North America wins first Team Challenge Cup

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Gracie Gold bounced back from a bitter disappointment at the World Championships last month to help Team North America win the inaugural Team Challenge Cup on Saturday night.

After dropping from first to fourth following her free skate in Boston last month, Gold scored 142 points, five points superior to her last skate, as North America held off Asia and Europe in the three continent competition.

"It felt great because it just felt more free," Gold, who had a lackluster short program on Friday, said. "I just thought, 'Ok that's like points for the team . let's just have fun.'

"I love team competition. I don't always see myself as a team player, especially when I was younger. But especially after yesterday when I really kind of dropped the ball ... because I was hurting my team. It's kind of a redemption."

Team North American finished with 892.42 points. Europe had 848.51 and Asia 820.18.

Grace's performance jump-started an outstanding night for American skaters with Adam Rippon and Jason Brown producing strong results before Ashley Wagner capped the night with a performance even better than she had in the World Championships when her free skated vaulted her from fourth to a silver medal.

Wagner scored 143.20, just shy of a full point better than Boston.

"Tonight, I really had to fight because I'm absolutely exhausted," Wagner said. "Coming off such a great worlds I knew that I had set the bar really high for myself and I wanted to end this program off on a very strong note. The triple-triple in the second half for me was amazing. I pulled that out of somewhere very deep inside of me, so I was happy that I was able to pull that off when I needed to.

"The jumps were not perfect, but I got the job done."

North America entered the singles free skate with a sizable lead because of Canadians dominating pairs and ice dance earlier in the day. Meagan Dunhamel and Eric Radford topped the pairs with a score of 147.48 and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje won the dance with 111.56.

That gave North America a lead of almost 20 points entering the free skate when each team used the top two scores among the three skaters for both the women and men.

Brown had a personal best by almost five points with a 181.50 for the second-best score of the night, which led him to put both hands to his head in disbelief.

"I had really high expectations coming back (from injury) and I was super, super nervous going in because I had set such a high bar," he said. "I had been off for so long (since October) and I wanted to make a splash, I wanted to make a statement when I came back. I didn't want to be forgotten. I wanted to prove myself at the end of the season.

"I worked so hard to get healthy and back into shape. To be able to put out those two programs and meet my expectations and, in some places, exceed them, I'm so thrilled and proud to add two personal bests and add to the team points."

Rippon provided a lift with a 166.68, the No. 3 score.

"I went for everything. That's what I'm proud of," he said. "I tried to fight my hardest right to the bitter end. I'm really proud that I was able to kind of come through for my team today."

The top scores in the free skate went to Shoma Uno of Asia and Europe's precocious world champion Evgenia Medvedeva, both of whom received standing ovations from all the competitors.

Uno, 18, hit a quad flip for the second night in a row for a 192.92, a personal best by 2.60 points, and Medvedeva, 16, was flawless in scoring 151.95, almost two points better than her best in Boston.

"I might be lucky that I made it twice in a row, but I'm feeling a little more confident (in that jump)," Uno said. "I was satisfied with tonight's program, but I can't be satisfied going into next season."

Uno and Medvedeva also had the top scores in Friday's short program and for Medvedeva her combined score of 223.86 points was almost six better than she had in winning the World Championship.

"I think that I'm fully satisfied with my performance, because this is the second time I've been doing this program since I also skated it at the World Championships," she said. "I think that I've done very well. I've skated very cleanly and I'm very satisfied with my performance. I've done a good job."

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