US star Wagner wins Skate America title


Chicago (AFP)

Ashley Wagner, a three-time US champion and this year's world championship runner-up, captured her second Skate America women's crown Saturday after finishing second in the free skate.

Wagner took the title with 196.44 points to 121.59 for Mariah Bell, the 20-year-old American who won the free skate in only her second ISU Grand Prix event.

Bell set a personal best of 130.67 to win the free skate with Wagner next on 126.94 and Japanese teen Mai Mihara third on 123.53 to finish third overall on 189.28.

Wagner, who also won the short program Friday, said she took momentum from her world second-place effort on home ice in Boston earlier this year into the event.

"That was huge," Wagner said. "The short program was one of my world class programs. That free program, I left it all on the table."

At 25, she is skating at an age when many are leaving the sport.

"I'm not good at anything else. That's all I have," she said with a smile. "I love what I'm doing."

Wagner, who also won the 2012 Skate America crown, captured US titles in 2012, 2013 and 2015 and took a bronze medal in the team event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Bell, eighth at last year's Skate America in her only prior Grand Prix start, was shocked to find herself on the podium.

"I feel like I don't know what's going on," she said. "I skated a program that I'm really proud of. To be on the podium, I'm speechless."

It might be the shape of things to come for the US women with the next Winter Olympics in South Korea only 16 months away.

"I'm starting to realize my own potential and believe in myself, which is really cool," Bell said. "I'm really excited for the future."

Mihara, a 17-year-old from Kobe making her Grand Prix debut, was second after the short program.

She denied the hosts the first women's podium sweep at Skate America since Michelle Kwan led the way 20 years ago after reigning US champion Gracie Gold, a hometown hero who was third in the short program, fell twice in the free skate and settled for fifth.

Gold, 21, has won two of the past three US titles and was fourth at the 2014 Winter Olympics as well as the past two World Championships.

- Uno leads men's short -

Japanese 18-year-old Shoma Uno, who earlier this year became the first skater to land a quadruple flip in international competition, won the men's short program with 89.15 points.

Uno was last year's Skate America runner-up in his senior-level Grand Prix debut and third in last season's Grand Prix Final at Barcelona.

Reigning US champion Adam Rippon was second on 87.32 with 2015 American champion Jason Brown third on 85.75. Chicago hometown favorite Brown missed most of last season with a back injury and was unable to defend his crown earlier this year.

The ice dance short program and pairs free skate final were to be contested later Saturday. Russia's Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, the fifth-place duo at the world championships, won the pairs short program Friday.

Men's and ice dance crowns will be decided Sunday.