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Flatt, Nagasu finish 1-2 in nationals; Cohen a distant fourth

January 23, 2010 |  8:30 pm

Flatt2_300 There could hardly have been a more dramatic series of story lines for the women’s free skate final Saturday night at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Would Sasha Cohen’s comeback end as brilliantly as she started it while finishing second in the short program Thursday?

Could the ingenue champion of 2008 and short program winner, Mirai Nagasu, complete her return from a wilderness of self doubt.

Would reliable Rachael Flatt live up to that reputation?

Could Ashley Wagner rally from fourth and fulfill the tweet in which she somehow found watching the movie, "Titanic," had inspired her not to go down without a fight?

The answers including a resounding yes for Nagasu and Flatt, who should have earned the two women’s spots on the U.S. Olympic team.

Wagner put up a good fight, and Cohen simply was underwhelming.

Flatt won the title with 200.11 points. Nagasu was second at 188.78, Wagner third at 184.70 and Cohen fourth at 174.28.

"It is stressful, but I think I handled it very well," Flatt. "It was so much fun. I’m still shaking."

Flatt was steady as a rock in skating to Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. She cleanly executed all seven planned triple jumps, and if her skating was methodical, it was a well calculated method for the high school senior from Colorado Springs.

Flatt, second at nationals a year ago, scored a new record for this meet, breaking the 199.18 by Cohen in 2006 and putting the pressure on Nagasu, the last skater of the night.

Nagasu had more pizzazz but the judges found enough flaws in her jumps, even the ones she landed, to make Flatt an easy winner based on the technical marks.

The answer to the Cohen question was a definite no. The 2006 Olympic silver medalist struggled on nearly all her jumps, falling on one, landing two on two feet and getting clean landings on just four triples. The rest of her performance to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata was flat, leaving her in fourth place.

The Olympic decision was expected later Saturday.

For all the intense interest in this national meet, created by the Olympic stakes and the return of Cohen, neither U.S. woman will be favored to win a medal in Vancouver.

No U.S. woman has won a medal at worlds since Kimmie Meissner and Cohen finished first and third in 2006.

Wagner delivered an exceptionally solid if artistically uninspired performance, filled with triple jumps in sequence and combination.

"For me, the big goal is being here and skating well," Cohen said Friday. "That’s what I want to do for myself. If the Olympics comes with that, great."

The judges had been kind to Cohen in the short program, failing to penalize her for what every figure skating expert agreed was a wrong-edge takeoff on her triple lutz jump. Cohen has been unable to do a clean lutz most of her career.

"That doesn’t do her any favors," said coach Brian Orser. "Trust me, when you get to worlds and Olympics, it’s a different thing."

Reigning U.S. champion Alissa Czisny completed a disastrous nationals, in which she fell once in each program, by making four significant jump errors in the free skate.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White finished a clean sweep of all three phases in the ice dance competition at the national championships with a Saturday free dance to "Phantom of the Opera" that had athletic pyrotechnics as dramatic as the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

The University of Michigan juniors, who never before had beaten five-time U.S. champions Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto in any phase of a competition, did it handily in all three parts this week. Belbin and Agosto were second.

-- Philip Hersh, reporting from Spokane, Wash.

Photo: Rachael Flatt performs her free skate on Saturday en route to winning the women's title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Credit: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images