BOSTON — By not forgetting last year, Gracie Gold did something very memorable in the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Gold easily skated off with the women’s short program Thursday night with a career-high 72.12 points. Her sensational performance built on strong jumps, improved presentation and a rapport with the audience put her more than five points ahead of 15-year-old Polina Edmunds and almost seven points ahead of a resurgent Mirai Nagasu.
Two-time defending champion Ashley Wagner was fourth.
The top three women will go to next month’s Sochi Olympics. She might settle for Gracie Silver or Gracie Bronze there, but for now, the 18-year-old Gold is on top, erasing bitter memories of her flop in the short program at the 2013 nationals.
“It was one of my best shorts,” Gold said. “I feel a little bit different standing here than being in ninth.
“I was able to skate the way I trained. I’m so glad I was able to breathe and bend my knees. I just trusted my training.”
She works with renowned coach Frank Carroll, who helped Evan Lysacek win gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
It worked so well that with a repeat of her superb and victorious free skate from last year, Gold will be a lock for the Olympic team. The long program will be Saturday night after the pairs free skate.
Earlier, hometown favorites Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir ignored all the pressure of carrying the hopes of friends and family in the crowd to run away with the pairs short program. The defending champions staked themselves to a huge lead of 6.63 points.
Gold’s triple lutz-triple toe loop combination got her off to a strong start, and the program to “Piano Concerto” kept on building. She earned the highest possible level on all her other elements.
Her performance was no surprise given that Gold is one of the favorites in Boston to claim an Olympic spot. But Edmunds, the 2013 U.S. junior champion, stunned most everyone with her routine as the final skater of the night.
She matched Gold’s combination jumps and made her bubbly program look almost easy — as if she knew she belonged in the top echelon.
“It couldn’t have been much better,” she said. “I shouldn’t be surprised. I have all the elements. I just went out and did them.”
Wagner skated a relatively conservative program and had too many errors.
That left her fourth behind Nagasu, who mostly has struggled since finishing fourth in the Vancouver Olympics.
“I feel like I have a full door of opportunity available to me,” Nagasu said.
Clearly, so do Castelli and Shnapir.
“There’s almost this feeling of expectation that we have to do well,” Shnapir said. “It’s definitely challenging. But as soon as we hit our spot, as soon as we heard our names called, we felt that energy.”