Competition has ended at 2012 Hilton HHonors Skate America on Sunday as Team USA claimed both of the gold medals of the day in the ladies and ice dancing events from the ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash.
In a battle that came down to the very end, it was two Americans, Ashley Wagner and Christina Gao, who stole the show at Skate America as Wagner earned her first ever Grand Prix Series gold medal and Gao earned her first ever Grand Prix medal of any color, silver, in the ladies event.
Leading after the short program, Wagner watched her teammate earn a score that was more than eight points higher than her personal best to take the lead just two skaters previous. The pressure was on, but Wagner delivered.
In a program which included six triple jumps and 11 elements that received positive marks, Wagner earned more points than she ever has in a Grand Prix Series free skate by more than 16. A 127.76-point effort in the free skate vaulted Wagner into the top spot by more than 14 points and to the gold medal with a final total of 188.37 points.
“Today went exactly as planned,” Wagner said. “I really fought for some of those jumps, but I was pleased with what I put out. For my first Grand Prix of the season, I was really happy with what I did.”
Gao, whose best finish in her two previous Grand Prix events was fifth earned the silver medal after she was third in the short program. She received the second-best mark of the competition for her free skate. A full-time student at Harvard University, Gao, who has finished in fifth place at each of the last three U.S. Championships, finished second with a personal best 174.25 points overall.
“Today was obviously pretty awesome,” Gao said. “I felt really good about it. It’s what I’ve been doing in practice every day. I told myself before I started to make it like practice. I did, and I got a medal, so I’m really happy. ”
In second after the short program, 2011 World Junior champion Adelina Sotnikova of Russia earned 168.96 points overall to claim her third bronze medal at a Grand Prix event.
American Rachael Flatt finished in ninth place with 136.09 points overall.
Meryl Davis & Charlie White have done it again. With an emotional free dance to music from Notre-Dame de Paris, the Americans earned their third straight title at this event to open the season with a total score of 176.28 points. Always the perfectionists, Davis and White, while satisfied with the win in Kent, know there are improvements to be made.
“Charlie and I felt like our performances went quite well today. We had a couple little technical glitches here and there. We’re definitely looking to get our technical scores much higher,” Davis said. “Overall, it was a good start to the season and we’re on track to accomplishing our goals on the ice. We are thrilled with our performances and thrilled to perform them here at Skate America.”
They also noted the support they have received on their return trip to the Pacific Northwest, saying, “It was a great audience. We would like to thank everybody here in the Kent area for organizing everything and being so supportive.”
Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev moved up from third after the short dance to nab the silver medal, elevating their career Grand Prix medal count to five. They totaled 97.04 points for the free dance, en route to 159.95 overall. Their segment score was fractionally less than a career mark set at 2011 Cup of China.
The Russians, who have skated together since 2000, made their first coaching change of their career together last spring. They credit Olympic and World medalist coach Alexander Zhulin with helping their psychological approach to competition.
“The male perspective is different and the whole way of preparing, physically and mentally, is different,” Soloviev explained. “As a result, we’re much calmer going into competitions. The psychological side of our skating has changed a lot and made a strong impact. The technical aspect, the technique is completely different, too.”
Fourth place finishers at the 2012 World Championships, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada earned the bronze medal, their sixth career medal on the Grand Prix Series, with a total of 157.32 points.
Americans Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt enjoyed the best Grand Prix finish of their career, placing fourth with 141.41 points, while teammates Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus finished seventh in their Grand Prix debut.