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Gold, Wagner, Edmunds make statement in Sochi by AMY ROSEWATER

Heading into the U.S.

Figure Skating Champion- ships in Boston, Gracie Gold had a few really tough days. T e enormity of the champi- onships, and a potential trip to the Olympic Winter Games hinging largely on her perfor-

mance there, were taking their toll on the

18-year-old skater. “What if I don’t make it?” Gold asked

her mother, Denise Gold, at the dinner table. “She was living under fear,” Denise added. Not only did Gold make the team, she won

the U.S. title. And when she arrived in Sochi for the Olym-

pics, she was ready. Any fear she had experienced was transformed into feelings of excitement and confi dence. Gold began her Olympic debut with a free skate that helped lead the United States to a bronze medal in the Team Event, and then she followed that up by becoming the highest U.S. fi nisher in the ladies event, with a fourth-place showing. “I felt like I had a shot at a medal,” said Gold,

who was fourth after the short program in So- chi. “But being six points behind the women and knowing that they had skated really well, I sort of let go of all of those expectations of getting a medal and I just skated for myself, and I skated the best program I could. “And I pretty much knew I was going to come

U.S. champion Gracie Gold glides eff ort- lessly in her free skate to The Sleeping Beauty. Gold fi nished fourth overall with 205.53 points.

in fourth, but then I said, ‘I’m fourth at the Olym- pic Games. What are you talking about? Why is that disappointing?’ I let go of all the worries, and I said, ‘I’m going to skate for myself and skate the way that I’ve trained because I deserve to have a wonderful showing at the Olympics and to put my name up in the top four in the women.’” Finishing among the top ladies in Sochi was

Gold, with coach Frank Carroll, waves to the

crowd after completing her short program.

indeed a strong statement for Gold, as the fi eld in these Winter Games was especially tough. Adelina Sotnikova brought down the house in the Iceberg Skating Palace by executing the performances of her life to win the gold medal. Her program, skated in front of a largely Russian audience, made her the fi rst Russian to win the Olympic gold medal in the ladies event. South Korea’s

Yu-Na Kim didn’t quite match the record-break- ing showing she had four years ago to win the gold medal in Vancouver, but nevertheless displayed el- egance to win the silver

16 APRIL 2014

medal. And Italy’s Carolina Kostner vanquished the demons that beset her in Torino and Vancouver to fi nish with the bronze medal. Gold led the way for the Americans. Ashley

Wagner, a two-time U.S. champion, placed sev- enth, while 15-year-old Polina Edmunds, who was skating in her fi rst senior international competi- tion, fi nished ninth in her Olympic debut. For Wagner, the Olympics were all about struggling through the U.S.

redemption. After

Championships in January, Wagner came to Sochi with one big goal: to skate well for herself. “T is Olympics was for myself and no one

else,” Wagner said. “I stepped out on the ice and I skated for myself and mostly to prove to myself that I belonged here.” Wagner said that she had transformed quite a

bit from the U.S. Championships, where she had a rough go, having to prove to fans that she deserved to compete in Sochi even though she had a fourth- place showing in Boston. “I’ve come from a bawling, scared, 22-year-old girl to a tough, proud, happy woman coming home to the U.S. with a bronze medal [team event],” Wagner said. For Edmunds, the entire trip to the Olym- pics was a compressed, emotional journey. A year ago, Edmunds had been crowned the U.S. junior champion, and she spent the past season competing in the junior ranks. In Boston, however, she made quite a splash with a silver-medal showing that helped earn her a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. T e last woman to jump from being U.S. junior champion one year to competing at the Olympics the following year was Tina Noyes, who achieved that feat 50 years ago, in 1964. Edmunds had a lot to do in a short period of

time to get ready for the Winter Games, but she took some time out to celebrate her achievement. She was toasted with a surprise sendoff party at her Bay Area school, Archbishop Mitty High School, which included appearances by Olympic gold med- alists Kerri Walsh Jennings (beach volleyball) and Brandi Chastain (soccer). “Brandi and Kerri came and gave speeches,”

Edmunds said. “I was so overwhelmed and grate- ful.”

In addition, Edmunds also had extra logistics to

handle in her planning for the trip to Sochi, since she had several friends and relatives in Russia who were trying to make the journey to see her compete. Ed- munds’ mother, Nina, who helps coach Polina along with primary coach David Glynn, was born and raised in the Russian city of Tver. Although many of their relatives could not aff ord to travel to Sochi, they did have friends come in to support Polina.



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