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SENIOR LADIES


(l-r) Karen Chen gives a superb short program performance to music from On Golden Pond. Ashley Wagner earns her first-ever silver medal at the U.S. Championships with solid performances in her two programs. Mariah Bell carries the momentum of her early season success into Kansas City and secures the bronze medal.


All of her elements received positive grades of ex- ecution as she posted a score of 214.22. Her only negative moment came on her second jumping pass when she doubled an intended triple Sal- chow.


Her performance was enough to hold off


Wagner, who also performed well in the free skate, and Nagasu, who skated last and fell from second to fourth. “I’m just completely in shock,” Chen said.


“All of this just came together for me. … To be honest, this moment was something that I really dreamed about. In a way it was so far from reality that it was hard for me to believe that this day would come. But this day did come and I’m just so excited and thrilled about it.” Chen’s national triumph was celebrat- ed back home at Riverside Icetown, where the Fremont, California, native was a hero to the younger skaters even before winning the title. “Te younger ones, they’ll say, ‘Karen Chen


is here. Karen Chen is in the locker room,’” Gam- bill said. “She’s such a great role model. She’s so sweet and kind and helpful to everybody.” For Wagner, claiming the silver medal was a


victory in itself following a disappointing show- ing at Cup of China where she underrotated sev- eral jumps and ended up in sixth place, missing the Grand Prix Final for the first time in five sea- sons.


Wagner performed her free skate to “Ex-


ogenesis: Symphony Part III” by Muse with poise and grace, a stark contrast to her edgy and attitude-filled short program to “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics. She landed seven triple jumps, including a triple-triple combination and a tri-


14 MARCH 2017


ple-single-triple jump series. Wagner posted the best component scores of the free skate, but was hit with an underrotation deduction on one of her triple-triple combinations. She finished with 211.78 points. “Today was a huge accomplishment for


me,” Wagner said. “Today was really solid. Tat was what I was going for. From the start of this event, I said I was here to get on that World team and I think that I delivered the two solid per- formances I wanted to here. I left some points out there on the table. I’m totally OK with that because I have something to build on top of and I know exactly where I am now and I’m not planning on peaking here. I’m looking forward to moving on to Worlds.” Wagner, who just missed making the


Olympic team in 2010, earned a Team Event bronze medal in the Sochi Games in 2014 and is considered a solid hopeful for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, said she’s proud of her staying power in a sport where youth reigns supreme. “I’m going to get emotional because this is


so hard, what I do,” Wagner said in the free skate press conference. “I am so proud that I am still here. I was 15 or 16 at my first World Champi- onships and I’m here and almost 25. It’s almost 10 years later and that’s something you don’t see often. I love it and I’m so stubborn and my pas- sion is what fuels me. I’m always here because I work to be here and that’s something I’m really proud of.” Bell, who last summer joined Wagner and


2016 U.S. men’s champion Adam Rippon in Lakewood, California, to train under two-time


PSA Coach of the Year Rafael Arutunian, arrived in Kansas City as one of the hot prospects to earn a medal following her silver medal performance at Skate America. Te 20-year-old native Oklahoman didn’t disappoint, rallying from sixth place after the short program to finish with 197.92 points and the bronze medal. Her sparkling free skate to music from East of Eden showcased Bell’s strik- ing spins and footwork. Despite stepping out of her first two jumping passes, she came back strong with a triple flip-loop-triple Salchow se- ries in the middle of her program. “My goal coming into nationals was just continue building on my personal best that I’ve grown with during the season,” Bell said. “I’m really proud because I was pretty nervous going into the long, but to be able to do that even with the pressure that I had on myself, I feel really pleased and I’m excited for whatever is next.” Nagasu’s hopes for making the World team


were dashed early on in her free skate. After starting strong with a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, she fell on a triple Lutz and then underrotated a series of jumps to fall out of title contention. At the post-event press conference, Wagner was asked about Chen and Bell and the future of U.S. ladies skating. “I think right now you are looking at some-


thing that is very exciting for U.S. Figure Skat- ing,” Wagner said. “Going into Worlds, the best advice I can give to both of these girls is just tune out the noise and focus on your job. I mean, Karen just has to deliver what she did here and Mariah has to do the same and we’ll be set.”


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