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Wagner turns in strong free to cruise to ladies title

Tuktamisheva storms to silver after rough short; Nagai claims bronze
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Ashley Wagner capped off a successful trip to Lethbridge, Alberta, by turning in a second-place, 131.79-point free skate to easily take the ladies title with an overall score of 202.52 -- besting world champion Elizaveta Tuktamisheva by more than 13 points. -Getty Images

Ashley Wagner took a deep breath, quelled her nerves and then went out and defeated a world champion at 2015 Skate Canada with a solid performance.

She knew that Elizaveta Tuktamisheva had a powerful free, one that saw her exult on center ice.

Backstage, Wagner wasn't composed at all.

"I'm not ready to do this," she said before she stepped onto the ice.

She conquered her apprehension with a strong routine marred only by under-rotations on her triple flip combination and on the last two parts of a triple loop-half loop-triple salchow.

"For me, I just have to get myself to a point where I can believe in my training," she said. "When I feel prepared, that's when I'm most confident. But [coach Rafael Arutunian] literally put me on top of a mountain and made me train run-through after run-through. So I came here with altitude on my side and I was just ready to go."

Tuktamisheva turned in the top free skate with 133.62 points, but Wagner took gold with a score of 202.52. Tuktamisheva finished 13.53 points back with a total of 188.99 due to her shaky seventh-place short.

Yuka Nagai, a 16-year-old from Japan, won the bronze medal with 172.92 points in her Grand Prix debut.

"I still can't believe my results," she said in determined English. "My performance was not enough, but I could enjoy my skating. I'm glad to be here now."

Canadian champion Gabrielle Daleman finished fifth with a near-perfect, third-place free skate dedicated to her "Nona," who died a week ago.

Polina Edmunds, last year's Four Continents champion, placed fifth in both the short and the free skate, emerging with a trembling voice, colored with frustration after finishing with an overall score of 168.69.

"Today, I really wanted to skate strong and show the judges that I had a difficult program and I was ready to nail everything and just perform my best and show the judges that I'm podium ready," she said.

The feedback she received from getting no score on a flying sit spin in the short still didn't sit well with Edmunds.

"I was told that I never achieved a sit position, which, to me, is very surprising since, to me, my entire spin is in the sit position," Edmunds said.

In the free, Edmunds did her normal sit spin that she's always done before. Her levels weren't high.

"I made sure I was at a 90-degree angle," she said. "I don't know why I was dinged."

With regard to Wagner, she said she worked with Arutunian at the beginning of the season to figure out how to improve all aspects of her technique. She spent much of the summer on tour, but Arutunian gave her exercises to do while on the road.

"When I sat down and looked at what I wanted to do this season and what I knew I needed to stay competitive, Raf and I…looked at every single jump separately to figure out individually where it could be improved upon," she said.

Wagner said that while she's had only about a month and a half to train with Arutunian, he has drilled her on technique and jumps over and over in that time.

"I think part of it is that I'm in better shape this early in the season, so that I can stick with my technique when I'm a little bit more tired," she said.

Wagner treated the free skate like any other day on the ice.

"It was practice for me and another opportunity to train the program under pressure for nationals and worlds. So, I just had to go out and deliver that performance," she said. "For me, it's just going to be about keeping my head on straight."

Tuktamisheva acknowledged that Friday's short program wasn't her best. She pulled herself together for the free, however, only stumbling out of a triple axel that she had decided to do after landing one in an early-morning practice.

Tuktamisheva said she spends little time focusing on being a world champion and knows how to deal with the ups and downs of the sport.

"I was able to feel that what happened yesterday, happened yesterday," she said through an interpreter. "I forgot about it and moved on.

"Everybody can make mistakes," she said. "There is nothing terrible about it. I just wanted to go out and fight."