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Asada brings home ladies title over happy Wagner

U.S. champ thrilled to land triple-triple; Russia's Radionova bags bronze
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Japan's Mao Asada captured the title with a competition score of 204.55. The victory makes her the first ladies skater to win all six current Grand Prix events. -Jay Adeff

Mao Asada collected her first Skate America title on Sunday, defeating Ashley Wagner by more than 10 points. But if you had happened to wander into the ladies press conference, you might have wondered which skater came out on top at 2013 Skate America.

An ebullient Wagner practically glowed with enthusiasm, excited about landing her second clean triple flip-triple toe loop combination of the event. Although Asada was smiling and relaxed, she made it clear she wasn't happy about falling on her signature move, the triple Axel.

"I am not completely satisfied with my performance today," Asada said through an interpreter. "This was a learning experience I would like to use for my next competition (NHK Trophy)."

Japan's two-time world champion may have begun her free with a fall, but that and other jumping imperfections didn't mar the overall effect of her dynamic and speedy performance to Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 2." She didn't do a triple-triple combination, but her triple flip-double loop was solid and her spins and steps a class apart. She earned 131.37 points, including generous program component scores that ranged up to 9.75, and ended with 204.55 points.

Asada's win here made her the first woman to win gold in all six Grand Prix events.

Wagner opened her free to Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet with the triple-triple, banking 10.20 points. She landed another five triples (two were called under-rotated) and carried good speed throughout David Wilson's choreography, which closed strong with energetic steps. She earned 124.55 for her free and took silver with 193.81 points.

Despite her silver medal here, the two-time U.S. champion thinks she's left plenty of room to grow.

"I think this program requires a level of sophistication I really haven't put out yet in competition," she said. "With David's steps, and the intricacy of the program, right now I'm trying to focus on the technical aspect of it. I'm hoping as the season goes on that I'm able to weave in more and more of the artistry."

She was ecstatic about checking off her biggest goal of the week, the triple-triple.

"I never want to eat my words," Wagner said. "I sleep a little bit better at night when I say I'm going to do something, and then do it. It's very similar to a couple of years ago, when I said the U.S. title was mine to lose. If I hadn't won then, I would have been in big trouble."

Tiny Elena Radionova, the 14-year-old Russian world junior champion, recovered from a fall on her opening triple Lutz to land six more triples, including two triple-triple combinations. She enjoyed every minute of her Frida program, treating the crowd to some sassy steps and shoulder rolls.

Radionova's 116.94 points put her fourth in the free, but she won bronze with 183.95 points.

"My goal was to skate clean and I didn't skate clean today, but I'm very pleased with the result," she said. "I got third place, and after my free skate, I didn't quite expect that."

Radionova, who is too young under ISU rules to compete at the Sochi Olympics, seemed starstruck sitting next to Asada.

"In some ways, she is my idol," she said. "I really like the way she skates. I don't see her only as a rival; I'm just enjoying watching her."

Asada returned the favor.

"I was 15 years old when I first competed in the Grand Prix Series and there were skaters like Shizuka Arakawa and Sasha Cohen, who I looked up to," she said. "It kind of feels funny to be in their position now. It's nice to hear that comment from her. I hope she stays injury-free and I wish her the best in the future."

Another young Russian, Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, had the third-best free skate and the highest technical score, thanks to a huge triple Lutz-double toe combination and double Axel-triple toe. She rose from ninth after the short program to fourth overall.

Samantha Cesario, eighth in the U.S. last season, strutted her stuff in a dramatic Carmen free skate that included six triples as well as a dramatic finish featuring a spread eagle combination into a "falling leaf" leap. Eighth after the short, she ended up in fifth place with 167.98 points.

"The more I do this program, the more I feel like Carmen," Cesario said. "It's a lot of fun to skate, and I think the audience receives it well."

Caroline Zhang was 10th with 110.12 points.

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