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Figure Skating

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PREVIEW

U.S. Figure Skating plans to send a strong team to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Expected to lead Team USA are ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who won the silver medal at the 2010 Games and then defeated the Olympic champions for the 2011 world title. The veteran team earned its fourth consecutive title at the 2012 Grand Prix Final, then won its fifth consecutive U.S. title in January.

Ashley Wagner is poised to lead a very competitive group of women after becoming the first repeat ladies U.S. champion since Michelle Kwan. The group includes 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu, Christina Gao, Agnes Zawadzki and Gracie Gold, who took silver at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Like Davis and White, Wagner has been on a successful run, winning a pair of golds at two grand prix events, then placing second at the 2012 Grand Prix Final. On the men’s side, Olympian Jeremy Abbott entered 2013 as the top American, but marquee names – including 2010 Olympic champion Evan Lysacek and two-time Olympian Johnny Weir – are training for Sochi as well; however, it was Max Aaron who claimed the 2013 U.S. title, while Abbott finished third.

In their first season together as a pair, 2010 Olympian Caydee Denney and John Coughlin won the national title. However, in early December 2012, Coughlin underwent hip surgery to repair a torn labrum. He is expected to be fully recovered for the Olympic year, and the duo has successfully petitioned to compete at the 2013 World Championships.

Team USA will have another opportunity to medal in the team event, which will be contested for the first time at the Sochi Games. Much like gymnastics, scores will be amassed from each discipline and combined for an overall team score. Team USA will likely be the favorite in this event.

During the Sochi Games, figure skating will be held in the coastal cluster at the Iceberg Skating Palace, which is the same venue where Davis and White claimed their fourth-consecutive grand prix final title in 2012.

STORYLINES

  • Ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White have been skating together for 15 years. While most skaters and their families move around the country, these Michigan natives train in Canton, Mich., and attend the University of Michigan. Their mothers are particularly close and travel to most events. Their longevity, work ethic and goals set them apart from other competitors in the field.
  • Ashley Wagner is the first American woman since 2003 (Sasha Cohen) to win two grand prix titles, winning gold at 2012 Skate America and the 2012 Trophée Bompard. Team USA has long waited for its next ice princess, and Wagner’s consistency and drive could make it possible. Under the direction of legendary coach John Nicks, Wagner landed an endorsement with Nike. Growing up in a military family, she moved frequently and has an affinity for U.S. troops and veterans.
  • Coach Marina Zoueva has a wonderful problem on her hands: she trains the top-two ice dancing teams in the world. Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White and Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are the favorites to finish first and second in Sochi. The Russia native trains both teams at the same rink.
  • Reigning U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott has been training in near obscurity at the Detroit Skating Club. Despite being a three-time national champion, Abbott saw most of the preseason buzz leading into the 2012-13 season center around the return of Olympian and reality TV star Johnny Weir, and the potential return of reigning Olympic champion Evan Lysacek. Abbott, who holds the record for most points scored at a U.S. championships event, has a large following in Asia and Japan.
  • U.S. Figure Skating helps support aspiring young male skaters through the Icemen Network, which offers youth the opportunity to ask their elite male counterparts questions such as, “What did you do when you got teased at school for being a figure skater?” The program is a great way to encourage young athletes to chase their dreams and curb the negative effects of bullying.

ATHLETES TO WATCH

Jeremy Abbott
Reigning U.S. champion Abbott has won three national titles overall. The 2008 Grand Prix Final champion finished ninth at the Vancouver Games. Abbott is coached by Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White
Davis and White are the four-time reigning U.S. champions and have won 12-straight grand prix series gold medals dating back to 2009. The duo is also the four-time reigning grand prix final champion and took the silver medal at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The 2011 world champions are coached by Marina Zoueva in Canton, Mich.

Caydee Denney and John Coughlin
In their first season competing together, Denney and Coughlin won the national title. The pair announced their partnership in May 2011, following the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, where Denney placed 13th with Jeremy Barrett. Coughlin elected to have hip surgery in December 2012 to allow a full recovery before the Olympic year. Between them, they have been part of the last three U.S. titles (2010, Denney and Barrett; 2011, Coughlin and Caitlin Yankowskas; 2012, Denney and Coughlin). The pair trains in Colorado Springs, Colo., under the direction of Dalilah Sappenfield.

Gracie Gold
In her first year on the senior circuit, Gold earned silver at 2012 Rostlecom Cup in Moscow. After winning the 2012 U.S. junior title and world junior championship silver medal, Gold was invited to participate in the 2012 World Team Trophy as a member of Team USA and made her senior debut in April 2012. Gold is a strong technician and is currently working to improve her artistic element. She is coached by Alex Ouriashev in Glen Ellyn, Ill.

Ashley Wagner
Wagner is the reigning national and Four Continents champion. In 2012, she became the first American woman to win her two grand prix assignments since Sasha Cohen accomplished the feat in 2003. Wagner has recorded nine straight top-four finishes dating back to 2011. She is coached by John Nicks in Aliso Viejo, Calif.

QUALIFICATION

Qualification for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games is determined based on results at the 2013 World Championships, scheduled for March 10-17. In order to secure three spots in any given discipline, Team USA’s two-highest placements must amount to no more than 13. For example, the U.S may place sixth and seventh to earn three bids in ice dancing. If the two-highest U.S. placements total between 14 and 28, only two spots will be secured.

SELECTION

U.S. athletes who are at least 15 years old as of July 1, 2013, and are in good standing with U.S. Figure Skating will be eligible for selection to the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team. The team will be selected based on athlete finishes at several events throughout 2013 and 2014, including the 2013 ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, the 2013 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the 2013 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, the 2013 Grand Prix Series, the 2013 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, the 2013 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final and the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Additionally, skaters meeting the above criteria who qualify, but do not complete, both segments of the competition at any of the eight events listed above due to injury or illness (as verified by U.S. Figure Skating medical personnel) may still be considered for selection by petitioning to the U.S. Figure Skating International Committee Management Subcommittee for nomination to the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team.

Entries for the team event are selected from the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team. The U.S. may not send additional athletes to compete only in the team event. Skaters do not have to compete in both segments of the team event if selected to participate.

KEY DATES


Feb. 6-11 ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships Osaka, Japan
Feb. 25-March 3 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships Milan, Italy
March 10-17 ISU World Figure Skating Championships London, Ontario
April 11-14 ISU World Team Trophy Tokyo, Japan
Sept. 25-28 Nebelhorn Trophy Oberstdorf, Germany
Dec. 5-8 Grand Prix Final TBD, Japan
TBD ISU Grand Prix Series  
Jan. 5-14 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships Boston, Mass.