Ashley Wagner wins Skate America
KENT, Wash. -- Ashley Wagner put her self-described "Almost Girl" tag behind her at Skate America.
The 21-year-old won the women's title, and 18-year-old teammate Christina Gao made it a 1-2 U.S. finish Sunday.
Competing in her first Skate America, Wagner, adding a well-executed long program to the short program that she won Saturday, finished with 188.37 points. That included 127.76 in her long program to music from "Samson and Delilah." She scored 60.61 points in the short program.
"After the short program, I definitely felt it was plausible to win the whole event," said Wagner, fourth in the world championships in March in the best finish by a U.S. skater since 2007. "It was kind of a good end, because I started worrying about it a little bit. But I'm happy I was able to keep my nerves under control and accomplish what I wanted to accomplish."
As for her "Almost Girl" past -- Wagner barely missed making the 2010 U.S. Olympic team and two previous world championship teams -- she said that truly is behind her.
"That was one phrase that I only said once, but everyone latched onto it. Now, I think I can let that go," Wagner said. "It's not that I'm a different person now. I'm the same person, but I have the mental strength to perform the way that I do in practice, which makes it a lot more enjoyable."
Gao moved up to second place with a strong free skate. She had 174.25 points -- 117.62 of those Sunday.
Russia's Adelina Sotnikova third with 168.96. She was in second place after the short program, but fell on a triple flip during the free skate to knock her down one place.
Earlier, Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. won their third straight Skate America dance title. The four-time defending national champions won the silver medal at this year's world championship, and have won 10 straight Grand Prix events, including the last four Grand Prix finals.
Wagner was smooth and clean on virtually every element in the free skate. She opened with a triple flip-double toeloop-double loop, did a triple flip on her final jump, and glided through a change foot combo spin finish it.
"I really fought through one of those jumps, but I'm really pleased with what I put out," Wagner said. "One of the things I learned from (coach) John Nicks is you can't just give away jumps. You have to fight for every single thing. It's having the confidence that even if something is a little bit off, you can have the speed to get out of it and land it."
Wagner certainly had a tough act to follow. Gao dazzled the audience with a performance to "Libertango" that was every bit as well executed as Wagner's. That came on the heels of Saturday's strong short program for Gao.
"I think I was a lot more confident coming into this than ever before, only because of the way I've been training," said Gao, who is combining her skating with her studies at Harvard. "It's kind of what I've been doing in practice every day. That's what I've been telling myself -- just make it like practice -- and I did."
The 16-year-old Sotnikova was within striking distance of Wagner going into the free skate, trailing the American by 1.78 points. But the fall took the 2011 world junior champion and three-time Russian senior champion out of the running.
"I'm very pleased that I did the triple-triple combination that I really wanted to do today," Sotnikova said. "But I'm completely unhappy about missing that second triple flip."
In the dance, Davis and White, skating to "Notre Dame de Paris," totaled 176.28 points over two days of competition, including 104.89 in Sunday's free dance.
They were more than 16 points ahead of Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev of Russia, who had 159.95 for second.
"We had a couple little technical glitches here and there," Davis said. "We're definitely looking to getting our technical scores much higher. Overall, it was a good start to the season."
Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje finished third at 157.32. Bobrova and Soloviev were third heading into the free dance, but outscored Weaver and Poje by 6.51 points to move up a spot.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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