KENT, Wash. – Ashley Wagner knows there’s a lot of pressure on her to help return American women to the top of the international scene.
But that wasn’t the pressure Wagner was feeling before she delivered a solid performance to win the short program Saturday at Skate America.
“It was about getting my feet wet,” the defending U.S. champion said. “I was a little rusty out there, but it’s been seven months since my last real competition.”
Wagner scored 60.61 points, putting her more than a 1.5 points ahead of Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova going into Sunday’s free skate.
American Christina Gao was third at 56.63.
Later, Takahiko Kozuka overtook 17-year-old Yuzuru Hanyu to win the men’s title as Japan swept the top three spots. Kozuka won with 251.44 points, Hanyu had 243.74 and Tatsuki Machida 225.95.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov displayed their sophisticated artistry to win the pairs competition with 195.07 points. The Russians were second in the last two world championships and last year’s Grand Prix final. China’s Qing Pang and Jian Tong were second at 185.16. They took silver in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Americans Caydee Denney and John Coughlin were third at 178.22. They took fourth last year.
Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White took a big step toward their third straight Skate America title, easily winning the short dance. They scored 71.39 points with their strong display of artistry, technique and quality. Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje were second at 65.79, followed by Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev at 62.91.
Wagner is hoping to build on last year’s breakthrough season. In addition to her U.S. title, she placed fourth at the world championships, the best finish for a U.S. woman since 2007. She also beat two-time world champion Mao Asada to win the Four Continents title.
But the stakes are higher this year, with the world championships in March serving as the qualifier for the Sochi Olympics. No U.S. woman has made the podium at worlds or the Olympics since 2006.