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2016 World Championships

Gracie Gold Lead After Ladies Short Program, In Position to Break the Drought

by Klaus Reinhold Kany

(31 March 2016)   Thirty-eight ladies had qualified for the short program at the World Championship in Boston. The level of the short program was very good because many ladies have no big problem to land all triple jumps except the Axel in a clean manner. Only Mao Asada tried a triple Axel and certainly nobody tried a quad because it is not allowed and no lady is able to perform it. There were no falls at all within the top 16 skaters.

After several short programs with a big mistake during the last two seasons, U.S. Champion Gracie Gold from El Segundo, California, finally had good nerves and did perform a clean and very stylish program to the tango “El Choclo”. She began with a very good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, this time not too close to the border. The layback spin was outstanding and got a GOE of +3 by four of the nine judges. The flying camel spin was excellent as well, the triple flip and the double Axel were O.K., the step sequence in the beat of the tango and the combination spin even outstanding (many GOEs of +3). Her components had an average of 9,0, with one 9.75 for interpretation as highest score. Like the two other Americans, Gold got a long standing ovation.

Later she commented: “I’m just so happy, excited, proud, and every emotion there could be. I had a great time and trusted my training. I love being back in the TD Garden with excellent ice. The crowd today was truly exceptional. I felt supported all across the arena, really comfortable and really loved. To set a season best and personal best at Worlds was really a magical moment. In some ways it was really a nice program run-through like I’ve done in practice here, other competitions, and especially at home. I worked on my short program a lot with an emphasis on clean, solid strong short programs, not letting any points go. But I think you can’t really make a magical moment. You do your work and in a space like the World Championships, kind of like my hometown and where I won another large competition (2014 U.S. Championships), everything fell into place. It felt like there was something magical in the arena, at least for me. Regardless of the drought (ten years since a U.S. lady last won a World medal), it would just mean a lot to be on podium in my home country. I want to do it for myself, for my support system, for U.S. Figure Skating, for Boston. I think there’s great potential and we’re only halfway through. I kind of see the light of the end of the tunnel that maybe the drought is ending. That would be amazing.”

Anna Pogorilaya, in her country only number three, was the best of the three Russian teenagers and sits on second position, winning 73.98 points. Skating with a lot of energy and expression to the Bolero for Violin and orchestra by Water Taleb, she also began with an impressive combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, followed by a triple loop and four level 4 elements. Most of her GOEs were +2, but there were some +3 especially for the spins. She commented: “I’m happy for 50 per cent, because the free skate is still to come. It is too early to celebrate. I didn’t expect this high score. When I went out, I was very focused and I didn’t think about anything, I just kept a cool head and I took it one step at a time in the program.”

Evgenia Medvedeva, the 2016 European champion and winner of the Grand Prix Final in December 2015, is third, earning 73.76 points. She interpreted the “Melodies of the White Night”. The landing of her triple flip which was planned with a triple toe loop, was a bit shaky, therefore she did not add a second jump, but later added the toe loop to the triple loop. The other elements were excellent, but she seemed a bit more hesitant than at her victories a few months ago. “When you miss one element”, she explained, “the one you want to do the combination with, you get tense, because you need to switch your mindset and do another combination that you haven’t trained so much. You have to fight and you cannot make mistakes. All competitions are important to me. However, when I stepped out and saw the full stands and the spectators so close to the ice I realized that this is a big stage.”

Ashley Wagner from Artesia, California, is currently fourth with 73.16 points after showing a sexy number to “Hip Hip Chin Chin” by the Club des Belugas. Her first element was an excellent combination of triple flip and triple toe loop, followed by six other very good elements. Her highlight was the dynamic and energetic step sequence. Her components were around 8.7. She said: “I`m so excited to finally get over that hump of the short program at Worlds. I love this program it speaks so much to me, it’s the kind of skater that I am, and to finally be able to skate it the way it’s meant to be shown – I’m just elated. The standing ovation reminded me of Michelle Kwan and I’m nowhere near Michelle Kwan. To have that short program at a home country Worlds – this is unbelievable.”

Elena Radionova from Russia is currently fifth with 71.70 points. Her opening combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop was excellent, but later she landed the triple flip on two feet. The other elements had mainly GOEs of +2, the layback spin at the end was even outstanding and got six GOEs of +3. She explained: “It was a good performance, accurate and decent. I’m not competing for the first time in this kind of rink and I know it is a bit narrower. I was focused and did everything as planned. The audience supported me throughout and pushed me. I’m first of all skating for the audience, so it is most important to me that they enjoy my performance.  I feel I’m in a better shape than at Europeans. I’ve trained very well leading up to this.”

Satoko Miyahara from Japan, second at last year’s World Championships and winner of the Four Continents Championships in Taiwan six weeks ago, sits sixth with 70.72 points. She skated a bit shy and more careful than usually although her skating skills are excellent. Her combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop was good, but her triple flip was underrotated. “I did not have any large mistakes today, which I think is good”, she said, “but I felt a little nervous on the jumps. I think my jumps were better in practice, but I felt good about the spins and steps. I do want to make it onto the podium here, but first my goal is to skate my best in both the short and free programs. My goal was to break 70, and I was able to achieve that.”

The second Japanese lady Rika Hongo finished seventh, earning 69.89 points after a clean performance. Gabrielle Daleman from Canada is eighth with 67.38 points, also after making no mistake at all. Former world Champion Mao Asada from Japan is only ninth with 65.87points. She was the only skater to try the triple Axel, but underrotated it and almost fell. She explained: “I am most disappointed that the biggest jump, the triple Axel, was not clean, but I think that I did all that I could on everything else. My condition since getting here was not bad, so I thought that I could land it.”

The third American Mirai Nagasu is currently tenth, earning 65.74 points. Six of her elements were very good, but the triple toe loop after the triple flip was under-rotated. “I wasn’t even on the team until very recently (as an alternate for the injured Polina Edmunds), being here and on the team is a huge responsibility, and I felt a lot of pressure. I was nervous up to the point of exhaustion. But the audience really supported me today, it was overwhelming. I am so proud and grateful to be here. I had put everything into Four Continents, and the results showed that. Now that I got this opportunity to be here, I want to put everything into this competition again. Yes, my boots ripped again. And I didn’t take it as well as during Nationals, where they broke during the short program. I changed my boots, but the new boots weren’t feeling right. So I went back to the old ones after the right boot had been reinforced. Well, at least they broke in practice this time and not during the program.”

There were some more excellent programs, for example by the Chinese Zijun Li (11th with 65.39 points) and the Taiwanese lady Ami Lin (14th).  It was an unpleasant surprise for Maé-Bérénice Méité from France and Joshi Helgesson from Sweden, however, not to qualify for the final of the best 24.