Russian teenager Evgenia Medvedeva won the women’s title at the World Championships on Saturday night at TD Garden with a record free skate, but American skaters Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold supplied the drama.
With the competition complete, it was Wagner — not Gold — who earned a place on the podium and ended the US women’s decade-long medal drought. Wagner, in the night’s last performance, executed a passionate and a near-perfect free skate that earned her silver. Gold finished fourth.
It was a turn of events that left even Wagner shocked as she received a standing ovation from the packed house at TD Garden. She took a few moments to bask in the adulation. After all, when she last competed before a Boston crowd, she finished in fourth at the 2014 US Nationals and put her place on the Olympic team in jeopardy.
“This is absolutely incredible because that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” said Wagner, who scored personal bests in the free skate (142.23) and in total points (215.39). “I don’t think anyone can prepare you for skating last at the World Championships after your rival has skated a great performance, knowing that the entire ladies field has skated pretty phenomenally.
“To go out there feeling the way I did, being as terrified as I was and finding a way to get into the ice and have access to the skater I’ve been in training, that is unbelievable.”
Meanwhile, Gold, who led after the short program, looked stiff and nervous during her “Firebird” free skate. She appeared far from the same skater who claimed the US title with a flawless, inspired performance of the technically challenging routine.
On her opening jump combination, she landed a triple lutz then touched both hands to the ice on a triple toe loop.
It was a rocky, largely listless program from there, including the planned triple lutz that she doubled with about 40 seconds remaining. If she had hit the triple and not bailed on it, she would have earned bronze.
The crowd responded to Gold with a partial standing ovation, and Gold tried to smile through the disappointment. But she knew that she had squandered the biggest opportunity of her life.
“Obviously, I’m really embarrassed and ashamed of how I skated,” said Gold, whose free skate scored 134.86 and ranked sixth. “It was one of those really, really tragic skates where you just feel like you couldn’t do anything right. I’m really disappointed. And I feel really sorry for Boston and the United States because I feel like I let them down when they needed me most. I’m sorry to [my team] and everybody that supported me that I couldn’t deliver.”
Making her Worlds debut, the 16-year-old Medvedeva delivered a strong, exuberant program. While she went with easier jump combinations than some of the top competitors, she landed everything she attempted. And landed everything solidly. The judges rewarded the reigning European champion with a 150.10 for the free skate and that brought her overall point total to 223.86.
“I don’t have any emotions right now,” said Medvedeva, moments before the medal ceremony. “I left everything on the ice. I don’t think I will realize quickly that I won today because one year ago I was still skating in juniors.”
When told her free skate score was the highest ever, she laughed and then responded, “Wow!”
Anna Pogorilaya, another teenager from Russia, claimed the bronze.
“There were not too many mistakes in my program, but it was an improvement from the start of my season this year,” said Pogorilaya. “My coach said good job for standing up on everything, and now we gear up for next season.”
The first American skater to take the ice Saturday was Mirai Nagasu. She finished fourth at US Nationals in January and learned about 10 days ago that she would replace injured Polina Edmunds. Performing her “Great Gatsby” routine, Nagasu left out some double jumps, but stayed on her feet throughout. Nagasu finished with 186.65 points and placed 10th overall.
“I feel good about how I skated,” said Nagasu. “I know I could have skated better, but that’s the athlete in me.”
The last time the American women medaled was 2006 when Kimmie Meissner won gold and Sasha Cohen earned bronze. Since then, the top spots at Worlds have been dominated by Japanese, Russian, South Korean (Kim Yuna), and Italian (Carolina Kostner) skaters. It was the first time since 2005 that the Japanese women didn’t medal and first time ever that the Russian women have won the title twice in a row.