by Klaus Reinhold Kany
(3 April 2016) The TD Garden in Boston was sold out with about 15,000 spectators on Saturday night for the ladies free program. Around one third of them had come from Japan, Canada and all over the world, but the majority of them certainly were U.S. Citizens who were hoping the end of a ten-year-old draught. In 2006 Kimmie Meissner had captured the gold medal at the post-Olympic World Championship in Calgary, but since then no U.S lady had won any medal at a world championship. Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner both were in a promising position after the short program, being medal contenders.
Wagner, being fourth in the short program with only 0.6 points behind the medal positions, showed good nerves and finally won a well-deserved silver medal with 215.39 points. After an excellent double Axel the student of Rafael Arutunian continued with a combination of triple flip and triple toe loop (under-rotated). Later she performed a very good sequence of triple loop and triple Salchow, an under-rotated and shaky triple flip, an excellent triple loop and a triple Lutz. The sultry step sequence to music of the “Moulin Rouge” soundtrack was outstanding and underlined that she is no teenager but a woman on the ice. Her spins were excellent as well. Her components had an average level of 9.3, two of them even were 10.0 for choreography and interpretation from the same judge. These were the highest components of all 24 ladies and the main reason why she won a medal. After her program she got a huge and long-lasting standing ovation.
Later she said: “When I finished, I did not think about the placement. I was just so happy to have this moment in front of the home audience. I had two great programs. This was my favorite performance of all time, this program speaks to me on so many levels, it’s very true to my heart. To be able to skate like this in front of an audience that is so supportive. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I don’t think anyone can prepare you for skating last at the World Championships, knowing that the entire ladies field had skated pretty phenomenally. Being as terrified as I was and finding a way to get into the ice and have access to the skate that I’ve been training this week – that is unbelievable. I think that it goes to show that what ‘Raf’ (coach Rafael Arutunian) and I are doing is definitely a long-term thing. I’ve improved vastly over the past couple of years with him; I think we still have a ways to go, but this is just a start. I’m like a fine wine – I keep on getting better with age. I think I have been really lucky with my career that I have been injury-free. I think that the way I’ve trained over the years I have allowed my body to work with me as I get older, and it definitely gets harder. I see this one here (2016 World champion Evgenia Medvedeva) doing long program run-throughs with triple-triples on the end of every combination and I think, “Oh to be 16 again”, and then I realize when I was 16, I couldn’t do that. This silver medal is proof that I’ve been working hard and that I have some staying power, and just because I’m 24 that doesn’t make me old, that makes me experienced.”
“I feel like I’m a performer first and then a technician and so for me I have always stressed the importance of putting on a show and making it entertaining for the audience and the judges. That definitely helps make me a well-rounded skater and tonight was a great showing for what I’ve been working on. I have so many people who doubt why I am still here and why people still support me. I earned this silver medal. I went out there, I did my job, I took it for myself. I knew that there had been a bunch of phenomenal skates before me. I put it out of my mind and did what I had to do. The fact that I have a World silver medal because of something I did and not because of something everybody else didn’t do, that is so sweet. My two experiences in here (she placed 4th at 2014 U.S. Nationals, which also was held at TD Garden) were equally as dramatic and this is the one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
But there was one skater who was better than her who won and deserved to win: 16-year-old Evgenia Medvedeva from Moscow had eight more points and is the new World Champion earning 223.86 points. The Russian student of Eteri Tutberidze won nine more technical points than Wagner because the quality of her jumps was a bit better. Seven triples plus four double jumps, three level 4 spins – everything had mainly GOEs of +2, and many +3 as well. She skated to the soundtrack of W.E. (like Papadakis/Cizeron, by the way) and to an Allegro by Rene Aubry and had components of around 9.1, a bit lower than Wagner.
“At this point I have not entirely processed what kind of moment this is for me”, she commented. “Today I was actually less nervous than usual and I felt very comfortable out there. I was focused and took one element at a time. After the footwork my legs were heavy. But I still need to understand that this just happened. Anyway, I want to say that for me every competition is important, also every single skate itself is important. I prepare for every skate in the same way, no matter if it is a small one or a high level competition. This arena also helped me. It was the first time I skated in front of such a huge crowd. I heard their support and lots of cheering in Russian, which was very pleasing. I understood that these people especially came to see me, they all travelled here to cheer for me. I really appreciate that there’s so many fans who love me. And I also love my fans a lot.”
