Agnes Zawadzki Leads Crowded Field in Senior Ladies Short Program

Agnes Zawadzki, who nearly quit skating after last season, gave a commanding performance to "Harlem Nocturne" and "Whatever Lola Wants" in the Ladies Short Program.  The 2011 U.S. pewter medallist and 2011 Junior World bronze medallist skated secure elements, opening with a effortless looking triple toe loop - triple toe loop combination, which was followed by a strong  solo triple Lutz.  She performed confidently to her music without hesitation.  She received only one GoE of -1 among her elements, and her average component score was 7.65 with several judges going into the eights, including two 8.5s for Performance.

After the event she said, "It was kind of surreal (that) I just did my short and we're halfway through. Iím really excited with the way that I skated and Iím looking forward to the long."  Since the start of the season, she said "I started training a lot better after the Grand Prix season. I started building my confidence going into this, but also definitely my mental mindset has changed drastically since I first competed this season. ... Iíve been working with some sports psychologists and Iíve worked on letting go of the mistakes and forgetting the past. And be very easy and fun with my skating and not put so much pressure on myself."

The 2010 Junior National Champion stress the importance of having fun since the pressure only increases as a skater advances.  I think with the higher levels [of skating] you get a little more focused on winning and medal," she said.  "Between the fun and the pressure, the pressure increases."

Due to the pressure, Zawadzki nearly quit skating.  "I think it was just mostly me," she said.  "I wasnít really having fun and loving skating anymore. I didnít really get excited to come to the rink. I think I was always putting too much pressure on myself and expecting way too much and that made me tired at the end of the day.

Reigning National Champion Alissa Czisny trails 3.1 points after the short, due to popping the required double Axel to a single.  A nicely executed jump would have earned her another 3.3 points, making the error the primary reason for her current position.  Czisny landed her opening triple Lutz - double toe loop combination, and solo triple loop, before popping the Axel.  She then completed the program with the four spin and step elements which were all highly scores.  Her components averaged 7.8, giving her the best PCS of the group.  Her program was skated beautifully to "La Vie en Rose."

On her performance she said, "My short program tonight was good except my Axel.  I felt really good with every element in the short program. ... My goal for Saturday is to go out and focus on each and every element and make each thing the best that I can and not really worry about the outcome."

Just 0.08 points behind Czisny lies Ashley Wagner.  Wagner was the 2010 bronze medallist.  She placed sixth in 2011 and is looking to move back up onto the podium this year.  Her scores puts her in a virtual tie for second place.

Skating to music from "Polluck" she gave a light, airy performance, with clean jumps, nice spins and not a single negative GoE.  She skate her program with enthusiasm and without hesitation, earning an average component score of 7.61.  Her PCS was just 0.16 behind Zawadzki.

"I was really happy with what I put out tonight, she said. "Itís been four years since Iíve done something close to a clean program so the demons are gone. I was just really happy with it. Itís what Iíve been doing in practice and it was nice that that came through.  ...  I really just tried to focus on thinking how I felt after all those other short programs when I got off the ice and just went "Ugh, if I could get out on the ice and do it right now, itíd be perfect." So, in my mind, I got out there and this was my chance to do that perfect program and I was well practiced and I think that it just came through tonight."

For the Free Skate she said, "My main goal is to do something very similar to what I did tonight. As of now, Iím in third place. I seem to like third place a lot, so Iím still not on the World Team. Itís not like I have anything to come back from, I still have to fight for something. So I have the drive and I think that Mr. Nicks has done an amazing job of helping me to channel all this intense desire to be something in my skating in a healthy way. Hopefully I can stay along this road in the long program."

The top three ladies are close enough and talented enough that anything can happen in the Free Skate.  Two additional, outside contenders for medals are Caroline Zhang and Mirai Nagasu.

Zhang looked slimmer and more motivated than we have seen for a long time in competition.  She landed an opening triple loop - triple loop combination.  The second jump was called under-rotated, but only one judge went to -1 for the GoE.  Her following triple flip was two-footed.  Two judge also went to -1 on her double Axel.

Skating to "Rushing Wings of Dawn," it was a pretty skate, with decent speed.  Not fast, but not the slow motion efforts she turned in for recent past season.

Nagasu had a shaky start with a poorly landed triple loop followed by a triple Lutz - double toe loop combination that had an edge call.  After those, she got her feet under her and completed nicely executed spins and steps.  Like Czisny, she gets the three jump elements out of the way, and then ends with her strengths, the spins and steps.

Rachael Flatt, reprising "East of Eden", placed ninth in the short, buried among nine other ladies with scores in the mid to lower fifties.  She had a few minor issues with the jump combination and solo jump, but popping the double Axel to a single was the nail in her coffin.  Her components were not competitive with the leaders, averaging 6.94.  With so many Ladies bunched together in the middle of the pack, she has the potential to move up considerably in the long, but reaching the podium appears to be insurmountable at this point.

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Copyright 2012 by George S. Rossano