2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships | Ladies’ Crown is Up for Grabs

By Lynn Rutherford

Photo credit: GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images

Photo credit: GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images

Rarely has there been a more open championship ladies event than this season in San Jose. Karen Chen, Ashley Wagner and Mariah Bell performed well at the 2017 World Figure Championships, earning three World and Olympic spots. Each has had her ups-and-downs since, at times struggling to cleanly land triple-triple jump combinations.

In a daring move, Chen ditched her Carmen free skate after a disappointing performance at Japan Open, replacing it with a self-choreographed program to music from the 1978 film Slow Dancing in the Big City. (Editor’s note: Since publication, Chen has gone back to last season’s “Jealousy Tango” free skate.)

“I didn’t do the music justice (in Japan) so I made that bold decision,” Chen said. “There is no one who can do this for me, so I have to figure it out by myself.”

Slow starts to a season are nothing new for Chen. Few predicted the skater would win the U.S. title last season, let alone place fourth at the World Championships. At press time, she thought she might be rounding into her best form, right in time for San Jose.

“I feel way better now, than this time last year,” she said.

Four years ago, Wagner was named to the Sochi Olympic Team after mediocre performances put her fourth at the 2014 U.S. Championships. In San Jose, the three-time U.S. champion wants to prove she’s the top U.S. lady heading into PyeongChang.  For Wagner, that means working with coach Arutunian to clean up her jump landings and improve her spin levels.

“I need to up the ante,” Wagner said at Skate Canada in October, where she won a bronze medal. “I refuse to be the 26-year-old who is hanging on. I want to be a competitive 26-year-old who is here for a reason.”

Read the full U.S. Championships preview in the December issue of SKATING.