Edmunds had issues rotating all of her jumps in her programs at Nationals (and these were quite obvious in real time) and her score did not come close to either Gold's Junior score from the season before or Hicks' score from the season before that which are the top 2 domestic junior scores ever. IF USFS was so interested in jumping on an up and comer's bandwagon with the right timing of Sochi/Olympics/Worlds, it would have been Hicks, not Gold who was the one on the radar and the recipient of strong political backing. The reasons why USFS is interested in Gold more than Hicks or Edmunds right now heading into Sochi and the next quadrenium:
1) Gold has excellent jumping technique (lip notwithstanding - she IS working on that as it's something that developed from working on the 3F+3T and 3F+1Lo+3S) and almost never has under-rotation issues (the SP at Worlds being the exception to that) which is more than you can say for the last group of skaters coming up through the ranks that were highly touted (Nagasu, Zhang, Flatt, etc)
2) Gold has gone through puberty and has regained her skills from that disasterous junior season where she didn't make Nationals
3) Gold has high level spins which are fast, centered, and get pretty good GOE, so she doesn't just nail big jumps but have meh spins
4) Gold is more aesthetically pleasing to watch skate than Hicks as her stroking and transition technique is much more pleasing to the eye in general. Yes, it's still stiff looking in her shoulders and upper back, but she isn't clunky looking below the waist.
5) She has good speed and power across the ice. Is she Yuna Kim or Carolina Kostner fast -- yet? No, but there's been improvement in that throughout the season as well.
Overall, Gold has the right mental fortitude to become a champion - she wants to win, she works hard, she learns from her mistakes in practice and competition; she has many of the right pieces in place around her to succeed (frankly I think Alex O is one of the best technical coaches I've ever watched teach kids 2A and 3's and her mom is one of the most realistic and supportive skating mothers I've ever met) and let's face it, she's very attractive and has a GREAT name.
Edmunds hasn't competed in the JGP as yet. Gardena was her first international competition ever. Yes, she won it, but look who she beat, and by how much:
158.45 Polina EDMUNDS USA
123.61 Rin NITAYA JPN
116.54 Briley PIZZELANTI ITA
115.92 Guia Maria TAGLIAPIETRA ITA
106.36 Caterina ANDERMARCHER ITA
100.00 Kelsea SUAREZ PHI
No doubt Polina will skate in the JGP this summer/fall, but that isn't any kind of preparation for a senior championship event at the level of the Olympics. There is no way she will outskate Wagner, Gold, Hicks and a number of other senior ladies at Nationals.
Here's how Polina's winning 101.70 FS was scored at Nationals:
3z+3t<, 3fe+3t<<, 2a, 3lo+2t+2lo<, 3fe, 2a, 3s<
I think Polina will do well at the JGP, but amid senior skaters, she would look decidably juniorish. She also tends to choose costumes which are, well, a bit outlandish.
I am not denying Gracie is talented and I can't say I saw her skate live at Worlds, I'm sure she was much improved from the summer. All I'm saying is that the summer before Gold's break-out season, she was scoring in the 40s for PCS and her FS scores were around 100 to 110 - in other words, VERY comparable to Edmunds now so if Gracie can come that far in terms of scores and placements and being a factor on the World stage in a year and a half then that means there's a chance could do the same thing and be in a similar situation to Gracie in a year and a half. That's more what I'm saying. Gold is a great skater for sure, but she also got hyped and pushed out onto the scene at warped speed, giving chances the USFS would not have given to other skaters. I'm not saying she didn't deserve those chances, arguably she did, but she was lucky to get sent to a JGP after not qualifying for Nationals (I think she's the only female skater to have done that ever), and to get sent to WTT when she was not even a senior domestically, and to get the nod to compete on the GP this season versus the JGP, and to get 2 spots after having minimal WS points. That is all I'm saying. Does her talent warrant her express speed trajectory and the opportunities she was given? Yes, sure. But are there other very talented skaters who have not been given the same kind of treatment and/or opportunities despite similar results? Yes. So she is a special case.
114.22 Broadmoor Open
101.68 Glacier Falls (qualifying FS)
88.47 Glacier Falls (final FS)
80.14 U.S. Challenge Skate
Basically, Polina had a strong start in summer comps, then declined from there. I personally think that Polina should have had a JGP slot, but she certainly did make a strong case for USFSA to give her one. I'm sure if Polina was getting 100+ scores and getting both her 3-3 completely ratified for all those competitions, they would have found a way to get her a JGP.
