Wagner takes tentative lead after ladies’ short program at U.S. Champs

Ashley Wagner at 2013 U.S. Championships

By Kitty Xie

When Ashley Wagner skates, she shines brightly enough to detract from the mistakes of her compatriots.

Following Thursday’s short program of the 2013 U.S. Championships in Omaha, the reigning national champion leads with a score of 67.57. Not shabby at all, considering that she lacks a triple – triple and skated second to last, which meant that she got to witness many of her competitors fall or underrotate their jumps.

Wagner, who suffered a hip pointer after a fall at the 2012 Grand Prix Final last December, displayed less of her spare-nothing attack than usual, wisely preferring to display clean elements over dramatic exposition. She squeezed past early leader Mirai Nagasu with rousing approval–and a keen eye on the scoreboard.

In a surprising upset, Agnes Zawadzki (65.31 points), who was last to skate, also surpassed Mirai Nagasu (64.39) despite falling on a double axel. Nagasu is currently sitting in third place headed into Saturday’s free skate, trailing Zawadzki by one point and Wagner by three.

Fourth place belongs to up-and-comer Courtney Hicks, who reeled off her jumps with aplomb. Just behind her, in fifth, is Harvard freshman Christina Gao, who was largely overlooked for inconsistency until this season. Gao, who trains under Kim Yuna’s former coach Brian Orser and showed early promise at her 2012 Grand Prix events, seems to have cemented her status as one to watch in the 13 months before the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Yasmin Siraj, Samantha Cesario, and Hannah Miller are in sixth, seventh, and eighth, respectively, after shaky but fought-for jumps. The 2012 US Junior Champion and much-hyped Gracie Gold is a saddening ninth after falling on the second half of her triple Lutz – triple toe and singling a planned double axel. Gold, whose nerves got the better of her in a nightmarish repeat of 2012 Skate Canada, expressed crushing disappointment following her skate.

Meanwhile, Angela Wang is in tenth and Ashley Cain is eleventh. Caroline Zhang, last year’s pewter medalist, looked clean on all of her jumps but ended up twelfth after deductions due to underrotations.

Kiri Baga is 13th, Joelle Forte is 14th, Haley Dunne is 15th, and Amanda Hofmann is 16th. Becky Bereswill, the 2008 Junior Grand Prix champion, is 17th after a downgrade and an under-rotation. Eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth place belong to Morgan Bell, Sophia Adams, and Laney Diggs, respectively, all of whom made major jumping errors.

The ladies’ free skate will be held on Saturday, January 26th at 6 PM Central Time.

Photo: Agence France-Presse

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