Ashley Wagner stops Skate America program with injury (video)

Leave a comment

Three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner stopped her Skate America free skate due to an ankle injury, withdrawing during a competition for the first time in her career Sunday.

Wagner recently missed a week and a half of training due to a right ankle injury — a topical infection that prevented her from wearing a skate boot, according to

She is not expected to compete again until the U.S. Championships in January, after which the three-woman Olympic team will be named based on a committee decision.

If healthy, she remains a favorite to make her second Olympics.

“I came here feeling that I could mentally will myself through these programs and pretend I wasn’t in pain,” an emotional Wagner said on NBC. “But my focus is nationals. I’m out there on the ice, and I’m in so much pain. I’m here to be national champion. I’m here to make it onto the Olympic team. At the end of the day, that is my goal this season, so there’s no point in me going out and skating a program in pain and injuring myself further.”

Japan’s Satoko Miyahara won Skate America with 214.03 points, two points ahead of countrywoman Kaori Sakamoto.

American Bradie Tennell earned bronze in her senior Grand Prix debut, joining Wagner as the only U.S. women to make a Grand Prix podium this season. More on Tennell’s performance — the best by a U.S. woman internationally in nearly two years — here.

MORE: Full Results | Figure Skating TV Schedule

Those results could play into a committee’s decision to determine who is chosen for the three-woman Olympic team. That’s Wagner’s focus.

“As an athlete, it’s the toughest decision to pull yourself out of something,” Wagner said. “My business isn’t finished here, but my goal is nationals, and that’s what I’m here to do.

“I’ve never withdrawn from a competition. So I didn’t even know where to go to talk to the referee. I’m a competitor through and through. To not be the competitor that I want to be, it’s really tough, and it breaks my heart.”

Wagner finishes the Grand Prix season ranking fourth among U.S. women in best scores this fall behind Tennell, Mirai Nagasu and Mariah Bell.

But none rank in the top 10 in the world this season, leaving an opportunity for many skaters to shine at nationals to prove they deserve to be on the PyeongChang team.

“I have to go home and get better first, and then I can start working towards nationals,” Wagner said.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: Skater dislocates shoulder in Skate America fall

New generation of male figure skaters owns spotlight at worlds; preview

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nobody in the men’s field at figure skating worlds owns an Olympic or world title for the first time since 1985. This could lead to the best U.S. men’s results in years.

Yuzuru HanyuJavier Fernandez and Patrick Chan combined to win every gold medal since 2011, but all of them ended their seasons at the Olympics.

This week in Milan, the four leading men, who just competed in their first Olympics, are all 20 years or younger. And that includes two Americans.

Nathan Chen can become the first world singles champion from the U.S. since Evan Lysacek in 2009. Chen and Vincent Zhou could be the first U.S. men to finish in the top five together since Lysacek and Johnny Weir in 2005. Chen, Zhou and Max Aaron could make up the best U.S. trio at a worlds in more than 20 years.

Start with Chen. The 18-year-old said he planned to compete this week regardless of what happened at the Olympics, but after his struggles in the team event and individual short programs, the quad master nailed his free skate, came home to California and said he took maybe one day off of training before this event.

Chen is one of three men in the gold-medal hunt, along with Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan and world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China. While Chen largely struggled at the 2017 Worlds and in PyeongChang, Uno and Jin each made the podium at both events. And each can come close to or equal Chen in quad numbers.

PREVIEWS: MenWomen | Dance | Pairs | Nathan ChenMirai Nagasu | TV Schedule

Zhou, 17, has a chance to become the youngest man to earn a world medal since Hanyu in 2012. Or the first man to win the world junior title one season and make the world senior podium the next since Yevgeny Plushenko in 1997-98.

Zhou is riding momentum. He struggled in the fall and entered nationals in January ranked fifth among Americans for the season. He placed third to make the Olympic team and then landed three clean quads in his Olympic free skate to jump from 12th to sixth.

“I did better there than a lot of people thought I would,” Zhou told NBC Sports research last week. “I knew I was capable of that all season.

“I want to reach my ultimate goal of being Olympic champion, and my best chance is in 2022 … because by 2026 I will probably be old and creaky with four prosthetic limbs.”

Aaron made it to Milan after Olympian Adam Rippon gave up his spot, and the top two alternates (Jason Brown and Ross Miner) both declined. Still, Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, is seeded seventh in the men’s field based on top scores this season.

NBC Sports figure skating researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Best figure skating moments from PyeongChang

Carolina Kostner the sentimental favorite at figure skating worlds

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Olympic champion Alina Zagitova is without question the favorite at this week’s world figure skating championships, especially after the sprightly Russian’s training partner and rival Yevgenia Medvedeva withdrew because of injury.

She won’t be the sentimental favorite, though.

That would be Carolina Kostner, the ageless Italian star who could be competing at worlds for the last time on home soil. The 2012 champion and six-time world medalist seemed to indicate that retirement could be looming after she finished fifth at the PyeongChang Games, where she was chosen to carry the Italian flag at the Closing Ceremony.

Kostner will have a huge home crowd behind her when the event begins Wednesday in Milan.

“Decisions like that should never be taken in a hot moment. It will come naturally,” said Kostner, who no longer can compete with the sport’s high-fliers when it comes to technical marks, but whose elegant artistry and presentation often make up the difference.

“She is an example of perseverance, of a long-lasting athlete,” Medvedeva said. “I have trouble imagining how someone can stay in that shape for a very long time. When you see people like Carolina, you understand that if she can do something, then that something is possible. If you love what you do, you put all of yourself into it, like Carolina Kostner.”

PREVIEWS: MenWomen | Dance | Pairs | Nathan ChenMirai Nagasu | TV Schedule

When asked about retirement, Kostner brought up her cousin, Isolde Kostner, who won three Olympic Alpine skiing medals before deciding to step away from competition.

“She stopped skiing shortly before the (2006) Olympics in Italy,” Caroline Kostner said. “Many did not understand why she wouldn’t pull through because it was her home country, and she said, ‘You will feel strongly when it is time to stop.’ And I haven’t felt it yet.”

The biggest story at the world championships in an Olympic year tends to be who is missing rather than who shows up. The grind of competing for an entire season builds toward the quadrennial event, and athletes who medal or intend to retire rarely press on to worlds. Then there are the injuries, which accumulate during the year.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Best figure skating moments from PyeongChang