Chen Delivers, Big Task Ahead
Karen Chen has always shown that she’s capable of being the full package - high jumps, beautiful spins and spirals, and good musical interpretation. But she’s not consistently delivered in competition as she navigated boot problems and injuries. NO ONE was talking about her for the title, but she showed up in Kansas City with the two best skates of her career. For me, it was her gorgeous short program where she really shined.
In the free, many have acknowledged that her 3T on the end of the combo was under rotated (not called) and I think that her score was high overall. To her credit, Karen delivered under pressure in the free, which frankly, I wasn't sure she'd be able to do. Let’s hope this is turning point for her and that she can build confidence for the rest of the season. Eyes will be on her as she heads to Four Continents to see if she can remain consistent and she will be tasked with a top 8-10 finish at Worlds to give the U.S. a chance at three Olympic spots. (see more on that below).
Wagner Sets Up for Worlds Preparations
Ashley Wagner should be happy with her Nationals performances; she avoided major mistakes and delivered two technically solid performances that have her on a good pace to peak at Worlds. Ashley is the skater who engages you in her performance from start to finish and she created the moment of the free skate for me. The judges could’ve given her the title based on PCS, and to be honest, I’m surprised they didn’t. She will head to Helsinki as the U.S.’s leading lady and she's in a good position to skate well there.
The performance of Chen’s career and the resurgence of Mirai Nagasu again drew attention to the weakness of Ashley’s spins and footwork. Much like the rise of Gracie Gold’s career in the last Olympiad forced Ashley to commit to consistently compete with the triple- triple, the rise of these skaters may force her to commit to achieving the level 4s she capable of in those areas.
Gracie’s Season Ends, So Does Relationship With Carroll
While many were encouraged by Gracie Gold’s pre-event teleconference, she didn’t deliver in Kansas City, skating far below what she is capable of. Had she finished in fourth, I could’ve seen a scenario where she was placed on the World team, but frankly she looks like she needs a long break to decide if- and how- she wants to continue her career.
Perhaps more disheartening than her skating here was the drama that ensued between her and Frank Carroll. While the partnership was clearly no longer a good fit, it was yet another situation Gold was forced to address in the public forum. With more experienced reporters like Christine Brennan and Phil Hersh covering the sport as we approach the Olympic year, there was no shying away from media scrutiny and Gold left Missouri on a low note, on and off the ice.
Three Olympic Spots May Be Out of the Question
At the beginning of the season, I wouldn’t have imagined we’d have a better chance at three men’s Olympic spots than ladies, but--- here we are. While Wagner can give you a solid 3rd-6th place finish, expecting a top ten placement from Karen Chen or Mariah Bell isn’t going to be easy. Considering the strength of the Canadian (2), Japanese(3) and Russian (3) teams alone (plus Wagner and Carolina Kostner), you’re looking at 11 experienced competitors already. The thought of watching 2018 Nats with so many competitors and only two spots honestly gives me anxiety.
Looking to Four Continents
I think it was a good decision for Ashley to pass on Four Continents, as she tends to skater better with more preparation time between events. There's not much to gain at this event for Wagner unless she skates lights out IMO. It *is* good opportunity for Mirai Nagasu to rebound from her free skate and to potentially gain some ISU ranking points that will be very important for next year's Grand Prix assignments. It's hard to not think that Karen and Mariah need a really good skate at Four Continents before Worlds to have any hope for three spots. I don't envy the position they're in.
I am still catching up on some of the programs I missed live, but will hope to post further recaps later. Skating is already continuing this week with Europeans!
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Reviews, predictions and opinions in the magical, sparkly and dramatic field of figure skating.