It seems like half of America’s 2012 Olympic swim team from will be in the field this weekend in Mesa, Arizona for the Arena Grand Prix. All told nineteen U.S. Olympic swimmers and way more London medals than I’m willing to count (just kidding, 31) will face off in the desert, with everyone from heartthrobs Ryan Lochte, Nathan Adrian, and Matt Grevers to standouts Missy Franklin, Dana Vollmer, and Katie Ledecky, to all-timer Natalie Coughlin slowly gearing up for the nationals in Indianapolis this June.
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (AP) — Ashley Wagner topped the Skate America short program Friday night with 69.50 points, building on her second-place finish from last season’s world championships.
Japan’s Mai Mihara, making her Grand Prix Series debut at 17, was second at 65.75, and U.S. champion Gracie Gold third at 64.87.
Wagner performed with a fierce and determined style, delivering a technically solid and entertaining program to “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurhythmics.
“I capitalized on the momentum (from worlds) going into the summer,” said Wagner, the 2012 Skate America winner. “It inspired me to train even harder than I had been because it showed me that my training got me onto that podium. It motivated me and made it a realistic goal to get onto that Olympic podium, and I can almost taste it. It’s a totally new season. I’m hopefully a different athlete from that Worlds event and I think it’s just about building on that from here on out.”
Mihara fell during her warmup, which she said relaxed her during her performance.
“I think for my first Grand Prix event, I did a good job,” she said.
Gold, coming off a disappointing fourth-place finish in the world championships, fell on her triple flip, but otherwise was solid in her performance to a tango.
“I had a hiccup on the triple flip, but I went after everything,” Gold said. “I just need to keep working on the program and just keep getting it out there.”
Gold said the months after the world championships were difficult and affected her training.
“It was a pretty hard summer,” she said. “I had trouble getting going and getting my feet under me for some reason. I felt I had let myself down. No one else felt the intense shame that I felt, but it was just so internal that I had trouble getting back out there. But as soon as I got the momentum going, I’ve been feeling excellent.”
Three-time World champion Mao Asada of Japan, hampered by a knee injury, was fifth.
In pairs, Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov took a commanding lead program with a score of 75.24. Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, who missed last season with a knee injury to Denney, were second at 67.29, and Canadians Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau followed at 66.49.
Tarasova and Morozov, fifth at the world championships, received high marks on their opening triple twist as well as their lifts, spins and footwork.
“Today we have a short program we did well,” Morozov said. “We have a personal best and were glad to have this moment.”
Olympic figure skating champion Scott Hamilton said he was diagnosed with a benign pituitary brain tumor for a third time.
Hamilton, who took gold in Sarajevo in 1984, underwent chemotherapy to treat testicular cancer in 1997 and was twice previously diagnosed with brain tumors and had surgery, in 2004 and 2010.
“I didn’t have any symptoms, I just went in for my normal check-up, and they found the beginnings of the brain tumor coming back,” the 58-year-old Hamilton said. “I have a unique hobby of collecting life-threatening illness. … It’s six years later, and it decided that it wanted an encore.”
From People magazine:
Hamilton learned of the tumor at a routine check-up and is currently exploring all his treatment options before symptoms begin presenting.
“I’ll tell anybody that will listen: If you’re ever facing anything, get as many diagnoses as you possibly can,” he says. “The more you truly understand what you’re up against, the better decision you’re going to make.”
Hamilton was in New York on Friday to promote U.S. Figure Skating’s “Get Up” campaign.
“It’s all about shrugging it off, whatever’s going on, whether it be bullying at school, whether it be a setback in health, you just get up,” Hamilton said. “Not only to bring the young people that love skating together, but to bring the broader population into the fold.”
Hamilton said that surviving cancer was the moment in his life that he most associated with the “Get Up” campaign.
“Chemotherapy for months was devastating, but it’s endurable,” Hamilton said. “I don’t want to scare anybody from being treated for cancer, because I’m here, 20 years later, but the surgery afterwards was 38 staples, and I’m a little person. Getting up, getting back on the ice and performing again, quickly, was kind of my ‘Get Up’ moment.”Follow @nzaccardi