Wagner wins Four Continents women's title; Phaneuf seventh

Associated Press

2/12/2012 12:24:37 PM

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The last 14 days have been a spectacular whirlwind for Ashley Wagner.

Two weeks to the day after claiming her first U.S. championship, the 20-year-old from Alexandria, Va., had the best free skate of her career Saturday night to win the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships for her first international title.

Wagner skated an elegant, clean program to finish with a 128.34-point score that left her with a career-high total of 192.41.

That was enough to edge two-time world champion Mao Asada of Japan, who settled for second at 188.62 after touching a hand to the ice while attempting to land a triple lutz and having a triple axel downgraded by judges.

It was the first time Wagner has beaten Asada, the 2010 Olympic silver medallist.

"This was a pretty darn good competition for me," Wagner said. "For me to pull out these scores internationally is huge, not only for my career, but also for people's understanding of my level of skating. This is a big confidence boost."

Asada left the event knowing what cost her in the end.

"I'm very happy about succeeding on my triple axel tonight, but I made several other mistakes," Asada said. "I understand my result. I showed my stronger performance at worlds."

The Four Continents was the final major tuneup before the 2012 World Championships on March 26-April 1 in Nice, France.

American Caroline Zhang had a career-best 117.44 points to take the bronze at 176.18. Japan's Kanako Murakami was fourth at 169.32, and American Agnes Zawadzki fifth at 157.23.

Cynthia Phaneuf finished as the top Canadian in seventh place. 

Zhang was all smiles after earning a spot on the medal stand.

"This is definitely the best I've done this particular program," Zhang said. "I'm pretty sure this is the last time I'm doing it, so I'm glad I ended it like this. I'm definitely happy to be getting back on the right track again, and hopefully I can just build on this."