OMAHA, Neb. • Ashley Wagner is trying to bring a halt to the roller coaster that has been U.S. women’s figure skating.
The defending champion did exactly what many thought she would do, easily winning the short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Thursday. Her score of 67.57 was more than two points ahead of Broadmoor Skating Club’s Agnes Zawadzki, and three points better than 2008 U.S. champion Mirai Nagasu. The free skate is Saturday night.
The Americans have been looking for their next big thing since Michelle Kwan hung up her skates. Six women have won the past seven titles, and no one since Kwan in 2005 has strung together two in a row. Nagasu, Colorado Springs’ Rachael Flatt, Alissa Czisny — they’ve all teased fans with their possibility.
But Wagner has the psyche and the skills to be a champion, and she isn’t afraid of the spotlight. Just like Kwan in her day, she embraces the expectations and then goes out and delivers.
Wearing a gorgeous burgundy dress with a black underskirt, she had the audience mesmerized from the time she stepped on the ice. She skated with such command the audience as afraid to take their eyes off of her for fear they might miss something. Though she didn’t do a triple-triple combination like Zawadzki or Nagasu, all of her jumps were done with such high quality they seemed that much better. And her spins are, simply exquisite.
Only Zawadzki, who won last year’s short program with a record score for nationals, was left to skate. But any chance she had of passing Wagner ended when she tumbled to the ice on her double axel.
Still, with the rest of her program packed with power, she had enough to move ahead of Nagasu. She really should have gotten clearance from an air traffic controller she had so much distance on her triple toe loop-triple toe loop combo, and her speed would impress any sprinter. The Broadmoor’s Angela Wang was 10th.
Earlier, Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir took a big step toward their first pairs title, easily winning the short program. With 62.27, they’ve got a huge nine-point lead on Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay going into Saturday’s free skate. Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim were third, Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier were fourth and Gretchen Donlan and Andrew Speroff were seventh, all from The Broadmoor.
Locals fare well
Britney Simpson and Matthew Blackmer, who train in Colorado Springs with The Broadmoor Skating Club, finished first in junior pairs at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Omaha, Neb., on Wednesday. Fellow Broadmoor members Madeline Aaron and Max Settiage were third.
Tory Patsis and Joseph Johnson were second in novice dance with Ashlyn Gaughan and Cody Lithco 11th. Luke West was sixth in novice men and Colorado Springs’ Lukas Kaugars was 11th in junior men’s competition.