Wagner joins Chen, Bell on US team for world championships
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Ashley Wagner will have an opportunity to improve upon her silver medal at the world championships.
The 25-year-old Wagner will join U.S. champion Karen Chen and fellow youngster Mariah Bell on the team headed to Helsinki, Finland in March. It will be the seventh time Wagner has competed at worlds, yet it may be the three-time national champ’s best chance yet to win an elusive gold medal.
“I know exactly where I am now and I’m not planning on peaking here,” Wagner said after she was edged by Chen at nationals on Saturday night, “but I’m looking forward to moving on to worlds.”
Nathan Chen will anchor the men’s team after he followed a record-setting short program with another impressive free skate Sunday, becoming the first man to land five quadruple jumps in competition.
“I mean, I’m extremely happy with the way I skated,” Chen said. “Landed all the jumps I set out to do, increased the technical. Huge score. Something I wasn’t completely expecting but thrilled to have.”
He’ll be joined by Jason Brown, who took bronze at nationals, and got the nod in part because 16-year-old silver medalist has not yet earned enough points at the senior level to qualify for worlds.
Brown, the 2015 U.S. champ, has been working his way back from a fractured right fibula.
“We know I’m kind of fighting. But I’m not going to leave here having to take a leap back, a couple steps backward, because I pushed too hard to get ready for nationals and then I’m in so much pain,” Brown said. “The whole goal is leave here ready to make a leap forward, ready to start training more, ready to do more. If I go to worlds, the way that we planned it, is that I will be 100 percent for that.”
U.S. champs Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier will join the team of Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim in the pairs competitions. Scimeca and Knierim did not compete at nationals because of injuries.
Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea, who won the national title last year, chose not to petition for a spot after they were forced to withdraw Saturday. Kayne sustained a concussion on a fall in the short program, and doctors decided after a follow-up exam that she should not compete in the free skate.
The entire nationals podium will compete in ice dance, led by gold medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani. The teams of Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue also will compete.
“We have some time between now and Four Continents and the World Championships. Those are key,” Alex Shibutani said. “Those are competitions where we really want to be at our absolute best. So while we’re very happy with the way we skated this week, we know that there’s a lot that we can do with our coaches at home so that our performances at those two competitions are the strongest of our season.”
Missing from the women’s team was Gracie Gold, the two-time U.S. champion who has finished fourth at the past two world championships. She has struggled all season, and those troubles hit their nadir during a poor free skate Saturday night in which she failed to even attempt several jumps.
Gold is the second alternate for the world team behind Mirai Nagasu.
“There’s not a doubt in my mind that this has been a rough season, but I’m still pretty much one of the best skaters in the United States and in the world. Sometimes we just have bad times,” Gold said. “All I know is that, given the opportunity, I wouldn’t let them down.”