The ladies event at Skate America was perhaps (definitely for me) the most anticipated discipline at Skate America, with Mao Asada, Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner as the headliners. In the end, the anticipation kind of fizzled in terms of the matchup between those three, but there still were several fantastic moments that made the event memorable for me. Here's my highlights:
1. The Debut of Ashley Wagner's "Sweet Dreams" Short- As much as Ashley's been a "long program skater" in the past, it was the strength of her short that put her on top of the podium here. No one else could pull off "Sweet Dreams" except for Ashley- her commitment and delivery of the program are what make it work. The costume and makeup were also fabulous. Overall, loved the program and it had me screaming "YAAAAS QUEEEN!" from the stands. The free skate was a great example to me that Ashley can truly skate to anything- the interpretation and packaging were on point. The technical elements fizzled as the program went on, but that program has stunning potential. What I think Ashley needs is a season of *consistency* and she got a great start here. She can lock up a spot at the Final at Cup of China.
2. The Mariah Bell Surprise- When Mariah Bell finished her free skate, it was like a breath of air in that arena, let me tell you. It was a little snoozy up until that point, but Mariah turned the energy level way up. I like the jazziness of her short more than what she brings in the free, but you couldn't help but get excited that she was so excited after her great skate. For someone that wasn't going to the event until last minute, a silver medal deserves huge props. The real challenge will come in following up this performance with another good one-to continue momentum. At the moment, she doesn't have another GP assignment, but you have to think she's now first on USFSA's list if a spot does become available.
3. Mai Mihara's First GP Event- Many people had their eye on Mai Mihara coming into this event, and she proved there was credibility to that talk with a bronze medal. It was the consistency of her two skates that put her on the podium, and that's not easy to do the first time out on the GP. There's a lot to like about Mai's skating and any international experience she'll get from here on out will help her refine and build on her overall package. She will skate at Cup of China, where another medal isn't entirely out of the question.
4. Gabby Daleman's Triple Triple- Watching it live, people, it's even more amazing than on camera. It literally dwarfs everyone else's jumps. They were truly a highlight of her programs and the event overall. I think Gabby has really strong program material this season and she's more of a performer than she ever used to be. She goes back to France for her second event.
5. Mao Asada is a literal goddess- I did see Mao's free skate in person last year, but here at Skate America I had better seats and got to watch her practice, in the event and the exhibition. I am literally *not* worthy. There's a quality and class level to her skating that is unmatched. She is by far the best skater to watch everywhere in between the jumps and she doesn't waste a single movement. Costumes, music, interpretation- SHE IS ON ANOTHER LEVEL. She skates next at Trophee de France. (RIP Trophee Bombard).
It'd be weird and incomplete if I didn't mention Gracie, as she was a big storyline coming into this event. The 3Lz-3T in the short was a highlight and a reminder of the technician she is at her best. Obviously a disappointing result for her here, and we've all read the reports about her comments after the event. I hope Gracie is in an environment where she can feel comfortable asking for whatever it is she needs to be a happy, healthy person. Hopefully she will take some time to consider where she goes from here. She is scheduled to compete next in France.
We move on next week to Skate Canada! I am still in competition hangover status, but I'll do my best to write briefly about the other disciplines before it starts. Hopefully : )
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Reviews, predictions and opinions in the magical, sparkly and dramatic field of figure skating.