It’s been three years since a U.S. woman won Skate America and six for the men, but Gracie Gold, Jason Brown and Max Aaron hope to end the drought for home skaters at the U.S.’ biggest annual international event this weekend.
Gold, Brown and Aaron, who all own U.S. titles, each seek their first Skate America crowns in Milwaukee. Short programs for all four disciplines are Friday. The long programs are all Saturday.
Gold, 20, finished third last year, behind Russians Yelena Radionova and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who would go on to be the two most consistent women in the world in 2014-15 and take two places on the World Championships podium.
Gold’s chances in Milwaukee are boosted by the absence of top Russians this year. Yulia Lipnitskaya, the darling of the Sochi Olympic team event who dropped to ninth at last season’s Russian Championships, leads the Russian entries at Skate America.
Like Lipnitskaya, Gold has much to prove.
Though she’s been consistent on the major international championship stage — fourth at the 2014 Olympics and sixth, fifth and fourth at the last three Worlds — Gold relinquished her U.S. title to Ashley Wagner in January.
Then she struggled three weeks ago at the Japan Open team event, a free skate-only competition that’s closer to an exhibition than a Grand Prix like Skate America. Gold was last among a decorated six-skater field.
Another woman in the Skate America field, Japan’s World silver medalist Satoko Miyahara, outscored Gold by 20.14 points in the Japan Open.
If a non-American wins Skate America, it will match the longest U.S. women’s drought in the competition’s history.
The men’s field is arguably deeper, with two of the last three U.S. champions in Brown and Aaron, plus Olympic and World bronze medalist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan.
But the most anticipated skater is Japan’s Shoma Uno, a 17-year-old making his Grand Prix Series debut. Uno swept the World Junior Championship and Junior Grand Prix Final last season and was second to Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu at Japan’s senior national championships.
Uno then dusted the field at the Japan Open, including World champions Javier Fernandez and Patrick Chan, with a program that included two quadruple jumps earlier this month.
Brown, who won last season’s U.S. Championships and was fourth at Worlds, re-added a quadruple toe loop to his program in winning a small event in Slovakia three weeks ago to open his season.
Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion who just missed the team for the 2014 Olympics and 2015 Worlds, has finished no better than third in his Grand Prix series career.
A win for either Brown or Aaron at Skate America would mark the first Grand Prix title for a U.S. man since Jeremy Abbott claimed the Cup of China in 2011.
If an American does not win for a sixth straight year, it will break the record for longest U.S. men’s drought at Skate America.
The U.S. entries also include defending Skate America ice dance champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates, who are the reigning World silver medalists.
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