BOSTON -- Hall of Fame coach Frank Carroll said two-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner should be selected to the U.S. Olympic team even if she finishes outside the top three at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday night.
Carroll's comments Friday on the eve of the women's free skate at TD Garden added to an increasingly heated debate over a U.S. Figure Skating rule that allows a selection committee to select to the Olympic team skaters who finished lower than the allotted spots in the different categories. The U.S. women have three spots for Sochi; the team will be announced Sunday.
"They left that room so they that they can pick someone who they felt has had a really good track record and who may not perform particularly well on that night. I think it's fine," Carroll said. "I have no problem with it. I think we should send our very best skaters and the very best people we have."
And to Carroll the best two American women's skaters are Wagner, 22, and Gracie Gold, 18, Carroll's latest protegee. Wagner last year became the first woman to successfully defend the U.S. title since Michelle Kwan in 1995. She was also fifth at the 2013 World Championships. Gold, the leader going into Saturday's competition, was second to Wagner at the 2013 U.S. Championships and sixth at last year's Worlds.
So should Wagner, fourth after the short program, receive a ticket to Sochi if she fails to make the top three spots on the medal podium?
"Yes," Carroll said.
Same for Gold?
"I don't think they're going to knock Gracie out. I don't think they'll knock the top two girls out," Carroll said referring to Wagner and Gold. "They know they're sitting fifth and sixth in the World. Who do we have in the past three or four years that have been that high up in the world? So we need people that have reputations and who are the best.
"If one of them falls over the place, I don't think they should go."
But David Glynn, coach of Polina Edmunds, 15, the U.S. junior champion currently in second place, insists the top three finishers Saturday night should make the team. Period.
"I think U.S. Figure Skating would have a hard time not naming the top three as the three Olympic spots," said Glynn, another Carroll protegee. "I think it would be very hard for them to face the media having made that decision so I don't anticipate that being a problem.
"This is the toughest competition of year for these kids and whoever can come out on top and be one of the top three at this competition goes to the Olympics."
Glynn also took issue with the suggestion that U.S. Figure Skating would be taking a chance in naming the inexperienced Edmunds over a veteran like Wagner.
"I completely disagree with you about Polina having no international experience," Glynn said. "She's done Junior Grand Prix. She won both of her Junior Grand Prixs. And going to the Grand Prix final, yes it was a junior event she was in, but the atmosphere of that competition, you walk into that it's a thrilling environment and even though you're in junior you're standing there in the hallway and (World champion) Patrick Chan is standing right next to you and the Russian pair team is standing on the other side of you and you're an American junior lady 15 years old and you have to figure out a way to handle the pressure right away and she went through that experience and she came out with a very great long program."
Wagner took the high road Friday.
"I'm not thinking about that," she said. "I think the rules are there for a good reason. You could be the best skater all season. It could just not be your two nights. And that shouldn't define whether or not you have the potential to be an Olympian. At the same time I am here to get on that podium. I'm here to really earn that spot. I don't want to ever feel I took a spot from someone.
"I will earn my spot tomorrow and make it onto that podium hopefully."
Three-time winner Jeremy Abbott set a national record for the short program, putting his second Olympic berth within reach. Abbott won the event with 99.86 points at the U.S. Championships, shattering his own mark of 90.23. He has a 7.82-point margin over Richard Dornbush heading into Sunday's free skate.
World champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White danced within range of their sixth straight U.S. title by romping in the short dance. Skating to selections from "My Fair Lady," Davis and White broke their own record with 80.69 points to build more than a seven-point lead on Madison Chock and Evan Bates.
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