U.S. figure skaters still have podium shot


SOCHI, Russia – There were no American women in the top three at the end of the ladies’ short program Wednesday at the Olympics, but that doesn’t mean the nation’s skating present – or future – isn’t bright.

Gracie Gold led the way with a fourth-place finish as Ashley Wagner and Polina Edmunds went six-seven in the first portion of the event, Gold – and to a lesser sense, Wagner – sitting within striking distance of the podium.

“I think it was a great skate for all three of them,” said Tara Lipinski, the 1998 Olympic champion and a commentator for NBC Sports. “Olympic pressure is not easy to skate under and they all put out good performances.”

None of Gold, Wagner or Edmunds skated their best, but they all stayed on their feet in a short program that was full of ups and downs, turns and tumbles.

VIDEO: Gold “a triple lutz away from Yuna Kim”

“I was a little iffy,” Gold said after her skate. “I was able to just trust my training out there. I’ve done enough programs to know when to snap back into place.”

The 18-year-old Gold, who won the U.S. Championships last month, sits five points off the podium heading into the free skate, though two up-and-down skaters – Adelina Sotnikova and Carolina Kostner – placed in front of her.

“If Gracie keeps her head together and skates full-out – tonight she was very tight – there is definitely a chance for her to be on the podium,” said two-time Olympian Johnny Weir, a commentator alongside Lipinski for NBC Sports.

VIDEO: Nancy Kerrigan’s take on short program

The U.S. is in danger of not placing a man or woman on the podium for the first time in 76 years (since 1936) after Jason Brown placed ninth and Jeremy Abbott was 12th in the men’s event last week.

No woman placed on the podium in 2010, either, but Evan Lysacek won gold for the U.S.

“The Americans will remain strong,” said Weir, who was sixth in Vancouver. “They were all a bit nervous, but definitely strong. That was encouraging to see. I was personally unsure of the chances of the U.S. women coming in and now they’re in a really good position.”

Gold prefers her free skate, as well.

VIDEO: Ashley Wagner “shines on” in sixth place

“I feel better doing the free program,” the Chicago native said. “Once I keep going, it’s all about momentum for me. I’m a free-program kind of person. There’s nothing to lose.”

Gold shared that before the program she had an emotional moment with her mom, saying she was scared that she wouldn’t be able to perform on the Olympic stage.

“It’s scary to poor your heart and soul into something and you’re not quite there,” Gold said. “My mom told me just to trust myself and let the universe unfold.”