Monday, January 25, 2016

Top U.S. Skaters Now Bound for Boston

TV sports coverage brought some exciting moments this weekend.

In addition to learning the Super Bowl 50 teams (Denver and Charlotte), the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships took place in St. Paul, Minn., bringing back memories of skating in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and a trek to the Nationals in Greenville, S.C., a year ago.

Though I was not in the building for the 2016 event, the U.S. Figure Skating P.R. team on site helped answer some emailed questions for the top women on skates: Gracie Gold, Polina Edmunds and Ashley Wagner, who finished Saturday with scores of 210.46, 207.51 and 197.88, respectively. 

Gold's gold medal score set a new record in domestic figure skating scoring at a U.S. Figure Skating qualifying competition, according to this press release

All three women, as well as men's medalists Max Aaron, Nathan Chen and Adam Rippon will soon head to the 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships from March 28 to April 3 in Boston. 

Pairs skaters and ice dance teams from Team USA will also head to Beantown. 

A slightly different field of Team USA athletes will also compete in Chinese Taipei next month. 

I wanted to know the skaters' preparations for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics in relation to the National Championship results. Knowing it was a long shot my questions would reach the women's competitors, I kept things brief and looked to the future, asking "With focus turning to Boston prep, how are you and your coaching team keeping the Korea 2018 Olympic in mind?" and "Is your trek to the next Olympics on schedule, behind schedule or ahead of schedule and how/why?" 

With thanks again to the P.R. team from U.S. Figure Skating for facilitating the questions, Wagner spoke to the Olympic topic.

"My training this year has been so astronomically different than in years past and I have shown up to every single competition so physically prepared for what I need to do," said Wagner. "I think that now we need to reassess a little bit to work on the mental training.

"This year I have committed myself to really attacking everything and so this Nationals -- while it might not be, you know, a gold in the books, at the same time everything that happened was not because I was holding back; I really was attacking everything -- so going into Worlds, hopefully leading up to Korea, it's more about continuing this mindset."

When asked about the pace of her "schedule" for PyeongChang prep, Wagner said, "I think I'm right where I want to be. I would love to be on the top leaving this Nationals but [being] three-time National champion stills holds some weight and goes to show I have staying power."

One surprise from the 2016 event in St. Paul: last year's men's champion, Jason Brown, unfortunately withdrew due to a back injury. It is my understanding the petitioned for a spot on the ISU Worlds and other international competitions, but he was not listed -- even as an alternate -- when the official selections were announced today. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery for Brown. 

Event logos via U.S. Figure Skating; Gold photo via Associated Press; Wagner photo via St. Paul Pioneer Press.

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