Even though she won the bronze medal, Ashley Wagner wisely chose not to sugarcoat her performance in Saturday’s free skate at the Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka, Japan.
“I have a lot to go home and work on,” Wagner said.
So do all the other women whose free skates included one splat after another and turned the event into a generally desultory mess.
There were six falls in the six free skates – two by Russian Adelina Sotnikova, one each by Wagner, winner Mao Asada of Japan and Russians Elena Radionova and Anna Pogorilaya.
Only Russian Julia Lipnitskaia, who wound up second, stayed on her feet. But Lipnitskaia, looking more and more like a possible Olympic medalist, also wound up with negative grades of execution on three jump elements.
The ice fallies spread across the globe. Reigning Olympic champion Yuna Kim of South Korea fell on the triple lutz of her opening combination in Saturday’s free skate at Golden Spin of Zagreb, Croatia.
Kim, in her season debut, still was rewarded well by judges at the second-tier event and finished with an easy victory over two-time world champion Miki Ando of Japan and 204.79 points. It was the second highest score in the world this season (behind Asada’s 207.59 from the NHK Trophy last month.)
Coming off a foot bruise that led her to miss training and withdraw from both her planned Grand Prix Series events, Kim recovered from the fall to skate respectably the rest of a tango program in which she needs to add more tango feeling.
Asada, who botched both triple axels (one fall, one under rotated with a two-footed landing) in Fukuoka, won by nearly 12 points with a score of 204.02. Lipnitskaia, just 15, had 192.07 to 187.61 for Wagner.
Two-time U.S. champion Wagner candidly admitted she had let her mind drift into too much interest on how Lipnitskaia was skating.
“I think I let that get into my head instead of focusing on my own goals,” she said.
Wagner fell on a triple lutz in the second half of her program after under rotating the second half of her opening triple-triple combination. She later under rotated a triple flip.
“Today was more about my mental strength after I make a mistake than anything else,” Wagner said.
This fall may have cost her a few points but it was thankfully nothing liked the one at last year’s Grand Prix Final that left her physically bruised and mentally battered heading into the U.S. Championships. This time, she returns home for next month’s nationals concerned only about working to overcome a mistake.
In the ice dance, where there are no risky jumps, the judges rained perfect 10s on the free dances of the top two teams, Meryl Davis-Charlie White of the U.S. and Tessa Virtue-Scott Moir of Canada.
Davis and White, the reigning world champions, had 14 of those maximum marks among their 45 component scores. Virtue and Moir, the reigning Olympic champions, got 12.
The U.S. couple wound up with their fifth straight Grand Prix Final title with a record overall score (191.35) but a winning margin of just 1.35. For better or worse, they are solidly established as the Olympic gold medal favorites.
“We are where we want to be,” White said. “We have already talked about where we can take this program (to Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade to keep it from getting stale. We want to continue to show how much better we can be.’’
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