Wagner blasts critics after US skating champs triumph

Tired of doubters telling her she is past her prime, newly-crowned US champ Ashley Wagner delivered a stern message to her critics Saturday — telling them to “shut their mouths.”

“It shows every single person that doubts me, that thinks I am too old, that they need to shut their mouths and watch me skate,” Wagner said after claiming her third career title at the US Figure Skating Championships.

The 23-year-old Wagner, who took a five-point lead into Saturday’s long program, earned a record 148.98 points in the free skate to easily beat defending champion Gracie Gold. She became the oldest woman to win a US title since Michelle Kwan did it at age 24 in 2005.

Wagner earned a 221.02 total while Gold, who won the crown as an 18-year-old last year, finished second with a score of 205.54. Rising star Karen Chen took third place with a score of 199.79.

It was Wagner’s first US title since the second of her back-to-back wins in 2013 and 2012.

“Of my three titles this one tastes the sweetest. It means the most to me,” Wagner said.

Despite finishing fourth at last year’s nationals, organizers allowed Wagner to bump third place finisher Mirai Nagasu off Team USA for Sochi. Wagner failed to take advantage of her free pass, finishing seventh in Russia.

“After last year’s nationals, then I had a so-so Olympics and Worlds. I felt like people were starting to write me off,” Wagner said.

The Sochi Games were the first since 1936 where the Americans didn’t win a medal in singles or pairs events. The US hasn’t won a medal in women’s singles since 2006.

That could change with the emergence of 15-year-old Chen, who rocketed up the leaderboard from sixth after the short program to take the bronze.

Judges aside, Chen jumped her way into the hearts of the crowd with a clean long program.

– Chen shows her pride –

“I am proud of what I have done,” said Chen, who is of Taiwanese ancestry. “I just feel it is a good improvement over what I have done before and I hope I will continue to improve.”

Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim captured their first national pairs title by winning the free skate Saturday.

The Colorado-based team finished first in the free skate with 136.48 points after winning Friday’s short program to win with a total of 210.49 points.

Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier were runner-ups, 10.57 points behind the winners.

Scimeca and Knierim were the silver medalists at the 2013 national championships.

Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea vaulted from fourth to claim the bronze following Saturday’s program.

Two-time US champion Marissa Castelli and new partner Mervin Tran finished third in the short program, but plunged to sixth after placing a disappointing eighth in Saturday’s free skate.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates clinched their first dance title on Saturday after winning the free dance competition.

The pair, who won Friday’s short dance competition by just 0.11 points over Maia and Alex Shibutani, scored 111.11 points on Saturday to beat the siblings by 3.75 points.

Chock and Bates finished as runners-up the past two years to six-time national champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who haven’t competed since becoming the first American pair to win Olympic gold in ice dancing last year in Sochi.


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