The ladies event at Worlds ended up being the one that caused me the most anxiety. With the other three, if I wasn’t completely indifferent to the results, I wasn’t seriously invested in any one thing happening. In the ladies, I desperately wanted Ashley Wagner to medal, even though I didn’t know if she could.
One unpleasant thing that happened during the early stages of the ladies short was the British women behind me started muttering about how funny it was that all the European ladies were getting marked five or so points behind their season best. They apparently forgot very quickly about their countrywoman Kirsten Spours actually scoring a personal best! Although when the Ukrianian lady also got marked up, they declared her “basically Russian,” and decided they were immune. That American ice would sudden induce the judges to mark the lower European ladies down in that case doesn’t even make sense; what difference would it make to Ashley, Gracie, or even Mirai? Even so, I was sorry when neither French girl made the free: I really liked Laurine Lecavallier in practice Tuesday, and one must always root for Mae Berenice Meite.
But then came the top skaters. And it turned out this was going to be one of those better competitions where most of the top contenders skated well, starting with Ashley. During her short I was pretty much screaming at every jumping pass and then again when the 73 came up, and so was most of the rest of the audience; she knocked everyone out. Except so did Gracie Gold and Anna Pogorilaya; Evgenia Medvedeva failed to getting a standing ovation in her short, possibly due to lack of Russians in the audience, but we all really loved Anna P, maybe because it wasn’t expected she’d skate so well, but she has a hell of a presence when she does. As did Satoko Miyahara, even if she didn’t get the scores to match; before they came up, I wondered if maybe it had been her year instead of Medvedeva’s all along. Perhaps it should’ve been. Poor Elena Radionova came off as not having as much to offer even when she skated clean. Add a few more good performances late, and while I felt sorry that Mao Asada hadn’t quite delivered, and it had been one great night.
Still, Ashley being in position to medal left me on pins and needles for much of Saturday. It didn’t help matters that there were three whole hours between the pairs and ladies frees; not enough time to do more than eat dinner, but long enough we were all left to mill around the train station and outside(despite the chill). When were all gathered by the escalators to the arena, Japanese TV even showed up to interview an audience member near me:
Then upstairs, and for great performance after great performance. The standing ovations started with Mirai, and then Mao, who thankfully more or less delivered in that lovely Madama Butterfly free, and then came the top six. Elena R, delivering a long similar to her short, her chance of medaling left depending on how everyone else skated. My nerves actually settled a little after Medvedeva skated and her scores came up, since once she broke Yu-Na record(which I was actually a little sorry for, but it had to be broken sometime), we knew in all probability gold had already been won. It could not but be; the audience might have been a little lukewarm when exposed to only three minutes of her, but four minutes of the sheer beauty and perfection of her skating simply could not be denied. The only question then was who joined her on the podium.
Unfortunately, things did take an unpleasant turn when first Miyahara was underscored, then Gracie overscored. At least in between them, Anna P was perfect again and came in ahead of both of them, but when Ashley took the ice, we knew that the US ladies medal drought, one way or another, had officially come to an end, but it ending with Gracie ecking out a bronze she didn’t deserve over Miyahara would’ve been its own pain.
And then Ashley ended the night by bringing the house down once again. There was beauty. There was power. There was everyone screaming. There was the audience clapping along to Hindi Sad Diamonds. There was great relief when she landed the triple-triple; I think at that point I finally believed she was going to skate well. There was one last standing ovation in a night full of them. Although even then we didn’t know if she’d medal, since we didn’t know how many of her jumps would be ratified, although we did know she might not need all of them. And indeed she didn’t: the scores came up, and the moment we Ashley fans have spent eight long years waiting for had at last come.
That she won silver at a competition where so many ladies skated so well made it even better; she not only broke the drought, she did it in style. That also meant three medalists who earned in the hard way, both silver and bronze ones especially; I was particularly happy for Anna as well, after she’d been written off so much as the Russian non-wonderkid.
I went to bed Saturday night ridiculously happy, and woke up pretty good even with my left index finger having erupted into severe pain overnight; I’ve learned since I may have to have surgery on my hand! Outside snow was falling. It came again on Monday, by the time I boarded the train home it had turned into a storm, which makes me very glad I didn’t try to fly. But Sunday morning, even when it came down thick, it felt like a celebration of all that had happened the previous week.
I don’t know when the next major skating event on the east coast is going to happen. But at whatever time it does, I’ll definitely try to make it, especially if it’s in Boston.