Cohen's Olympic dream comes crashing down

Maggie Hendricks

After Thursday's short program, Mirai Nagasu, Sasha Cohen and Rachael Flatt (pictured) were in a virtual tie, with less than a point separating the trio who topped the standings. The proving ground of Saturday's free skate likely elevated Flatt and Nagasu to spots on the Olympic team, and showed that Cohen wasn't quite ready to return to the competitive world.

Cohen, a two-time Olympian and silver medalist in Torino, landed her first two jumping passes awkwardly before falling down on a triple flip. Her final score put Cohen in fourth place. She seemed resigned to her fate as she skated off the ice, but wasn't upset when talking to NBC after her performance.

"There wasn't sadness and there wasn't regrets," Cohen said.

Flatt was the star of the evening, winning the national championship with a routine packed with difficulty. Her bubbly routine to Rachmaninov's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" was technically impressive while still hitting artistic marks. She hit a triple-triple combination -- a triple flip and a triple toe loop -- which will help her keep pace with some of the best skaters at the Olympics. Flatt's routine scored her 200.11, easily besting her previous top U.S. score of 188.73.

Nagasu followed up her memorable short program with a high-flying free skate. She didn't have quite the technical difficulty of Flatt and under-rotated a few of her jumps, giving her a score of 188.78.

The odd woman out was Ashley Wagner, Brian Boitano's protege who hit her routine perfectly, but her poor score from the short program prevented her from competing with Flatt and Nagasu.

The U.S. will now be represented in Vancouver by two relatively unknown teenagers. Both Nagasu and Flatt have skated internationally, but neither have the experience of some of their international competitors, like Kim Yu-Na of South Korea and Japan's Miki Ando and Mao Asada. However, Americans have surprised the figure skating competition in the past, so it's not a good idea to count out Flatt or Nagasu.