BOSTON — After the most crushing skate of her life, Ashley Wagner cried, video chatted with a few longtime friends, had a glass of wine with her mother, Melissa, and brother, Austin, and watched the movie, The Seven Year Itch.
Sleep was not a part of the equation. "I've got bags under my eyes," she said with a laugh Sunday. "Thank God for concealer." After finishing fourth at the U.S. championships, earning one of the team's three Olympic spots wasn't guaranteed.
On Sunday morning, she headed to TD Garden and sat in the stands to watch her best friend, Adam Rippon, prepare for his free skate. When the text came that she had made her first Olympic team, Wagner cried again.
REACTION: Wagner selected to Olympic team
LEFT OFF: Nagasu despite third-place finish
Since the news couldn't be released publicly for another 30 minutes, Wagner left her seat to compose herself. Thirty minutes later when the team was introduced at a news conference, the names were read alphabetically, upping the dramatic tension.
Gracie Gold, the national champ, entered the room, followed by 15-year-old Polina Edmunds, who was second. Then Wagner.
"I danced with danger last night and I never want to feel that uncomfortable again … There was so much up in the air," Wagner said of her 12-hour agony. "My overall body of work the past couple of seasons was very strong and I knew I could make a case for myself. But I was disappointed because I didn't show up when the world was watching and skating needs someone to show up when the world is watching. It was definitely full of uncertainty for me last night and I was terrified I was going to have something to regret."
The results of nationals factored into the selection process, but clearly Wagner's body of work mattered more. Mirai Nagasu was left off the team despite finishing third.
Besides these championships, a skater's results in the last Grand Prix Final, world championships, Grand Prix series, Four Continents Championship, last year's national championships, world junior championships and junior Grand Prix Final were considered.
"It's the results and participation in events over the course of the past year-plus," said St. Peter of the selection criteria. "So if you look at Ashley Wagner's record and performance, she's got the top credentials of any of our female athletes."
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Of the top four contenders, Wagner, 22, has been the most consistent American skater, winning back-to-back medals at the Grand Prix final and finishing in the top five at the last two world championships.
Nagasu has been anything but consistent the last four years. After finishing fourth in the Vancouver Olympics, Nagasu's career went south. At 20, she entered nationals as an afterthought, years removed from all that promise and that little girl from ages ago won gold at the 2008 U.S. championships when just 14. After the Vancouver Olympics, she then missed making the worlds teams the past three years.
Wagner said her four-minute meltdown was due to nerves and the enormity of the moment. Though the Olympics are presumably a more pressure-packed situation, Wagner doesn't view it that way.
"I think nationals is a different beast in itself. This is a total mental competition," Wagner said. But now that she's headed to Sochi, that enormous weight has lifted. She said she considers making the Olympic team "icing on top of the cake."
"When I show up in Sochi it's going to be the Ashley Wagner you guys have been watching the last couple of years," she said.
Four years ago, Wagner narrowly missed the Olympic team. At the 2009 worlds, the U.S. women failed to qualify for three spots in the Olympics for only the second time since World War II. As a result, Wagner didn't make the 2010 Vancouver Olympics after she finished third at nationals.
At worlds last year, Wagner and Gold were able to earn back that third spot. "I think everything happens for a reason and it turns out I got the third spot for myself," she said, smiling at the irony and the possibility ahead.
In pairs, hometown favorites Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, the national champs, and Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay, the second place finishers, are headed to Sochi. Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, the 2012 champs who returned after missing much of last season due to Coughlin's hip surgery, were third and left off the team.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who won a record sixth U.S. title, Madison Chock and Evan Bates and siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani are the three dance teams.
Follow Kelly Whiteside on Twitter @KellyWhiteside.
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