The 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Boston marked the end of the American medal drought in Ladies’ Singles, as American skater Ashley Wagner, 24, overtook her teammate Gracie Gold, 20, and won the silver medal on home soil with a final score of 215.39. Ashley Wagner’s silver medal is the first medal in Ladies’ Singles that an American skater has won at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships since 2006, when Kimmie Meissner won the gold and Sasha Cohen won the bronze. Wagner was the bronze medalist at the 2016 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January.
Gracie Gold, the 2016 United States national champion, was in first place after the Ladies’ Singles short program on March 31 in a surprising upset over Russian youngster Evgenia Medvedeva, a 16-year-old upstart favored to win the 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championship gold. However, Gracie Gold fell on the first element of her free skate in a high-pressure situation wherein she was scheduled to skate after Medvedeva, who had a brilliant, near-flawless free skate. Gold finished fourth with a final score of 211.29, a disappointing result after an even more disappointing fifth place finish at the 2016 ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in February.
Evgenia Medvedeva, who did win the gold medal at the competition’s conclusion with a final score of 223.86, is known for a strategy called “backloading” her free skate (which is also known as the “long program”). This means that Evgenia Medvedeva makes sure to put difficult elements in the second half of her free skate, when skaters achieve a bonus due to the fact that a skater is on tired legs in the second half, making the jumps more difficult.
Evgenia Medvedeva, according to Sarah Rasher of Sarah Explains the Finer Sports, is often accused by figure skating fans of “gaming the system” due to her backloading strategy and the fact that she adds points to her score by “performing arm variations and tricksy jump entrances.” However, as Rasher states, all of these strategies are well within the rules of the current ISU scoring system — a system that figure skating fans and commentators alike continue to call “the new scoring system” despite it having been implemented in 2002 — and they raise her score because they legitimately make her program more difficult to skate, and to skate cleanly. Her competitors are free to attempt the same strategies, and they are either unable to do so or unwilling to take the risk.
The 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships bronze medal for Ladies’ Singles went to Anna Pogorilaya, 17, also of Russia. Pogorilaya achieved a final score of 213.69, beating Gracie Gold by a scant 2.4 points. The third American skater to compete, 22-year-old Mirai Nagasu, arrived at the 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships as an alternate, due to the fact that Polina Edmunds, 17 — the silver medalist at the 2016 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January — pulled out of Worlds due to a bone bruise in her right foot.
Mirai Nagasu placed fourth at nationals in January and stepped up to replace Polina Edmunds at Worlds after winning the silver medal in Ladies’ Singles at the 2016 ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships last month. Nagasu skated well and skated cleanly, but with limited difficulty and a tenth place finish following the short program, she was unable to climb ahead of the unusually deep bench of competition in Ladies’ Singles this season and finished tenth overall. Mirai Nagasu achieved a final score of 186.65.
The 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships also saw the return of legendary Japanese figure skater Mao Asada, 25, a three-time World champion, a three-time Four Continents champion, and an undeniable international fan favorite. Asada took a one-year hiatus from competitive figure skating and appears not to have trained significantly to keep up with the young upstarts; she placed ninth after the short program. Known for being one of only seven women in figure skating history to land a triple axel in competition, Asada attempted one in her free skate only to “two-foot” the landing. She also under-rotated a triple toe loop that was part of a triple flip-triple loop jump combination, and “two-footed” that landing as well.
Mao Asada placed seventh overall with a final score of 200.30, leaving the question open as to whether she will return to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics from Pyeongchang, South Korea.
[Image courtesy of Maddie Meyer/Getty Images]