Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Skaters Advance To International Championships

ASHLEY WAGNER. (Photo: J. Barry Mittan)A couple of content skaters from Northern Virginia got right back to work this week after returning from the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Senior ladies bronze medalist Ashley Wagner of Alexandria is soon off to the International Skating Union (ISU) Four Continents Championships in Goyang City, Korea, which starts on Feb. 11, and then to the World Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, starting March 17.

Thanks to the age requirements for ISU championships, Wagner, 16, will be the top-ranked U.S. woman at the two competitions. New U.S. ladies champion Mirai Nagasu, silver medalist Rachael Flatt and pewter medalist Caroline Zhang are all ineligible to compete. Instead, they’re headed to the World Junior Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, where they will be joined by Tommy Steenberg of Annandale, who was named to the team after a strong ninth-place finish in the senior men’s competition.

“I’ve been wanting to go to Junior Worlds for a few years now. I’ve been an alternate. To get it this year, my last year of being age eligible, is really exciting for me,” says Steenberg, 19. In U.S. competition, the junior and senior ranks are differentiated by ability level, but internationally it is based on age. “I’m going with this great team to Junior Worlds.”

Between now and when he goes to Bulgaria (the championships start on Feb. 25), he will rechoreograph his short program, as the required elements are completely different. The free skate will require less reworking, but he will drop one spin combination because the junior program length is 30 seconds shorter.

This was Steenberg’s third year in the senior men’s division at the U.S. Championships, and he felt real progress in his skating. “I broke into the middle this year, being ninth out of 18, and my points were pretty close to a couple of guys ahead of me,” he says. “I feel, give me another year with even more determination. This was definitely a motivating experience. It reconfirmed to me my potential and what I can really do.

“In comparing myself to the other guys, I think next year I can take it to a whole other level,” he adds. “I made it to the middle group this year and I can make it into the top group very soon as long as I keep my head on straight and work hard.

“I felt like I attacked really well. I was pretty calm. I felt I had prepared myself well for this event and I was ready to go for everything with no regrets.”

Evan Lysacek, 22, originally from Naperville, Ill. and now living in Los Angeles, successfully defended the senior men’s title by the narrowest of margins over three-time U.S. Men’s Champion Johnny Weir, 23. They actually finished the competition tied at 244.77 points — virtually unheard of under the international judging system — and Lysacek’s win in the free skate got him the gold.

“I don’t even know how that happened,” Steenberg says. “To go all the way down to a hundredth of a point, that is really weird. For it to be a National Championship, and it’s not like it’s between two lower placements. It was one and two. The chances of that are freaky.

“I think everyone did a good job. It seemed like the general consensus for the entire men’s event was that everyone skated pretty solid for the short and the long programs. In the long program, a lot of people put out good performances. A lot of people got off the ice relieved or happy.”