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2013 U.S. National Championships

Ashley Wagner Skates Conservative Short Program Defending her National Title

 by George Rossano

(24 January 2013)  

Ashley Wagner began the defense of her national title by skating a conservative workmanlike program to "The Red Violin"  which included triple Lutz - double toe loop, triple loop and double Axel.  She achieved two level four spins, and level two for the third, as well as level three for her step sequence.  Wagner opened up a 2.26 lead over Agnes Zawadzki.

Ashley Wagner Eyes Second National Title

Though her choreographer Phillip Mills opined the program showed electricity in her Nationals performance (to which she replied, " I'm glad that it looked that way to him"), many observers felt the performance was flat and lacked energy.  It appears that Wagner's approach here is to play defense rather that to move in for the kill.  Wagner did not attempt (by choice) the long awaited triple - triple, and can thank a fall by Zawadzki for the small lead Wagner holds.  In addition to leaving points on the table by completing a triple - double, Wagner also attempted the lower value triple loop instead of triple flip.  Wagner can also be thankful the judges overlooked her struggle on the takeoff for the loop and a nearly one-quarter turn under-rotation, giving her mostly GoEs of +2 for an inferior execution.

On showing a triple-triple before Worlds Wagner said, "I never focus on the competition. I know it sounds silly to say, and I知 aware that they池e (Yuna and Mao) out there but this is not a mental game for me. If I知 going to do a triple-triple, it痴 for myself and only for myself. Going into Worlds, we値l see. There are still a couple more competitions that I can go to and I壇 love to get the triple-triple out there at before the biggest event of the season. As for what I知 doing here, I知 staying focused on two solid performances. I知 halfway there.

Skating to music from "Sex and the City" Zawadzki skated an energetic lively program, landing triple toe loop - triple toe loop and triple Lutz.  On double Axel she made a silly mistake and fell giving up the potential lead in the Short Program.  Even with the fall she outscored Wagner in elements.  Her performance also included two level three spins and one level four and a strong level four step sequence.

Mirai Nagasu's skating has become more confident and secure over the course of the season, and despite having the flu, skated a strong confident program.  She landed triple toe loop - triple toe loop, triple loop and double Axel, two level four spins and one level two, with a level three step sequence.

"I知 very proud of what I accomplished today," she said. "I did a triple-triple. I can only say that it was an improvement from NHK, so I知 very proud of myself and I hope to take this confidence into the long program.

的致e been taking it one day at a time, and I致e noticed that a lot of obstacles come my way. Like, I致e had the flu, and it痴 really dry here, so I致e been getting bloody noses. But I致e been taking my training really seriously and working with my coaches, and because they believed in me, I believed in them. And they池e like, 惣ou can do it today, just be fierce and go attack out there. So I took one element at a time and just had fun with it.

Nagasu skated with a joy and sense of comfort with the style that has been missing fro many of her programs in recent years.  "I really like this music," ("Downhill Special" by Benny Goodman) she said. "This year I went back to my choreographer from when I was a very young girl, and we wanted to go back into my roots where I usually had like a fun jazz music for the short and very classical balladic music for the long. I feel like I致e been like that little girl from ages ago who wanted to go to the Olympics and medal. I feel like I致e been trying to regain that memory. Sometimes it痴 been hard, but it痴 been a great journey. And I just hope to improve at each competition.

A surprising strong fourth place result was turned in by Courtney Hicks, who was not on many people's radar for a top five result.  Skating to "Korobushka" by Bond, she landed triple flip - triple toe loop, though, with an under-rotation on the toe loop, triple Lutz and double Axel, with level three spins and steps.

的t was a lot of fun to perform my short program," she said.  "I actually recently kind of re-choreographed it a little bit. I think it is a lot more expressive and a lot more fun now. It was nice to be able to go and skate clean so that I could enjoy the program as much as possible.

Hicks is returning to competition after another injury, saying, 的 pulled out my patellar growth plate and I fractured the tibia right below it. So I was out for a few months but I think it was kind of good to have because I kind of needed a break. I had been training so hard I had just being going and going. Even though it was a setback I think it has ultimately helped me in the long run because my body was able to rest and recover and now I am back with even more strength than before.

World team hopeful Christina Gao, placed fifth despite landing a triple-triple combination (toe-toe) and triple loop.  Her double Axel was also clean, while her spins where levels two, three and four, and the step sequence level four.  On the flying sit spin Gao fell out of the spin, and the loss in points cost her one place.  Her performance to "Close Without Touching" by David Arkenstone was clean, except for the error in the spin, but cold.

典hat was a really silly mistake. I知 still kicking myself for it,  She said.  擢rom the beginning, I was, telling myself to do it like I did in practice, which is kind of what I致e always been doing in practice except for that spin but I mean I知 glad I did my triple-triple because I messed that up at the (Grand Prix) Final and in Paris, and so I was kind of nervous going into it here. I try not to think about it, but it痴 always there. My Axel was nice. And then, I tried to feel the music and skate with my heart.

The 2012 Junior National Champion, Gracie Gold, came into Nationals a strong contender for the podium in her first year at Senior, but left two important elements in the warm-up.  After landing them cleanly in the warm-up, Gold fell on an under-rotated triple toe loop in a triple flip - triple toe loop combination (with an edge call on the flip), and singled double Axel.  She had two level four spins and a level three, with level three footwork.  Her components were fifth best, not strong enough to make up the ground lost on the elements.

的 am disappointed in myself and how I skated today," she said.  "It was not a very good performance, but I will just have to pick myself up and try again on Saturday.

的 obviously fell. I just didn稚 get my free leg through on the triple toe, it just wasn稚 the jumps. I knew how to do and that I have trained for. So I will just have to pick myself up and try again on Saturday.   She added, 的 knew that I had come back after the triple Lutz (her solo jump) but going into the Axel, I just wasn稚 in my knees and I just rushed everything. I was very nervous today.

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