The Gracie Gold-Ashley Wagner United States Figure Skating rivalry was interrupted Thursday in Kansas City.
At least temporarily.
Karen Chen surged into first place with a record showing in the ladies short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the Sprint Center. She will carry her lead into the long program Saturday evening.
Wagner is in third, and Gold is in fifth. Those two have combined to win the past five national championships in the event.
Chen, 17, was credited with a score of 72.82 on Thursday, the best ever short program score at the event. She was followed by Mirai Nagasu, who totaled 71.95.
“I’m shocked. My body is still trembling right now,” Chen said. “... I’m very excited to go out there for the long (program) on Saturday and just skate my heart out.”
Chen represented a bit of a contrast in experience from the two skaters directly behind her.
Nagasu, 23, was the U.S. champion in 2008.
Asked about the veteran experience, Nagasu replied, “I just want to point out that I’m in my early 20. ... I think I still have a lot in me. I do get that comment — that I’m a veteran — a lot. But I feel like a really young skater.”
Wagner is a three-time U.S. champion, but in addition to her national success, she also ended a 10-year medal drought for American women in the Olympics and World Championships when she won silver at the World Championships last spring.
She has some Kansas City roots — or at least nearby. She was born on a U.S. Army base in Germany, but she moved several times during her childhood, including a stop in Fort Leavenworth that spanned less than a year. She tweeted a picture of herself in a Kansas City Figure Skating Club jacket on Monday.
That was the past.
The present: She is set on maintaining the form that earned her last spring’s silver.
“Not many podium girls have been able to stick around,” Wagner said. “I’m looking to change that trend.”
To that end: While Gold is the defending U.S. champion, she is looking to rebound from a rough conclusion to her 2016 season in which she stumbled at the World Championships in Boston.
Gold is tied to the area, as well. When she was 7, she enrolled in skating classes in Springfield, Mo., that served as the spark to her skating career.
She will have an uphill battle to defend her title Saturday.
“I would have to be aggressive, but I’ve made comebacks before,” Gold said. “This doesn’t feel like a major comeback because I felt pretty solid. It just wasn’t what everyone else delivered.
“A long program is worth a lot of points, and I can certainly deliver some good long programs. I kinda feel like I’m due for a good one. So cheers to Saturday.”