BOSTON — Ashley Wagner did not want to take advantage of the rules — or lack of them — to back into one of the three women's singles spots on the 2014 Olympic figure skating team.
But a dismal performance in Saturday's U.S. championships free skate means that is exactly what Wagner needs.
Falling twice, Wagner was fifth in the free skate, fourth in the short program and fourth overall as Gracie Gold won her first national title in a runaway with 211.69 points, and Mirai Nagasu probably was left on the bubble.
Wunderkind Polina Edmunds, 15, sailing along until she fell on a triple flip, rallied and took second at 193.63.
Nagasu, the 2008 U.S. champion, who had been in a steady decline after finishing fourth in the 2010 Olympics, did two strong programs and was third at 190.74, exactly eight points ahead of Wagner.
“It's embarrassing as a two-time national champion to put out a performance like that,” Wagner said. “Luckily, I had a decent season that definitely helps my case.”
U.S. Figure Skating's Olympic selection procedure was left purposely vague to give wiggle room for someone such as Wagner, 22, winner of the previous two national titles, if she did not make the top three at these championships.
“The rules are there for a reason,” Wagner had said after the short program. “You could be the best skater all season, and it could just not be your two nights.
“At the same time, I am here to get onto that podium, to really earn that spot. I don't want to ever feel like I took away a spot from someone.”
USFS will announce the team Sunday. If it picks Wagner, as many expect, Nagasu seems more probable than Edmunds to be dropped.
Nagasu, third in both programs, was the only one of the top four without a major error in the free skate. Gold put two hands on the ice to avoid falling on a jump.
Nagasu, 20, the 2008 U.S. champion from Arcadia, had finished seventh the last two seasons. Her career was in apparent upheaval two months ago, when she left her coach and came to nationals without one, a highly unusual situation for an elite skater.
“I did my best and hope they pick me,” Nagasu said. “I am the only one with Olympic experience.”