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

Syria-born Olympian takes advocacy role at U.N. refugee agency

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GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. refugee agency has chosen as a goodwill ambassador a Syrian teenage girl who helped save a boat carrying fellow refugees and later became an Olympic swimmer.

Yusra Mardini was appointed as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador on Thursday, joining other notables like actress Cate Blanchett and author Khaled Hosseini in the unpaid advocacy role.

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said Mardini “represents the hopes, the fears and the incredible potential of the more than 10 million young refugees around the globe.”

Mardini and her sister Sarah jumped overboard and swam for hours alongside their overloaded boat to reach Greece from Turkey in 2015.

She swam on the first Refugee Olympic team in Rio last year and has discussed refugees’ challenges with leaders like Pope Francis and President Barack Obama.

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Rafael Nadal recreates famous 1992 Olympic cauldron lighting

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Rafael Nadal, owner of two Olympic gold medals, recently parroted arguably the most famous moment in Spanish Olympic history.

Nadal and Marc Lopez, the 2016 Olympic doubles champions, took up bows and arrows and joined archer Antonio Rebollo on Monday at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Stadium. It brought back memories of Rebollo’s unforgettable cauldron lighting from the only Olympics held in Spain.

Nadal is in Barcelona for an ATP Tour event as he prepares to vie for a 10th French Open title next month.

Rebollo, now 61 years old, was one of 200 hundred archers considered to light the cauldron in 1992. He learned that he was chosen for the role over four other finalists two hours ahead of time, according to an NBC Olympics profile in 1996.

The cauldron would be 195 feet away. Fearing Rebollo would miss the target, organizers instructed him to fire his arrow beyond the stadium walls. As the arrow soared, a technician lit the natural gas flame with a remote control.

The illusion worked. The true story wasn’t revealed for another 20 years.

“There were no fears,” Rebollo, a Barcelona native who contracted polio at age 8, told NBC two decades ago. “I was practically a robot. I focused on my positioning and reaching the target. That was all. … My feelings were taken from the people who described to me how they saw it. What they felt, their emotions, their cries. This is what made me realize what the moment actually meant.”

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