Let’s face it- the night belonged to Ashley Wagner. The now three-time National Champion threw out the best performance of her career, landing seven CLEAN triples and bringing the audience to their feet with her inspired skate. She set a new record for a free skate at the US Championship and won the competition by over ten points. Her skate was the most exciting moment of the championships for me, and it was wonderful to see her deliver a performance like this when it mattered most. She surely has rebounded in a big way from the rough start to her season. Hopefully, she will carry this confidence and momentum into the World Championships, where I cannot wait to see her skate again!
Gracie Gold faced a tough challenge in directly following Ashley Wagner’s incredible skate. She had to wait on the ice while Ashley’s huge score was announced and I think it made her even more nervous. Gracie started the program well, completing several jumping passes, but ultimately falling and losing any hope of reclaiming her title. Overall, I felt Gracie was very uncomfortable in her skin and on the ice at these Championships. She seemed even more disconnected to her music and the audience than usual. How much her injury has factored into the mistakes and her lack of confidence, is hard to say. Her job post-Nationals will be to clean up the nerves and jumping mistakes for the Four Continents Championships and Worlds.
Well, there’s always one young phenom at Nationals, isn’t there? Little Karen Chen won the bronze medal with two relatively clean skates (some underrotations). The youngster talks big, but jumps small, so hopefully some physical growth in the next few years can improve those technical issues. I am impressed with the quality of her components, and she could really grow into something special if she can weather the storm as she hits the often tumultuous mid-teen years. As she is too young to compete at the senior level internationally, she will compete next at the Junior World Championships.
So far this season, Polina Edmunds had struggled more in her free skate than the short, but it was the opposite problem here. She rebounded from her rough Grand Prix season to compete well in the short program, but unexpectedly fell in the free skate. Personally, I don’t think her long program really suits her. It does not allow her to emotionally connect to the performance or support the more mature image she is trying to pursue. The good news for Polina is that her performances in Greensboro were definitely a step up and she gets the opportunity to improve further as she competes at the Four Continents Championship and Worlds later this winter.
Wow, what a rollercoaster of a competition this was for Samantha Cesario. She was in 11th place after the short program after the judges harshly picked apart her program. She vaulted all the way to 5th place in the free skate with an emotional and fierce performance. I could tell she really wanted to prove to the judges that she’s someone to take seriously. I love Sami’s performance quality, but I do see the judges point on her lacking technical skills. Sami has a well-deserved opportunity to compete one more time internationally at the Four Continents Championships. I hope she skate solidly there to end her season on a high note.
Mirai Nagasu suffered yet another Nationals disaster. After finishing fourth in the short, she took to the ice in the free program with a chance to grab a medal. She completed a few elements before one of her blades suddenly hit the board, causing her to fall and injure her knee. She continued with the performance, even landing some jumps, but she was visibly in pain and obviously had a hard time focusing on the preformance. She left the ice in tears, but sat in the kiss and cry with calmly while she got her less-than-stellar marks. She seemed to be walking fine as she left the arena.
Others: Courtney Hicks fell apart technically in the free skate to finish eighth. I love the fire she brings to her short program, and I wonder why they didn’t pick more aggressive free skate music as well. Honestly, the whole program was a bit of a hot mess. Courtney has the jumps together, and she now has the rest of the season off to work on completing the rest of the package. Ashley Cain and Angela Wang had disappointing finishes, placing 14th and 15th, respectively.
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Reviews, predictions and opinions in the magical, sparkly and dramatic field of figure skating.