That said, now that Polina has had a great international result and is getting some coaching from the political-clout master Frank Carroll, she will get two JGP.
Gracie went from falling four times (right?) at Midwestern sectionals and not qualifying for Nationals to suddenly dominating competitions with 100+ FS scores and consistently hitting 3F-3T, 3Z-3T and 2A-3T. And here's her scores
109.62 Skate Detroit
102.63 Glacier Falls
(Were there others?)
And let's be fair, Gracie didn't get a JGP until the ABSOLUTE last event (and that only happened because Yasmin Siraj opted to not compete in a second event to focus on Nationals so they ended up having an extra spot), so it's not like they were throwing all their eggs in the Gracie basket right away. The hype, IMO, started after she won the JGP, her first international event ever.
Also if Gracie ended up on the JGP again instead of heading to GP, that would have been two fewer spots for the already crowded U.S. JGP Ladies pool.
Also, regarding the definition of "breakthrough" star:
Final standings of the 2012 US Nationals (Junior Ladies):
1. Gracie GOLD 178.92
2. Ashley CAIN 155.48
Final standings of the 2013 US Nationals (Junior Ladies):
1. Polina EDMUNDS 159.87
2. Mariah BELL 152.80
In 2011, Gracie didn't even qualify for Nationals. In 2012, Gracie cleared the rest of the field at Nationals by more than 20 points (breaking a domestic junior ladies' record score in the process) with her high, clean, fast jumps that already rivaled the senior ladies'. She then went on to take silver at Junior Worlds, defeating the more experienced Adelina Sotnikova, and placed fifth at WTT with her junior programs. THAT is what I consider a breakthrough star.
Gracie had gone through a growth spurt and that's why she didn't make it to 2011 Nationals. But the summer of 2011, she scored high numbers in her summer comps, winning Skate Detroit and Glacier Falls. As pointed out, she got the last JGP of the season because Siraj was injured and couldn't compete. She went on to win the Junior title at 2012 with a record high score, then won silver at JW, which proved USFS was correct to give her the JGP spot.
Polina Edmunds had finished 6th in Juniors at 2012 Nationals and was 7th at 2011 Nationals. She started off the summer of 2012 with some very high scores, but these gradually got lower and lower as the summer went on. JGP slots that summer/fall went to the Juiors who'd finished just behind Gracie at 2012 Nationals: Cain (2), Miller(3), Long(4) and Bell(5). The other spots went to Hicks (2011 Jr Champ who was injured in her 2nd JGP), and Seniors Wang, Keiser, Cesario, Lam, Baga and Jiang.
Edmunds was on the substitute list (as Gold had been the previous year) but didn't get an assignment because there were several ladies who'd won medals in their first event and were eligible for a second.
Gracie lucked out in the summer of 2011 and Edmunds didn't last summer.
Courtney Hicks won 2011 Nationals as a Junior; she was 5th as a Novice in 2010. Hicks DID go to the 2011-2012 JGP after winning Nationals 2011: she won her first JGP event in Australia, then broke her leg right at the beginning of her second JGP in Italy. She was unable to go to 2012 Nationals because she was still in a cast. USFS sent her to the 2012-2013 JGP and she won one silver medal and finished 4th in her second event. Why would USFS have sent Hicks to the GP in 2012? She was low on the WR and SB and hadn't competed internationally since she broke her leg in the fall of 2011.
Gracie has received treatment from USFS commensurate with her talent. Yes, she lucked out getting that JGP event in 2011, but she proved that she was deserving, since she did win it, and went on to win Nationals as a Junior, a silver JW medal, and a respectable 5th place (out of 12) at WTT 2012. Gracie really hasn't been treated any more royally than Kaetlyn Osmond has been treated in Canada, and Osmond hasn't performed as well in the Senior Championships as Gracie.
As for Josh and Jason, as of last June, neither was high enough on WR and SB to ensure getting two GP events. Now they ARE in a position to get two, because of their stellar performances in the JGP and JW. Josh will be moving up to the GP, but Jason has said he will do whatever USFS wants him to do. So if Jason stays JGP, it won't be due to a "stunt".
