Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold renew rivalry on new stage at Skate America
Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold have gone head-to-head 10 times in major competition. Five times Wagner finished higher. Five times Gold finished higher.
The tie will be broken at Skate America this weekend in Hoffman Estates, Ill., (broadcast schedule here) in their first meeting on the Grand Prix level.
Wagner has embraced the rivalry angle the last few years, calling it beneficial for the sport’s popularity.
“I would love to establish myself as the leading U.S. lady,” Wagner said last week when asked of a goal for Skate America.
One could argue Wagner already accomplished that with her silver medal at the world championships last spring, ending a 10-year U.S. women’s podium drought. Gold was fourth at worlds, dropping from first after the short program.
Wagner and Gold each performed once already this season at the free-skate-only Japan Open on Oct. 1. Wagner placed third out of six skaters -- which she called a success as she wasn’t yet in competition shape. Gold was sixth.
So Wagner may have an edge over Gold, but that wasn’t the case not too long ago.
Gold finished higher than Wagner at the 2014 Olympics, 2014 World Championships and 2015 World Championships, plus outscored Wagner in three straight programs before her free-skate free-fall at worlds on April 2.
A U.S. woman hasn’t won Skate America, the biggest annual international competition in the U.S., since 2012, matching the host nation’s longest drought in the history of the event that started in 1981.
Wagner and Gold each was runner-up in her last Skate America appearance -- Gold last year and Wagner in 2013.
The opportunity is there for either to break through. The field includes no other woman who finished in the top six at worlds the last two years.
Japan’s Mao Asada, a three-time world champion, is the star name of the group, but Asada is a question after not attempting her trademark triple Axel at a lower-level competition two weeks ago (and finishing second).
The Skate America men’s field is led by the world’s two best teens -- 2015 World bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China and 2015 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Shoma Uno of Japan.
Jin is the first skater to land four quadruple jumps in an international program. Uno is the first to land a quadruple flip.
If Jin and Uno are on their game, the top Americans -- 2015 national champion Jason Brown and 2016 national champion Adam Rippon -- might be fighting for bronze.
Reigning U.S. champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea and Maia and Alex Shibutani highlight the pairs and ice dance fields, respectively.