After a world silver medal and a Skate America victory, the demanding question of Ashley Wagner is, can she be better?
In a way, Wagner faces less pressure at Cup of China this weekend than at worlds last season and Skate America in October.
Combined with the latter win, Wagner will clinch a spot in December’s Grand Prix Final with any podium placement in Beijing. Perhaps even if she finishes fourth or fifth.
The Grand Prix Final is the second-biggest annual competition, and the most exclusive. Only six skaters per discipline qualify via their two results on the six-event Grand Prix series. Cup of China is the fifth of six events.
Wagner said she left points on the table at the first event, Skate America, noting the need to work on her spins. She also singled the back end of a jump combination and under-rotated two more jumps in her free skate in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
It showed in the scores. Wagner won with 196.44 points, a total that would not have won any of the next three Grand Prix events leading up to Cup of China.
Though Wagner is the only skater in this weekend’s women’s field who boasts a Grand Prix victory this season, another skater owns a higher score. That’s Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond, who took runner-up at Skate Canada with a personal-best 206.45 points, more than 10 clear of Wagner from Skate America.
The field is deep, including 2015 World gold and bronze medalists Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Yelena Radionova and rising Japanese 17-year-old Mai Mihara.
Another American, Courtney Hicks, can push into Grand Prix Final contention for the first time if she can reach the podium.
Three U.S. men with Grand Prix Final aspirations will be intently watching the results in Beijing. Adam Rippon, Jason Brown and Nathan Chen are all in contention to become the first U.S. man to make the final since Jeremy Abbott in 2011.
But none of them are competing this week. Rippon was third in both of his Grand Prix events, while Brown and Chen skate at next week’s NHK Trophy in Japan.
They should all be rooting for Canadian Patrick Chan to win Cup of China. Chan already has a victory from Skate Canada, so he is one foot into the Grand Prix Final like Wagner.
China’s Jin Boyang is of greater concern. The world bronze medalist took fifth at Skate America, so he pretty much needs to win Cup of China to have a shot at the Grand Prix Final. Jin, the first skater to land four quadruple jumps in an international program, certainly has the skill.
If Jin finishes second or lower, Rippon will be ahead of him in the Grand Prix standings, which will pretty much assure that the U.S. men’s Grand Prix Final drought ends.
Also in China, world silver medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani will become the third U.S. ice dance couple to qualify for the Grand Prix Final with any podium finish.Follow @nzaccardi
Cup of China broadcast schedule (all times Eastern)
|Friday||Short dance||2:30 a.m.||Icenetwork.com|
|Friday||Women’s short program||4:10 a.m.||Icenetwork.com|
|Friday||Men’s short program||6:05 a.m.||Icenetwork.com|
|Friday||Pairs short program||8 a.m.||Icenetwork.com|
|Friday||Women’s, men’s short programs||8-10 p.m.||UniHD|
|Saturday||Free dance||1:30 a.m.||Icenetwork.com|
|Saturday||Women’s free skate||3:30 a.m.||Icenetwork.com|
|Saturday||Men’s free skate||5:45 a.m.||Icenetwork.com|
|Saturday||Pairs free skate||8 a.m.||Icenetwork.com|
|Saturday||Free dance, pairs free||9-11 p.m.||UniHD|
|Sunday||Cup of China||11 p.m.-12:30 a.m.||NBCSN, NBC Sports app|
Key Short Program Start Times Friday (ET)
Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 2:36 a.m.
Courtney Hicks (USA) — 4:17 a.m.
Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 4:24 a.m.
Ashley Wagner (USA) — 4:37 a.m.
Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 5:17 a.m.
Patrick Chan (CAN) — 6:12 a.m.
Jin Boyang (CHN) — 6:59 a.m.
Max Aaron (USA) — 7:12 a.m.
Top Grand Prix Season Scores
1. Javier Fernández (ESP) — 292.98 (Rostelecom Cup)
2. Javier Fernández (ESP) — 285.38 (Trophée de France)
3. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 285.07 (Rostelecom Cup)
4. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 279.34 (Skate America)
5. Denis Ten (KAZ) — 265.26 (Trophée de France)
6. Jason Brown (USA) — 268.38 (Skate America)
7. Adam Rippon (USA) — 267.53 (Trophée de France)
8. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 266.95 (Skate Canada)
9. Nathan Chen (USA) — 264.80 (Trophée de France)
10. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 263.06 (Skate Canada)
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 221.54 (Trophée de France)
2. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 220.65 (Skate Canada)
3. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) — 215.21 (Rostelecom Cup)
4. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 206.45 (Skate Canada)
5. Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 200.35 (Trophée de France)
6. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 196.44 (Skate America)
7. Yelena Radionova (RUS) — 195.60 (Rostelecom Cup)
8. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 194.48 (Trophée de France)
9. Gabrielle Daleman (CAN) — 192.10 (Trophée de France)
10. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 192.08 (Skate Canada)
1. Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (CAN) — 218.30 (Skate Canada)
2. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 210.59 (Trophée de France)
3. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 207.89 (Rostelecom Cup)
4. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 206.94 (Trophée de France)
5. Yu Xiaoyu/Zhang Hao (CHN) — 202.08 (Skate Canada)
6. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) — 198.58 (Trophée de France)
7. Natalya Zabiyako/Alexander Enbert (RUS) — 197.77 (Rostelecom Cup)
8. Julianne Séguin/Charlie Bilodeau (CAN) — 197.31 (Skate America)
9. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 192.65 (Skate America)
10. Natalya Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert (RUS) — 192.56 (Trophée de France)
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 193.50 (Trophée de France)
2. Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (CAN) — 189.06 (Skate Canada)
3. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 188.24 (Skate Canada)
4. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 186.68 (Rostelecom Cup)
5. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 185.75 (Skate America)
6. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) — 182.57 (Skate Canada)
7. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 182.13 (Rostelecom Cup)
8. Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte (ITA) — 180.35 (Skate Canada)
9. Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (CAN) — 178.57 (Rostelecom Cup)
10. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 175.77 (Skate America)