Ashley Wagner

Ashley Wagner changes long program

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U.S. figure skater Ashley Wagner changed her long program less than one month before the Olympics.

Wagner, the 2012 and 2013 U.S. champion, struggled at the Grand Prix Final in December and the U.S. Championships two weeks ago, her last two events.

She finished fourth at the U.S. Championships and was placed on the three-woman Olympic Team. Third place Mirai Nagasu was left off.

“If I had not skated poorly at Nationals I wouldn’t have been able to change a program that wasn’t going to get me far in Sochi,” Wagner said.

She’s reverting her long program music from “Romeo and Juliet” to “Samson and Delilah,” which she used in 2012-13, when she won her first two Grand Prix series events and was second at the Grand Prix Final.

“I told my coach the night they picked the Olympic Team that we needed to change this program because it was something I struggled with all season,” Wagner said. “I just couldn’t connect with the Juliet character, the program made me nervous. I was terrified. I didn’t feel confident stepping out onto the ice.”

The skate setup will stay the same.

“My coach let me change the music if we didn’t completely re-do the skate itself,” she said.

Wagner will also revert to a similar yellow free skate costume she wore last season.

“I feel like now I’m really going to be a name to watch, I really feel that,” she said.

Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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