BOSTON — The names on the U.S. Olympic figure skating team were still supposed to be a secret, so Ashley Wagner slipped under the stands to cry.
Hours after a performance she described as a “tearful little wimp out on the ice,” the two-time national champion was picked to go to the Sochi Games. She finished a distant fourth at the U.S. Championships on Saturday night, and only three American women make the Olympics. But this event isn’t the only criteria U.S. Figure Skating takes into account.
“If you look at Ashley Wagner’s record and performance, she’s got the top credentials of any of our female athletes,” said the organization’s president, Patricia St. Peter.
And so the third-place finisher, Mirai Nagasu, was passed over Sunday. Fifteen-year-old Polina Edmunds, who was second, was selected even though she has never competed in an international senior event.
Nagasu has some pretty impressive credentials herself — she was fourth at the 2010 Games as a 16-year-old. But U.S. Figure Skating’s selection guidelines consider only the past year, and Nagasu had mostly struggled until a resurgent performance at nationals.
The organization does take into account the technical difficulty of skaters’ programs, and that might have been what clinched the preternaturally poised Edmunds‘ spot on the team.
“Even though it is my senior debut, I think I am senior-level, so it doesn’t really matter if it’s a debut or not,” she said.
The one no-brainer was Gracie Gold, who won her first U.S. title Saturday in a runaway.
Wagner, who attended West Potomac High School and Northern Virginia Community College, finished fifth at the world championships and won the bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final, the next most important events in the selection criteria after this year’s nationals.
“I’m happy that my federation was able to see beyond one bad skate,” she said through tears once the announcement became official.
But, oh, was it a bad one. Wagner fell twice and failed to cleanly land two other triple jumps in Saturday’s long program. Afterward, she mouthed, “I’m sorry” to her mother.
“I was overwhelmed from the big lights and the big show,” she said.
Wagner insists that won’t happen again in Sochi, with the pressure off by making the Olympic team.
“I’m not that skater that everyone saw last night,” Wagner said. “I’m a fierce competitor. I’m tough as nails.”
There was no way she was going to sleep Saturday night. The 22-year-old Wagner video-chatted with some old friends, had a big glass of wine with her mother and brother and watched the movie “The Seven Year Itch.”