BOSTON -- Ashley Wagner fell to the ice, her red dress pooling around her like spilled blood, and you could almost hear the members of the Olympic selection committee crying out in pain.
Wagner, the onetime Skating Club of Wilmington, Del., skater and the favorite coming into these national championships, made Sunday's task of choosing three women to represent the U.S. in Sochi next month considerably more difficult.
She fell twice in her disappointing free skate and wound up fourth, a whopping 29 points behind the winner, teenager Gracie Gold.
The free skate routines produced no standings changes as 15-year-old Polina Edmonds finished second (193.63) and Mirai Nagasu, 20, third (190.74).
That leaves a dilemma for the selectors, who will reveal their three choices Sunday. Do they take Nagasu or a 15-year-old over the more tested Wagner? Or do they ignore what happened here and pick the two-time champ, who, at 22, is the oldest of the four contenders.
Edmonds, the 2013 junior national champion, sounded as if she wouldn't be volunteering to surrender her spot.
"I've been looking at 2014 for a long time. My mother's family is from Russia," she said. "Ashley Wagner is a really strong skater, but all of us want to go to Sochi. ... I did finish second."
If Wagner doesn't go, it would be a second straight Olympic nightmare. She barely missed out on making the 2010 team, calling that experience the worst of her young life.
"I'm sorry that as a two-time champion this was the performance I put out there," she said.
It was probably why, as it ended, her face melted into a look that appeared to reflect both terror and frustration.
The building was nearly full for a first time this week, the spectators as eager as the selectors to see how this mixed-up women's field was going to shake out.
Some of those expected to contend for an Olympic spot -- Agnes Zawadzki and Rachael Flatt in particular -- fell flat, literally. Zawadzki finished 11th; Flatt, in her final nationals, 18th.
The night was filled with falls, a display that showcased the current depressed state of the U.S. women, long the world's power.
Some of it might have been due to choppy ice. For the final group, two visible pools of water flanked the surface, though Edmonds insisted they were not factors.
Gold, the 18-year-old Californian whose name may yet prove prophetic, two-handed a missed triple-flip but otherwise was graceful and poised.
"That was a fairy tale," she said afterward. "I felt strangely calm."
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