Ashley Wagner skated even closer to a confirmed spot on the 2014 U.S. Olympic figure skating team Dec. 7 by scoring a bronze medal finish at the 2013 Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka, Japan. Home crowd favorite Mao Asada defended her 2012 title, while Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia took the silver.
The six-woman field featured Wagner, Asada and a quartet of talented rising Russian skating stars in Lipnitskaia, Anna Pogorilaya, Elena Radionova and Adelina Sotnikova.
Wagner entered the free skate round in third place behind Asada and Sotnikova. After successfully landing her opening triple-triple combination, she fell during a triple Lutz in the latter portion of the program. The error didn't hurt her much, however, as every competitor except Lipnitskaia was docked at least one point for taking a tumble. The day was most harmful to Sotnikova, who fell from second to fifth thanks to a weak free skate.
Despite taking a medal, Wagner wasn't thrilled with her effort. In a post-competition tweet to fans, she promised to step up her game before the 2014 U.S. national championships in January, writing "Left some out on the table tonight....it was a good wake up call..ready to head home and start training!"
The imperfect program aside, Wagner's bronze medal makes her the first American woman since Sasha Cohen to win back-to-back Grand Prix Final medals. Cohen, who was the silver medalist at the 2006 Torino Winter Games, accomplished the feat during the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
As the reigning national champion, Wagner is a front-runner to claim one of the three available berths on the 2014 Olympic team. Other ladies in the hunt include reigning national silver medalist Gracie Gold, bronze medalist Agnes Zawadzki, Courtney Hicks, Mirai Nagasu, Samantha Ceseario and handful of other talented skaters. They'll all meet do to battle on the ice at nationals in Boston Jan. 5-12. From there, the trio of ladies headed to Sochi will be chosen.