Anna Pogorilaya, also from Russia, won the bronze medal with 213.69 points after performing a clean free program with seven triples and very good other elements. At the Europeans she had made several serious mistakes, but in Boston everything worked fine. Her interpretation of the well-known Sheherezade music by Rimsky-Korsakov was convincing and her components had an average of 8.5. She explained: “I’m truly boiling inside, this is a truly incredible moment. And I’m still processing the fact that the World Championships are over and that the season is over and that it was so successful. It is difficult to show the exact same skate and the exact same performance every time and therefore consistency is so highly esteemed. After Europeans we actually concentrated and prepared very concretely and thoroughly for this event and also prepared more psychologically.”
Gracie Gold of El Segundo, California, had been in the lead with almost three points after an outstanding short program. But as so often before, she could not perform two clean programs. She made two serious mistakes in the long and therefore dropped to fourth place, winning 211.29 points. With only one mistake she would probably have won silver or certainly at least bronze. In her opening combination she came once again too close to the border and fell on the triple toe loop after the triple Lutz. This was the only fall of the best ten ladies. The next three jumping elements, including a combination of double axel, triple toe loop and double toe loop were good, but she seemed to skate with less fire and joy after her fall as if she had already given up. Later she doubled a Lutz which was planned triple, which cost another four or five points. Her spins were excellent and her components around 8.7.
She commented: “It was a really unfortunate and sad experience. I feel really ashamed of how I skated and I want to apologize to my country and to the crowd here -- there’s really no excuse for it. It just shows that I’m not up there with the rest of the world, but maybe in the future I can be a better skater. I had a very up-and-down season despite my big goals of being on the podium here or even winning. The short program I was able to skate clean, and although I was well-trained for the event, during this week I lost a lot of shape and that’s why I couldn’t keep up with my expectations and why I performed so poorly. I still have hopes for the 2018 Olympics, but we’ll have to step back and re-evaluate what’s realistic for my future skating.
The third American Mirai Nagasu (alternate for injured Polina Edmunds) gave a good performance and finished tenth with 186.65 points. She began with a combination of triple flip, triple toe loop and double toe loop, followed by an under-rotated Lutz and three good jumping elements before she landed a triple loop on two feet. Her components were around 7.5. She explained: “I feel good about how I skated, I know that I could have skated better, but that’s the athlete in me. And I was only placed on the team last week. I am confident that the other U.S. ladies will do well and save three spots for next season (which they easily did). The competition has changed drastically since my last worlds six years ago. Even if I will not finish as high as the last time, I am really proud of myself, I did two good programs. My boots broke during practice before the competition, but they are holding up, they didn’t break during my program, and that’s all I could ask for.”
Satoko Miyahara, second at Worlds last year, finished on fifth position, earning 210.61 points. She skated a bit more introverted than last year, therefore his components were lower. But she performed seven clean triple jumps plus double axels. She said: “I was just focusing on myself. Until now, I had skated multiple clean programs in competition in a row, so I wanted to continue that and end this season on a strong note. I was nervous on my first jump, but gradually I was able to skate the way I wanted. Compared to last season, I have many more experiences behind me, so I wanted to put out improved performances that reflect that.”
Elena Radionova from Russia, who had been third at the Grand Prix Final three months ago, ended up sixth, earning 209.81 points. She also had a clean long program with seven triple jumps, but her GOEs were a bit lower because she does not land the jumps in such an upright and elegant position. “Overall, I skated well”, she commented. “I had a few small bobbles, nothing too rough, so I am pleased that I was able to complete everything well during my performance.”
The 2014 world champion Mao Asada finished seventh with 200.30 points. Like in the short program, she was the only skater to try a triple axel, but in the long, it was under-rotated. She continued with six other triple jumps, but two were also not landed clearly backwards and she doubled the Lutz. Her interpretation of the Opera music of Madam Butterfly was excellent, but a bit slow. “After I came back after taking off the 2014-2015 season, there were times when I wondered whether I should not have. It can be difficult, but I only have a few years left to be able to do this, and I want to give skating all that I have. There are many young skaters competing now, and I felt that maybe my generation’s time was over. But as I went on, I began to think that just skating for myself is another approach, and once I became comfortable with that, my thoughts and feelings eased.”
The third Japanese skater Rika Hongo finished eighth, winning 199.15 points after a free program with six clean triple jumps and one under-rotated toe loop. So all three Japanese skaters are among the top eight. Gabrielle Daleman from Canada who trains with Michelle Leigh and Brian Orser in Toronto, is ninth with 195.68 points. “This skate was not only for me but also for my coach and for my choreographer, my parents and for Canada. I’m so proud of what I’ve done all season. And to show this at the world stage and to get 5 points close to 200 internationally is just an unbelievable feeling. It just shows how much I have grown.” Big Asian talents who are not in the top ten are Zijun Li from China (11th), Elizabet Tursynbaeva from Kazakhstan (12th), Da Bin Choi from South Korea (14th) and Amy Lin from Chinese Taipeh (21st).