That Was The Week That Was In Figure Skating (19-25 January 2015)

Here’s a short recap of some of the things that happened during the past week in the world of figure skating.

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Wagner Back On Top At U.S. Nationals

Three out of four categories saw first time champions crowned at the United States Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was the second time in the event’s history that the Greensboro Coliseum played host, the previous occasion being in 2011.

Ashley Wagner had won gold in 2012 and 2013, but at last year’s competition she came fourth and was controversially named to the Olympic team ahead of Mirai Nagasu, the bronze medallist. This year she had something to prove which was evident right from the get go in the short programme. Wagner challenged herself with a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination that was ratified by the technical panel and skated the remainder of her routine cleanly with attack to give herself a healthy five point lead over the rest of the field on 72.04.

It had been a troubled preparation for Gracie Gold who had sustained a stress fracture in her left foot that had forced her to withdraw from the Grand Prix Final in December. Things didn’t start smoothly for the defending champion as she doubled the second jump of a planned triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and appeared to botch the landing as well. Gold did pull herself together and executed the rest of her elements well to put herself in second on 67.02.

After a breakout season last year, Polina Edmunds had struggled on the Grand Prix Series with a fourth and eighth place at her two assignments. In Greensboro, she was back to her best nailing a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, a triple flip and a double axel with all her non-jump elements receiving Level 4. She received a score of 66.04 to sit in third.

In the free, Wagner maintained her focus in the free skating and gave what may have been the performance of her career. Her “Moulin Rouge” programme contained seven triple jumps, a Level 4 flying sit spin and a Level step sequence to give her victory with a free score of 148.98 for a total of 221.02 and a third national title.

Despite a fall on a triple flip, Gold held her nerve and on to second place with a solid routine with six triple jumps to earn 138.52 in the free and 205.54 overall. Edmunds was pushed down into fourth by a brilliant performance by junior Karen Chen who grabbed the bronze medal, but was named along with Wagner and Gold to the U.S. team for the World Championships.

The men’s event closed out the championships and there were two former winners in the competition, but ultimately neither would finish in the top three. Jason Brown had been the leading male American skater so far this season and had just narrowly failed to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. His short programme electrified the crowd in Greensboro with an opening triple axel and he followed that up with a triple flip-triple toe loop combination and a triple lutz. Three Level 4 spins and a Level 4 step sequence pushed him to a jaw dropping score of 93.36 points despite not having a quad in his routine. It was to be the best programme of the night.

Joshua Farris beat Brown to the World Junior title in 2013, but was just behind him after the short on 90.40 points after a wobble on his triple flip-triple toe loop combination. Jeremy Abbott also kept himself in contention for a fifth U.S. title after holding on to the landing of a triple axel which enabled him to earn a score of 89.93.

In the free skating, Brown was not as spectacular as he had been in the short with a second triple Axel proving to be troublesome. However, the first triple Axel was good and six other triples and maxing out his levels on the spins and step sequence brought him a free score of 181.62 and a total of 274.98. It was enough to give Brown his first U.S. title.

Adam Rippon had been in fifth after the short and slightly off the pace in the medal race. Perhaps it was training partner Wagner that inspired him, but the 2010 Four Continents champion was on fire in the free. He made a good stab at a quadruple Lutz (the technical panel didn’t agree and downgraded the jump) and then unleashed two triple Axels and six other triples. Like Brown, he was awarded Level 4 for all his non-jump elements and took his second U.S. silver with a score of 187.77 in the free and 272.48 in total.

Farris made several errors on his jumps in the free with the most costly coming when he added a third double toe loop on to a triple Lutz completely invalidating the combination. A free score of 177.58 was more than enough though to give him a total of 267.98 which meant he ended up in third place. The top three men were all confirmed to the U.S. team for Worlds.

The short dance was closer than expected with Madison Chock and Evan Bates leading Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani by just 0.11 of a point. It made for a very exciting free dance with both teams having an equal chance of victory. However, as at all their other competitions this season the Shibutanis were let down by their free and Chock and Bates outscored them by almost four points to give themselves their first national title. This was the fourth national silver medal for the Shibutanis.

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Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue claimed third and their first trip to Worlds since 2012.

Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim performed a quad twist in their free to win their first pairs title in their third season together. Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier came second to book their seats on the plane to Worlds in Shanghai. Third placers Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea were named to the team for Four Continents.

Nguyen Supreme At Canadian Nationals

The very best skaters in Canada gathered in Kingston, Ontario for the 2015 Canadian Figure Skating Championships and, as in the United States, the new Olympic cycle ushered in a mostly fresh set of champions.

Nam Nguyen, who is still just sixteen years old, took the lead in the short with a triple Axel, a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and a triple flip to score 81.78. Jeremy Ten fluffed a triple Lutz-triple toe loop, but clung on to second with 77.80 while Roman Sadovsky was the best of the rest in third on 73.46.

The free was a cake walk for Nguyen who put down a flawless routine that included a quad Salchow, two triple Axels and six other triple jumps that amassed a free score of 175.10 to give him a total of 256.88 and a first title and medal at nationals. None of the other competitors skated particularly well with Ten falling twice, but hanging on to second place. He was selected for the World Championships with Nguyen and Liam Firus who passed Sadovsky to snatch the bronze.

Gabrielle Daleman had been runner-up at the last two Canadian Nationals, but, despite a fall in the short and only coming second in the free, this time she ascended to the top step on the podium. Alaine Chartrand finished less than two points behind Daleman to give herself her best result at the event. Veronik Mallet kept her position from the short and went home with bronze, her first medal at nationals.

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were the only winners from last season who were in Kingston to defend their title and they did so with ease leaving the rest of the field some thirty points adrift thanks to elements like a quad Salchow throw. The fairytale story of the championships came courtesy of Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch who only teamed up in June of last year when Moscovitch found himself uncoupled from his previous partner Kirsten Moore-Towers. Despite only having skated together for such a short period of time, Iliushechkina and Moscovitch captured the silver medal with a promising future awaiting the couple. Junior Grand Prix Final champions Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau came third.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje look like a good shot at adding the World title to their Grand Prix Final gold after picking up their first Canadians. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier returned to the podium after falling off it last year as they won silver ahead of Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam.

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