Wagner leads, puts short program behind

Ashley Wagner at 2012 Skate America

USA’s Ashley Wagner performs to music from “The Red Violin” at 2012 Skate America.

American champion Ashley Wagner took the lead with an elegant performance in today’s ladies figure skating short program at the 2012 Skate America in Kent, Wash.

“I was pretty happy with what I performed today,” she said. “I put out a solid performance to start the season, but I know that it can be even better. I learned before I came here that one of my spins was illegal, so I changed it knowing that I wouldn’t get the levels on the spins. But overall, it was a good start to the international season.”

Wagner skated a haunting program to music from the film The Red Violin—one of Michelle Kwan’s signature pieces, and did herself proud. She opened with a triple flip-double toe loop combination that featured both arms elegantly placed over her head on the later half of the element. Her lone mistake was a cross-legged landing on a triple loop attempt near the end of the program.

“The triple loop was not exactly the quality that I was looking for, and I’m so bummed because I think it’s one of my strongest jumps,” the 21-year-old shared.

Wagner scored 60.61 (30.58/30.03) points for her efforts, and heads into the free skate as the leader for the first time in her Grand Prix career.

“One thing that I always try to do after the short program, whether I’m happy or not, is to just try to move on,” she said. “Going into the long program, the one thing that I will need to be prepared for is skating last. I’ll have a lot of time to between the warm up until I skate. I’ll figure that out tomorrow with my coach.”

Finishing in second place is three-time Russian champion Adelina Sotnikova, who earned 58.93 (29.31/29.62) points, and is within striking distance of the top spot on the podium. The 16-year-old opened with a beautiful triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination in her sassy Capriccio Espagnole program, but later popped her triple flip jump into a single.

“I’m not so happy with what I did today because I did not do what I wanted to do,” Sotnikova explained. “I landed the triple-triple, but popped the last jump—a jump that I usually never miss.”

USA’s Christina Gao skated perhaps the short program of her life to place third with 56.63 (31.01/25.62) points. Her Close Without Touching routine was sedate in presentation, but impressive in technical content. The 18 year-old Harvard freshman opened with a triple toe loop-triple toe loop, and nailed her double Axel and triple loop jumps in her “clean-as-a-whistle” performance.

“I’m really happy with how I did today,” Gao admitted. “I lost a few levels on footwork and spins, but coming into the season, I’m really, really happy with what I did today. I’m happy to put the short program behind me, good or bad, and focus on the long.”

In fourth place is Maé Bérénice Méité from France who earned a personal best 54.41 (30.61/23.80) points with her Feeling Good short program. The French silver medalist nailed a triple toe-triple toe to open, but had some difficulty on the landing of her triple Lutz later in the program. This is Méité’s highest placement in a Grand Prix short program in her career.

Finishing in fifth place was Italy’s Valentina Marchei with 54.01 points, while last year’s bronze medalist, Viktoria Helgesson from Sweden, is in sixth (50.29).

Rounding out the rest of the field are Japan’s Haruka Imai in seventh place, Germany’s Sarah Hecken in eighth, and World silver medalist Alena Leonova from Russia who had a disastrous performance in ninth. USA’s Rachael Flatt finished in 10th place.

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