Ashley Wagner was understandably quite pleased with her short program Thursday at the Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka, Japan.
When her scores were announced, Wagner didn’t look as pleased with the way the judges has seen her skating. They would put her in third place, a fraction behind Adelina Sotnikova of Russia going into Saturday’s free skate.
``I wish the score had been higher,’’ Wagner said.
Japan’s Mao Asada stands first with 72.36 points, although her triple axel – downgraded in base value for underrotation – drew one of just two negative grades of execution among the 41 given for the six women in the final. (Russia’s Anna Pogorilaya received no grade and no points for an aborted attempt at a double axel.)
Sotnikova’s strong skating earned 68.38 to 68.14 for Wagner. The difference owed to the Russian’s substantially better scores on the footwork sequence and two of the three spins.
Four Russians joined Asada and Wagner in the final. There also are four in the Junior Grand Prix Final – three aged 13 and one who just turned 14 - and they took the top four spots in Thursday’s short program.
The Russians in the senior event, in order of their short program finish, are 17, 15, 14, 15.
It made two-time U.S. champion Wagner, 22, feel like a grizzled veteran.
``To have so many Russian skaters here, you can feel them breathing down your neck and pushing you,’’ Wagner said. ``They have youth on their side. It makes you have to push yourself as an ‘older’ skater.’’
Another kid, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, racked up the best score ever in the short program for the third time in two seasons and took a 12.37-point lead over stumbling favorite Patrick Chan of Canada. (It is just a hair less than the gap between first and last in the women’s short.)
Hanyu, who turns 19 Saturday, rolled up 99.84 points, bettering the record 98.52 Chan had scored three weeks ago in Paris. He opened with a quadruple toe loop so good it received a stunning 2.71 grade of execution (of a maximum three) and then picked up bonus points by doing his other three jumps nearly as impressively in the second half of the program.
And Hanyu thought he could have been better.
``For the steps and spins, towards the end of my performance I think I lacked a little bit of concentration so that is the part I regret,’’ he said.
Chan botched his final two jumps, putting hands on the ice after landing the triple axel and doubling his planned triple lutz.
Meanwhile, as was the case during the Grand Prix Final last year, the skating world’s attention also is focused elsewhere because of Soith Korea’s Yuna Kim.
The reigning Olympic champion is making her season debut at a minor event in Europe. This time it is the Golden Spin of Zagreb in Croatia.
A bone bruise in her right foot had led Kim, also reigning world champion, to withdraw from her two scheduled Grand Prix events.
``I've been slowly working myself back to competitive shape,’’ she said Tuesday, according to Korea’s Yonhap News. ``Honestly, I feel that I need to improve my conditioning for the Olympics, which is the most important competition there is, but there is still some time to do that.’’
Two-time world champion Miki Ando of Japan, who returned earlier this year from a two-season competitive absence, also is skating in Zagreb.
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