior ranks.

“Going to Sochi would be a dream come true,” Gold, who’s coached by the legendary Frank Carroll, told reporters.

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Results
1. Gracie Gold – 211.69
2. Polina Edmunds – 193.63
3. Mirai Nagasu – 190.74
4. Ashley Wagner – 182.74
5. Samantha Cesario – 173.97

Yevgenia Medvedeva wins season opener in rout

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Olympic figure skating favorite Yevgenia Medvedeva, imperfect by her standards, still won her first international competition of the season by a whopping 36.74 points on Saturday.

The Russian tallied 146.72 points in her free skate at Nepela Trophy in Slovakia — lower than her median score over her two-year winning streak — and 226.72 points overall. 

Video is here. Full scores are here.

Medvedeva had a wrong edge call on her triple Lutz, stepping out of the landing. 

Judges gave her a negative grade of execution for it, snapping a streak of more than 60 straight jumps with positive grades dating to December.

No matter, the 17-year-old still had the highest free skate by 23.23 points.

It was 13.72 points shy of her world record set at the last competition of the 2016-17 season.

She distanced Japanese Rika Hongo and countrywoman Yelena Radionova, the only woman to beat Medvedeva in senior international competition in November 2015.

Medvedeva entered the free skate with a 13.51-point lead in the low-level event. That was via recording the second-highest short program tally under a 13-year-old judging system on Thursday.

Her flawed free skate still earned more points than any of her rivals racked up last season. 

All of her jumps except a double Axel were in the second half of her program to earn bonus points.

However, another Russian posted a higher free skate score last week.

That’s 15-year-old training partner Alina Zagitova, who was .45 better at a low-level event in Italy. 

It’s not entirely fair to compare scores from different judging panels at these early season competitions, though.

The first of six Grand Prix series events is Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in four weeks, featuring Medvedeva and Radionova.

Medvedeva and Zagitova could go head-to-head at the Grand Prix Final in December and should definitely both be at the Russian Championships later that month.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. 

North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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