Ice Network

Five takeaways from 2017 World Championships

Wagner looks to rebound ahead of Olympics; Medvedeva dazzles again
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
After battling through a disappointing world championships, Ashley Wagner will look to regroup next season. -Getty Images

HELSINKI, Finland -- With the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships in the rearview mirror, here are my five takeaways from an eventful week in Helsinki, Finland.

1. This time around, Ashley Wagner should have no margin for error based on past performance when it comes to the Olympic selection process: She either finishes in the top three at next year's U.S. championships or stays home.

In 2014, the procedure provided ample justification for U.S. Figure Skating to pick Wagner, even though she finished fourth in Boston -- including a fifth-place showing in the free skate.

The uproar over third-place Mirai Nagasu being overlooked was emotional rather than rational because few were aware of the criteria then in place.

Wagner, a three-time U.S. champion, understood the situation was different after her poor free skate Friday jeopardized the United States' chances of getting three ladies spots in South Korea next February.

Before she knew reigning U.S. champion Karen Chen would skate well enough to assure the three spots, Wagner said, "It will make it that much more important next year to justify why I should be on that team." She later tweeted out thanks to Chen for saving the day.

As it turned out, thanks to unexpected errors by Russians Anna Pogorilaya and Maria Sotskova, Chen (fourth) and Wagner (seventh) earned the three spots with room to spare.

"This is something I'm not proud of," Wagner said of finishing 10th in the free skate with a thoroughly lackluster performance.

2. If the pre-Olympic year world championships are a measuring stick for the Winter Games that follow, it won't be easy for U.S. figure skaters to match the one individual medal from Sochi (gold by ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White).

The best bet to avoid a shutout will once again be ice dance.

Saturday's bronze by Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani was the lone medal for the U.S. in Finland. But their margin over the fourth-place team was a whisker -- 0.37 points, which amounts to a difference of one-fifth of one percent of the total scores.

At only one worlds since 2009 has the U.S. won a medal in a discipline other than ice dance -- Wagner's silver last year. U.S. dancers have won medals at seven of the last eight worlds.

Not since the 1993 World Championships has the U.S. won fewer medals at a pre-Olympic worlds. The team had no medals in 1993 but wound up with an Olympic silver from Nancy Kerrigan.

The good thing is the United States has qualified both three men and three women singles skaters for the first time in an Olympics since 2006. It will have three ice dance teams for the fourth straight Olympics but only one pairs team for the first time since 1924.

3. U.S. champion Nathan Chen can hope his trajectory follows that of a predecessor phenom, Japan's Shoma Uno.

A year ago, Uno, then 18, ended a strong debut season as a senior international skater with a disappointing seventh at worlds. He clearly was worn down by the demands of the most trying year of his career to that point.

On Saturday, Chen, 17, ended an extraordinary debut season as a senior international skater with a disappointing sixth at worlds.

"It was a long season for me, and I'm pretty exhausted," Chen said.

Uno won the silver medal this time, taking second in both the short program and the free skate. He finished just 2.28 points behind his teammate, Yuzuru Hanyu, who has now won an Olympic title, two world titles and two world silver medals over the past four seasons.

"Last year, I finished my season with tears at worlds, but here I was able to finish with a smile, so that's what I'm most happy about," Uno said with a smile.

4. Evgenia Medvedeva's consistency is stunning.

The 17-year-old Russian's second straight world title was her 10th consecutive victory since a second place at the Rostelecom Cup in November 2015. That streak also includes two European titles, two Russian championships, two Grand Prix Final titles and two Grand Prix event titles (2016 Skate Canada, 2016 Trophée de France).

In that span, Medvedeva has fallen just twice on more than 150 jumps and had fewer than five negative Grades of Execution (GOEs) on nearly 200 elements. She has won every free skate and nine of 10 short programs, the only blip a third at last year's worlds.

She has set the world records for total score (twice) and free skate (three times) while also setting the record for short program score.

Since the new scoring system was introduced at the 2005 World Championships, no singles skater has dominated the world scene in the two years leading up to the Olympics more than Medvedeva. She is the first to win consecutive ladies titles since Michelle Kwan in 2000 and 2001.

"Last year, everything was absolutely new for me," she said after winning her second world title by 15 points. "This year, I already know where I am."

In a class by herself.

5. No one could have been more gracious about seeing a dream dissolve into a nightmare with one misstep than U.S. ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue.

A surprising third in the short program -- ahead of the two U.S. teams who won world medals last year -- gave them a clear path to their first world medal.

"It was our first experience of being in the position that it was ours to lose," Hubbell said. "We've never been on top of the U.S. team."

Then Donohue suddenly fell in Saturday's free dance on the entry to a twizzle, and the couple tumbled all the way to ninth in the final standings.

Hubbell said she heard the crowd's gasp of dismay over the fall. Donahue said he did not.

"I was aware of what was going on," she said. "I saw him in my peripheral vision on the ice, and I was like, 'I guess I should keep going. Sometime, he'll catch back up.'"

After they finished, Donohue still had no idea how the mistake happened. He was concerned only about getting on with the program with no further unexpected flourishes.

"There was that moment of, 'Get up, you stupid idiot, get up and go,''' he said. "You train to do exactly that -- if something happens, act like it didn't happen."