OMAHA, Neb. • Flawed, but still first.
Ashley Wagner became the first woman since Michelle Kwan in 2005 to win back-to-back titles in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, managing to hold off up-and-comer Gracie Gold despite three major mistakes Saturday night.
The Broadmoor Skating Club’s Agnes Zawadzki, skating to “Rhapsody in Blue,” placed third. Angela Wang, who trains in Colorado Springs, was ninth.
Wagner was subdued as she waited for her marks, surely thinking she’d blown her chance to repeat. When her score was announced and she saw she was still in first, a look of shock crossed her face.
Wagner finished with 188.84 points, about two ahead of Gold. Gold won the free skate — posting the second-highest score ever at the U.S. meet, no less. But the 17-year-old had too much ground to make up after a dismal performance Thursday in the short program left her in ninth place, more than 13 points behind Wagner.
There is something about defending the title that brings out the worst in the American women. Since 1990, Kwan is the only other woman to win consecutive titles (granted, she did win eight straight). Six women have won the last seven crowns, and the reigning champion has almost always had a total meltdown.
Colorado Springs’ Rachael Flatt is the only defending champ who even managed to stay on the podium the next year.
Wagner, though, seems to be made of different stuff.