As for Josh Farris, the men's field is a totally different deal than the ladies field. It's far deeper and more competitive. While with the ladies, there's no problem with plunging into the senior GP and having junior skaters move to the senior GP before they can compete at Worlds, it's the opposite with the men--better to stay on the JGP a little longer. I don't see the USFSA unfairly holding Josh Farris back while giving special treatment to Gracie. Gracie had a better shot for success on the senior GP than Josh Farris did.Courtney Hicks was also really good the year she won junior nats and had made nationals the season before that and didn't get a JGP that season, and competed on the JGP the following season instead of the senior GP. Josh Farris had a boatload of JGP medals to his credit and won JW silver (half a point off the winner's score compared to the 15 point margin between Julia and Gracie) and was sent back to the JGP this season to help older skaters who didn't have 2 events secured get 2 events and leave space for the Evan and Johnny comebacks that didn't really materialize, and there were tweets, he wanted to compete on the GP, USFS chose not to submit his name. I wouldn't be surprised if they pulled the same stunt with Jason Brown this upcoming season. Gracie lucked out. She's a bright talent and she's starting to live up to all the hype which is great, but she did get special treatment of sorts in that she was not issued the "we need you to wait your turn" memo that so many others have been over the years.
And the Osmond situation in Canada is like Gold but worse, I agree, but that's because since Joannie left Canada has had no one decent (apart from the one flukey Worlds where Phanuef finally skated to her abilities and was 5th) to compete on the World stage, so Kaitlyn wins Nebelhorn and seems to have some kind of consistency with her jumps and it's like all hail the new ice princess. There are a host of really strong ladies in the US so the situation with Osmond in Canada is less surprising, of course now Canada seems to have some strong other ladies coming through the ranks as well but that only really became apparent this season. In the end it's all fine because Gracie is starting to show why get pushed into the big time so fast might have been worth it in her case, but her situation and trajectory is a special and unusual case and one not often seen (and though her abilities account for some of this, there was also some help and support, chances, luck, good timing, etc. that made a difference).
The JGP event Gold got in the fall of 2011 was due to two things: Siraj stepping back from her second event and Gold winning Glacier Falls with a big FS score (102) with a mistake which has been the "summer monitoring event" and is THE MOST IMPORTANT for a skater who's not initially given any internationals to make an impression on the international committee and at least get on the sub list (and everyone KNOWS which events are monitoring events) while Edmunds had some technical issues this last summer at Glacier Falls (which was again the summer monitoring event) and only put up an 88 FS score in final round. Basically, an 88 isn't going to WOW the international committee - they could send some of the domestic Seniors who are age eligible and they can score that or better on a bad day; it was a big red flag that Edmunds wasn't ready to be thrust in front of international judges and tech panels as they didn't want her to get a reputation as a skater with a chronic under rotation issue. That would end her international career real quick.
Gold got invited to WTT last year when Czsiny, Zawadski, Zhang, Gao, Flatt, and Nagasu all turned it down. Did you want them to invite Vanessa Lam to WTT last year since she was the next highest Senior score at Nationals, even though Gold thoroughly beat her at JWs in 2012? Even though it's sort of a cheese event, there is some desire by each country to win and Gold is a better choice than Lam.
I don't see where Gold is getting "special treatment" and "super duper politikal backing" and Edmunds is getting/has gotten shafted (other than not getting a slot at JWs this year, but when you look at her Nationals scores and the age eligible Seniors who DID get selected, it makes more sense as Gold's Nationals (Junior) score in 2012 would have placed her 3rd in Senior ladies without even adding in the spiral sequence while Edmunds would have been 12th in Senior ladies with her winning score this year, likely 11th with a choreo sequence added in (2-3 points) which would be behind Hicks, Siraj, Cesario, Miller, and Wang).
Edmunds needs to show consistency on her elements, especially on the +3T in both the SP and LP. Gold started showing that consistency from spring of 2011 (Northern Blast competition) and into the summer (Detroit, Glacier Falls) and fall (Greater Chicagoland Fall Invitational, JGP event).
I had no idea all those skaters had turned down WTT but now this is making more sense.
And maybe men and ladies aren't comparable but there have been a lot of dumb decisions made on behalf of the USFS regarding GP and JGP spots, like the US men's champion not getting a GP event, and Armin not getting a host pick after placing 4th at Nationals (well, at least not until Lysacek withdrew). And while 88 is not a wow score, Edmunds also had a 101 and a 114! from earlier in the summer so she had at least shown she had potential to do really well. And I think Nina Jiang's highest FS score from the summer was like an 83, and her other scores were in the 70s, and she was given a JGP. So if an 88 (along with a 101 and 114) is not wow enough to give someone a JGP then why is an 83 and a 74? And Polina had been at Nationals the season before too, she wasn't in a tough situation where she didn't qualify and therefore it would have required not following standard protocol to send her.