Ashley Wagner’s fourth-place short program secured the United States a place in Sunday’s medal-round of figure skating’s inaugural team event at the Sochi Olympics Saturday.
The U.S. stood third among 10 countries vying for the podium in the new event after three of the four disciplines’ short programs had been contested: pairs, men’s and dance.
So it fell to Wagner, 22, a West Potomac graduate, to keep her team among the top five. Only the first highest-scoring countries advance to Sunday, when the men’s, dance and women’s free skates will decide the medals. (The pairs free skate was to be contested Saturday night).
Skating to Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” Wagner held her nerve, stayed upright and even sparkled. She completed every element in her program, though was downgraded for under-rotating the second jump of her opening triple flip-triple toe combination, which has been a challenge much of the season. She finished fourth (63.10 points), collecting seven points for the U.S. to ensure the squad moves on.
The performance came four weeks after Wagner’s shaky performance at U.S. championships left some questioning whether she deserved a spot on the Olympic team.
“It was on my mind, especially with the media frenzy over the past couple of weeks, that I needed to prove to myself and everybody else that has even doubted my belonging here in the slightest,” Wagner said afterward. “I’m here. I’m here to compete. I’m here to be competitive. Get used to it.”
Earlier Saturday, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, reigning world dance champions, collected 10 points for their top-scored short program to vault the U.S. from a three-way tie for fifth to third.
Russia holds a commanding lead, with 37 points, entering Sunday, with 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia winning the women’s short (72.90 points). Canada is second (32 points), followed by the U.S. (27), Japan (24) and Italy (23).