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January 23, 2010 at 10:36 PM

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Women's figure skating wraps up: Flatt, Nagasu to Games

Posted by Ron Judd

SPOKANE -- High drama as usual with the women's final.

Clear winner, at least according to the way these things are scored: Rachael Flatt, who topped 200 points and claimed her first national title -- and the number-one U.S. slot on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic team.

Secondary winner: Mirai Nagasu, who hung on for second. Not many gave her a shot at this Olympic team, and the 16-year-old really grew up on the ice in this competition -- whether the wannabe perpetual underdog likes it or not.

Conspicuous loser: Sasha Cohen. She took a big gamble with a rushed return to competition form. Give her credit for guts, but she paid a price tonight, faltering badly in the free skate and plummeting from second place to fourth.

Big crowd-favorite/hard-luck-story winner: Ashley Wagner. The 18-year-old with deep roots in Kitsap County had a formidable task -- making up a seven-point deficit to get one of the two Olympic spots.

Ashley.jpg

She almost pulled it off. As it was, Wagner skated the most vibrant, crowd-pleasing free skate of the night. It pulled her past Cohen into third, and may well have held up for second place overall if Nagasu, skating last, had faltered.

She did -- a little, receiving downgrades for three of her jumps. But she was clean enough to hang on for second.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. Figure Skating international committee awarded the two spots to Flatt and Nagasu, even though they had the ability to weigh other skater's international performances and move them up. Wagner created some sentimental yearning for that possibility, but it wasn't to be.

Most other years, third place would have been good enough. This time, the U.S. had only two slots because of the poor finish by the U.S. at last year's worlds -- particularly by then-defending champion Alissa Czisny. The two U.S. skaters at the worlds needed a combined finish of 13th or lower to earn the third slot. Flatt did her part, finishing fifth at her first worlds. But Czisny couldn't manage the necessary eighth-place finish, coming in 11th.

But Wagner took all this with great grace, as I'll describe in my print column for tomorrow's paper. She didn't make the Olympic team this time around. But she emerged as a star in Spokane. The crowd loved both her skating and and her personable, off-ice ease.

Sitting in the kiss-and-cry awaiting her scores tonight, Wagner at first folded her hands in a faux prayer to the judges, then crossed her fingers and finally, when the scores were announced, peered at them through her hands as if she couldn't bear to look.

The crowd ate it up. Wagner is personable in a way not a lot of the other current U.S. skaters are. And that counts for a lot in this business.

She's a future star if she wants to remain in the skate world. And she told me after the post-skate press conference that she'll be back not only next year, but for years from now.

"Definitely."

(Photo: Ashley Wagner was a star, but not an Olympian, at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Saturday night in Spokane. Matthew Stockman; Getty Images)

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Blog roll and links

www.olympic.org: The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information.
www.nbcolympics.com: Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog
www.usolympicteam.com: U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site.
www.aroundtherings.com: Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription).
www.wcsn.com: News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions.
www.beijing2008.com: Beijing Organizing Committee Web site.
www.vancouver2010.com: Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site.
www.london2012.com: London 2012 Summer Games site.
www.sochi2014.com: Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site.
www.chicago2016.org: Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
Bellevue Olympian Scott Macartney's WCSN alpine ski-racing blog
Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.