Flawed, but still first.
Ashley Wagner became the first woman since Michelle Kwan in 2005 to win back-to-back titles in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, managing to hold off up-and-comer Gracie Gold despite three major mistakes Saturday night in Omaha, Neb.
Wagner was subdued as she waited for her marks, surely thinking she’d blown her chance to repeat. When her score was announced and she saw she was still in first place, a look of shock crossed her face.
Wagner finished with 188.84 points, about two ahead of Gold. Gold won the free skate — posting the second-highest score ever at the U.S. meet, no less. But the 17-year-old had too much ground to make up after a dismal performance Thursday night in the short program left her in ninth place, more than 13 points behind Wagner.
Earlier Saturday, Olympic silver medalists and 2011 world champs Meryl Davis and Charlie White won their fifth dance title in a row, matching a U.S. record. Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir won the pairs.
There is something about defending the title that brings out the worst in the American women. Since 1990, Kwan is the only other woman to win consecutive titles (granted, she did win eight in a row). Six women have won the past seven crowns, and the reigning champion has almost always had a total meltdown.
EUROPEAN FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Javier Fernandez became the first Spaniard to win the European figure skating title, his exceptional performance drawing notice all across the world.
With three quadruple jumps in his free skate in Zagreb, Croatia, Fernandez established himself as a medal contender at the world championships in March.
Carolina Kostner of Italy successfully defended the women’s title, edging 16-year-old Russian Adelina Sotnikova by less than a point to claim her fifth European crown.