A name like Gracie Gold can be both a blessing and a curse. Headline writers love it because it makes life easy, but the jokes can go the other way if performances aren’t, pardon the pun, “golden.”

Thursday night at the 2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Gracie Gold lived up to her name.

Gold is tops after the short program, leading by a 5.37 margin over second-place Polina Edmunds, who was the big surprise for the evening, and 7.41 points over two-time defending champion Ashley Wagner, who finished the night in fourth. Mirai Nagasu finished between Edmunds and Wagner in third.

Looking at Gold’s self-described “wonderful program” Thursday, it’s even more impressive when you consider that this is a new program for her. She ditched her old short program two months ago and Thursday night at Nationals was the first time we saw this new performance. Looking back at the practice sessions on Wednesday, it looked like she was working the kinks out and Thursday night proves it worked. I’m sure she had to think about the steps and think about everything else in the program, but she went out there and attacked. When she did the triple lutz-triple toe loop combination to start her program, it was such a relief for her. From there, she just skated with such ease and it was very nice to see.

Entering this week, everybody has been curious about Gold’s program. She’s been working with Frank Carroll and Lori Nichol. To the figure skating world, it was a shock that she would change her program two months before the Nationals, but it appears to have paid off.

If she makes it on the Olympics team, I’m sure the program will be even better and she’ll truly own it to the point where it flows and she doesn’t even have to think about it. Having said that, she looked really comfortable Thursday night; this was almost a perfect performance for her, but I can’t wait to see what she does with even more time.

Clearly, her performance Thursday exceeded the competition. Not many female figure skaters can do the triple Lutz-triple toe like Gracie did tonight — a move that was comparable to that of defending gold medalist and Sochi 2014 favorite Yuna Kim of South Korea.

This is exactly the performance Gracie needed.

Although she sits in second place, Edmunds skated with such ease and confidence. Her performance may have shocked the figure skating world, but it didn’t surprise her. Edmunds even said in her post-skate comments that this is how she performs in training. She has two triple-triple combinations planned for her free skate, and if she can replicate Thursday’s performance she may just find herself on the podium with a ticket to Sochi.

On the other hand, Wagner has to be a little disappointed about her performance, particularly not being able to complete her triple flip/triple toe combination.

The two-time defending Nationals champion was just a bit tentative during her short program. From the beginning of this season, she’s said she’s going to go on the attack and really go for it. I think there was a moment of hesitation leading up to the triple flip and once she landed it, she knew she was too far forward to pull off the triple toe loop, instead she did a double toe loop that was a bit wobbly.

For Wagner, it was the opposite of Gold. She seemed relaxed and confident in Wednesday’s practice, but that didn’t show Thursday night. She saved it after her rocky start and she finished the night fourth – which is still in contention going into Saturday night’s free skate finale. She just has to take Thursday night and think about what went wrong and how she can come out fighting Saturday. This is her opportunity, and I’m not sure if she’ll have another Olympics after this. She comes here well trained, and sometimes these things happen and it doesn’t go your way. She has a triple flip-triple toe combination in her long program, so she’s not out of contention for the win — or more importantly, for an Olympic spot on Saturday night.