Ashley Wagner wins third U.S. title, gets record-setting scores
Ashley Wagner won her third U.S. title, bouncing back better than ever from last year’s miserable performance.
Knowing she needed to up the difficulty of her jumps to compete with the world’s best, Wagner added two new combinations to her long program, and she landed both of them Saturday for a total of seven triples. Her 148.98 points for the free skate and 221.02 overall were U.S. Championships records, beating defending champ Gracie Gold by a whopping 15.48.
When Wagner nailed her final triple lutz, she threw an arm in the air in celebration as her skate hit the ice.
Wagner was the two-time defending champion coming into last year’s nationals. She fell twice in her free skate to finish a distant fourth, making the Olympic team only because of her past success.
Fifteen-year-old Karen Chen was third Saturday at her first senior U.S. Championships but is too young for the senior world championships. Polina Edmunds, the third American in Sochi, was fourth.
In the first year skaters are allowed to perform to music with lyrics, Wagner matched the ardor of the "Moulin Rouge" soundtrack, her expressions as bright as her red dress.
She added triple lutz-triple toe and triple loop-half loop-triple salchow combinations after finishing third at the Grand Prix Final, and the challenge seemed to invigorate, not intimidate, the 23-year-old.
"Today was an incredible step up from my performance at the Grand Prix Final," she said. "I almost have a maxed-out program."
A skater whose elements often have been downgraded by judges — she became an Internet sensation in Sochi for the sour look on her face at seeing surprisingly low scores — Wagner was precise on all her jumps Saturday.
Gold came into the day 5.02 points back and had to take the ice with the crowd still roaring over Wagner’s performance. She fell on her triple flip and couldn’t equal Wagner’s intensity in interpreting the music.
The 4-foot-10 Chen landed six triple jumps Saturday, bubbling with zest throughout the program.
Mirai Nagasu, who finished fourth at the 2010 Vancouver Games, left the ice in tears for the second straight nationals. Last year, she placed third in a resurgent performance but was bumped from the Olympic team by Wagner.
On Saturday, she got off to a solid start. But in the simplest of moves, skating around the ice, she banged against the wall, tumbling to the ice. Nagasu grabbed at her left knee during the program, then again after it ended. She was later able to smile for the camera, showing off the bloody scratch. Nagasu was diagnosed with a hyperextended knee and bruised cartilage.
In fourth place coming into the long program, just .76 points out of third, she finished in 10th.
Earlier, new champions were crowned in pairs and ice dance. Madison Chock and Evan Bates won with six-time ice dance champs and Olympic gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White taking a break. Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim won in pairs after the Americans’ two teams from Sochi split up.