Two-time national champion Ashley Wagner was tabbed to perform the women's short program at the inaugural team figure skating competition in the opening week of the Sochi Olympics, USA Today reported early Tuesday morning.
2014 national champion Gracie Gold was chosen to skate the long program on Sunday night, one day after Wagner. The two events are integral to the USA's chances if the team wants to medal at the initial team figure skating competition.
New to this Olympics, team figure skating includes men's, women's, pairs and ice dancers competing in both short and long programs.
Jeremy Abbott was elected to handle USA's men's short program while Jason Brown, a silver-medalist to Abbott's gold at the US Championships, will take the long program. Two-time national champion pairs skaters Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir will handle both the long and short-form disciplines as will ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White. The latter two have a chance to become the US's first Olympic gold in ice dancing, but competition from Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir could be their biggest obstacle.
Wagner's inclusion on the US figure skating team didn't come without controversy. She finished fourth at the recent US figure skating championships after a horrible showing but was chosen ahead of Mirai Nagasu (third) based off her substantial international success.
The US is counting on Wagner to eliminate that shaky performance as it competes against 10 other countries for the team title. Other medal contenders include Canada and Russia, but Wagner remains confident.
“The United States is a very strong team” she told USAToday after the championships in Boston. “Absolutely, hands down. I think the U.S. is one of the frontrunners for a medal in the team event.”