COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – The last 14 days have been a spectacular whirlwind for Ashley Wagner.
Two weeks to the day after claiming her first U.S. championship, the 20-year-old from Alexandria, Va., had the best free skate of her career Saturday night to win the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships for her first international title.
Wagner skated an elegant, clean program to finish with a 128.34-point score that left her with a career-high total of 192.41.
That was enough to edge two-time world champion Mao Asada of Japan, who settled for second at 188.62 after touching a hand to the ice while attempting to land a triple lutz and having a triple axel downgraded by judges.
It was the first time Wagner has beaten Asada, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist.
“This was a pretty darn good competition for me,” Wagner said. “For me to pull out these scores internationally is huge, not only for my career, but also for people’s understanding of my level of skating. This is a big confidence boost.”
Asada left the event knowing what cost her in the end.
“I’m very happy about succeeding on my triple axel tonight, but I made several other mistakes,” Asada said. “I understand my result. I showed my stronger performance at worlds.”
The Four Continents was the final major tuneup before the 2012 World Championships on March 26-April 1 in Nice, France. Two-time U.S. champion Alissa Czisny will join Wagner on Team USA.
“This gives everyone an idea of what I’m capable of going into worlds,” Wagner said. “This is another competition that went very well that I can put under my belt. Going into worlds, I can go in knowing I’m capable under not ideal situations – such as this competition being the week after nationals and at altitude – of pulling something off like that.”
American Caroline Zhang had a career-best 117.44 points to take the bronze at 176.18. Japan’s Kanako Murakami was fourth at 169.32, and American Agnes Zawadzki fifth at 157.23.
Zhang was all smiles after earning a spot on the medal stand.
“This is definitely the best I’ve done this particular program,” Zhang said. “I’m pretty sure this is the last time I’m doing it, so I’m glad I ended it like this. I’m definitely happy to be getting back on the right track again, and hopefully I can just build on this.”
Earlier, U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the ice dancing short program, and China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong topped the pairs field after the short program.
Canadian star Patrick Chan won the men’s title Friday night.
In ice dancing, Davis and White took a step toward successfully defending their title.
Davis and White, the 2011 world champions and 2010 Olympic silver medalists, finished their program with a mark of 72.15, edging reigning Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, who had 71.60 points.
“We felt really good out there,” White said. “Everyone likes to talk about altitude, but we tried hard to counter, and it helped our performance. The characters were better portrayed. Technically, we need to work on our levels, so we’ll get back to work on that.”
Sui and Han, the two-time and reigning world junior champions, finished more than three points clear of 2012 U.S. Champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin at 63.35.
“Today, we did our best in the short program,” Cong said through an interpreter. “It’s very amazing and wonderful. We feel so happy, and my partner did very well. Congratulations to the other teams.”
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