by Ralph Routon
Rachael Flatt, a 17-year-old senior at Cheyenne Mountain High School, went to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, Wash., hoping to qualify for the 2010 Winter Olympics next month in Vancouver.
Saturday night, Flatt did just that — and more. On a night when the top three finishers all skated strong programs in the nationally televised finale, the Broadmoor Skating Club member put together the best technical performance and won her first national championship.
Flatt, who looked clearly stronger than anyone else in the final minute of her performance with two clean triple jumps (the triples get extra credit in the second half of a program), finished with a 12-point edge in the final standings over runnerup Mirai Nagasu of Pasadena, Calif., who had won the short program. Third place went to Ashley Wagner of Wilmington, Del., while two-time Olympian Sasha Cohen came up short in her comeback attempt and wound up fourth.
Flatt becomes the first ladies national champion from Colorado Springs since Jill Trenary took the U.S. title in 1990, adding to her victories in 1989 and 1987. Trenary also won the 1990 world championship.
"It's a great feeling," Flatt said in a TV interview afterward. She had finished second the previous two years at the U.S. Championships and fifth at the 2009 World Championships. Flatt also won the 2008 world junior title and before that was the U.S. junior champion.
Former Olympic and world champion Scott Hamilton, doing commentary for NBC, praised Flatt's skating and said, "She just won a 12-point victory, and still she can skate better."