DETROIT – Mao Asada beat Ashley Wagner to win the Skate America women’s short program, and Russian pair Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov set a short program world record on Saturday.
Later, Tatsuki Machida edged American Adam Rippon for the men’s title and Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White topped ice dance for the fourth straight year.
Machida and Davis and White entered the free skates in first place after dominating the short programs. They kept it up in the free skate, with Machida totaling 265.38 points and Davis and White 188.23.
Mao skated cleanly and had 73.18 points after the short program. Wagner, the defending Skate America champion from the U.S., was next at 68.26. Elena Radinova of Russia, who is 14 and the world junior champion, was third at 67.01. The long program was set for Sunday.
Volosozhar and Trankov, the defending world champions and a heavy favorite to dominate this Olympic season, scored 83.05 points. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch of Canada scored 71.51, and are second. Russians Ksneia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov (64.80) finished third.
This marked the second straight competition where Volosozhar and Trankov, the reigning Skate America champions, set a short program world record. Their previous mark, 81.65, was set last month en route to winning the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany.
“We don’t care so much about the world record,” Trankov said. “We care more about our personal record, about our season’s best, about our skating.”
Mao’s high-technical program had a pleasing, quiet flow. She made an adjustment, turning a planned triple flip-double loop scheduled for the start to a triple loop-double loop near the end. Jumps placed in the latter half of a program, when a skater is typically tiring, receive a higher scoring value.
“For the past few years, I was not able to perform my best at the first grand prix, so I was very happy I was reasonably able to give a very good performance,” Mao said. “I think it is a very good start for the season.”
Wagner’s steady performance revealed her offseason work to improve her difficulty level. Wagner, the two-time U.S. champion, is also the defending Skate America titleholder but was still a technical difficulty level below Kim Yu-na, Carolina Kostner, and Mao coming into this season.
Wagner’s lack of a triple-triple was addressed, and Skate America was the first grand prix of the season to display it. Her more mature short program, to Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” debuted at Skate America with a leadoff successful triple flip-triple toe.
When her score of 69.26 was announced, she screamed “Oh!” and then did a little seated shimmy dance.
“Going into the flip-toe, I was actually pretty terrified because it’s a high-risk element for me,” Wagner said. “Before I went out there, Rafael (Arutunian) told me, ‘Just go do it, go skate the flip-toe, do it like you know how to.’ And I just kind of turned the rest off and went into autopilot for the flip-toe and performed it like the way I had in practice. I’m happy with that.”
While Mao and Wagner both impressed, the buzz from the short program belonged to Radinova. She is Skate America’s youngest competitor, and many wondered how she would handle the pressure of the season’s first Grand Prix event.
She answered the questions quickly, delivering a clean and confident performance. Radionova is the reigning world junior champion, and dominated the senior-level Nebelhorn Trophy last month. She is ineligible for the Sochi Olympics because of her age.
Machida’s win was significant because he beat his better-known countrymen, 2012 Skate America champion Takahiko Kozuka and 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi.
“This is my third competition of the season, but my first major one, so I was very nervous,” Machida said. “I don’t think I am strong enough to make it to the Olympic team yet, I do not have enough going yet. I am going to work, and my goal will be to make the Olympic team this season.”
In dance, 2013 world champions Davis and White delivered a captivating and passionate performance, to “Scheherzade” by Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov. Every move seemed effortless, from their unique lifts and unison twizzles, to the intricate choreography.
Davis and White, who grew up and still train in the Detroit area, received a standing ovation. They scored 112.53.
“We are pleased with our skate,” White said. “I think we are really happy with what we were able to put out there — it was one of our best performances. That was fun.”