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Initial Thoughts on the Ladies Free Skate

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Many commentators and even some competitors mentioned tonight how deep the U.S. ladies field is.  I'm going to go negative on this one and disagree.  Tonight we saw a few amazing performances, thankfully two great ones from the probable (but not yet definite) Olympians, Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu, as well as bronze medalist Ashley Wagner who may be being considered for the Olympic team as I write this.  But there was a lot of sloppy skating out there.  I will give a shout out to up and comer Christina Gao - even though she fell at the end of her program.  There was so much potential in her skating tonight...I can't wait to see what she does in the next few years.  I just loved her speed and energy!

Rachael Flatt was wooonderful, and she landed her triple/triple, though the toe loop landing on that combo was flawed.  And she had no problem with her very difficult program - this girl is a tiger.  She does not seem to feel the pressure and her skating is so sound that you just know she's going to land those jumps!  But she just does not possess some of the innate qualities that many of the other skaters do and her positions/lines are lacking.  Her shining moments this season for me are in the short program, where she just has fun and lights up that rink, and when she lands all those jumps in the free skate.  But for me, something essential is missing - I just can't get as excited for her free skate as I can when some of the other ladies take the ice. 

When it comes down to it, though, Flatt definitely deserved to win (when you consider Nagasu's downgrades) and she has earned that Olympic spot.  I also think she cannot be counted out as an Olympic medal threat - she seems to be one of the few female skaters this season who has gotten better and better and less nervous the closer we get to the Olympics.  How is that possible??  Amazing competitor.

Meanwhile, Mirai Nagasu, who was such a complete package and was absolutely adorable and a champion (and who I and others thought was going to win) lost by a LOT on downgrades.  Usually I can see her downgrades coming but maybe I was too excited tonight...she definitely lost a lot on that technical score.  I watch skating every day and I initially thought Nagasu had this one - I can't imagine what people are going to think who just tune in every once in awhile.  The commentators have to do a much better job of preparing the audience for those scores! 

That being said, downgrades have been Nagasu's kiss of death.  International judges have been zinging her for them all year...and it was really disappointing to see how much they hurt her tonight.

And we can't forget Ashley Wagner's amazing performance tonight for the bronze.  She had many little deductions here and there, but she fought and fought and fought.  She has earned so much respect from me over the years and I definitely could feel myself pulling for her to do well tonight.  I hope she can work on the technical weaknesses because she has become a consistent medalist on the Grand Prix circuit, and it would be great to see her continue to climb in the ranks.

And we come to Sasha Cohen, who delighted us on Thursday night with a beautiful short program.  Unfortunately, the magical run ended as quickly as it began.  She made mistake after mistake tonight and it was hard to watch.  She was even unsteady during the spiral sequence, just seemed so nervous.  I commend her for attempting this difficult comeback...and thank her for that thrilling short program.  There's no one else like her.

Awaiting the Olympic selection announcement...