The story all week may have been about the return of reigning Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen, but it was 2008 U.S. champion Mirai Nagasu who took the lead after the short program at the 2010 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The top three ladies, including reigning silver medalist Rachael Flatt, are separated by less than one point and have opened up a substantial gap of over seven points between them and the rest of the field.
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Nagasu looked nothing like the nervous defending champion that she was at last year’s Nationals. She was confident and solid on every element, skating her best short program of the season and showing off big jumps and the effervescence that earned her the title two years ago. She has been plagued by underrotated jumps since winning Nationals, but every jump was clean today. Even without a triple-triple combination, the strength of her elements and components earned her a 70.06.
Skating for the first time in competition since the 2006 Olympics, Cohen was tentative to start her short program, two-footing her opening triple lutz combination and barely avoiding an underrotation call. But the rest of her program was solid, complete with the superb performance quality that she is known for. Her 69.63 puts her about half a point behind Nagasu in second place.
Flatt was solid in her short program, landing the hardest triple-triple combination in the competition. Skating third in lineup, her triple flip-triple toe set the tone for an energetic performance, which she followed up with her solo triple lutz and a double axel. The one element that prevented her from taking first place was her layback spin, which only received a Level 1, costing her valuable base points. She scored a 69.35, less than one point behind Nagasu and Cohen.
In fourth is reigning bronze medalist Ashley Wagner, who fell on her solo triple lutz but otherwise skated a strong short program. Her program is one of the most complete and well-constructed in the competition, and her elements were well-rewarded by the judges. Her 62.55 keeps her in contention for the podium and she will still have an outside shot at the Olympic team in the free skate.
Two youngsters put out solid short programs to make the final group of skaters in the free skate. Christina Gao landed a triple toe-triple toe combination to stand in fifth and Amanda Dobbs, who was seventh in the senior pairs competition with Joseph Jacobsen, skated a conservative but clean short to take sixth.
It was not a good day for two other ladies who were expected to challenge for one of the two Olympic spots. Reigning champion Alissa Czisny and 2007 World junior champion Caroline Zhang both had multiple mistakes in their short programs. Their subpar showings will likely end their chances of qualifying for Vancouver.
LADIES (after the short program)
1. Mirai Nagasu – 70.06
2. Sasha Cohen – 69.63
3. Rachael Flatt – 69.35
4. Ashley Wagner – 62.55
5. Christina Gao – 56.26
6. Amanda Dobbs – 56.11
7. Alissa Czisny – 54.18
8. Emily Hughes – 53.75
9. Alexe Gilles – 53.54
10. Beatrisa Liang – 51.98
11. Caroline Zhang – 49.94
12. Kristiene Gong – 48.11
13. Chelsea Morrow – 46.35
14. Melissa Bulanhagui – 45.60
15. Becky Bereswill – 44.60
16. Samantha Cesario – 44.33
17. Blake Rosenthal – 43.43
18. Laney Diggs – 42.87
19. Tatyana Khazova – 41.63
20. Kayla Howey – 35.59
21. Ellie Kawamura – 33.51
22. Rebecca Stern – 32.49
23. Christina-Maria Sperduto – 31.62
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