By the time Ashley Wagner took centre ice at the TD Garden, the last of all the skaters at Worlds to perform, the whole arena knew what was at stake. And how could we not? The US skating media simply would not shut up about the "drought" - the fact that it had been ten years since a US lady had stood on a World podium. The drought was broken at that point - Gracie Gold, in spite of a fall in her free skate, was third - but the question was, which US lady was going to do it?
The Moulin Rouge free skate was a familiar one to most. Ashley had used it last season, too. She also had additional motivation - the last competition she had done at the TD Garden had been the 2014 US Nationals, where she had stumbled for the first time that season, and then, when the USFS used their perfectly legitimate selection criteria to name her to the Olympic team, she had become a target of vitriol.
With redemption on her mind, and a will to prove the critics wrong, Ashley began her free skate. It wasn't hard to tell that the crowd wanted her to do well. Just the announcement of her name had been greeted with a roar.
The first double Axel was perfectly landed on the change in music, signalling her intent. The triple flip-triple toe, once troublesome, had no hesitation; a nice walley into the double Axel-triple toe saw her first set of jumping passes complete and the bar set.
The flying sit spin that followed had great position and speed; it was immediately followed by a sterling combination spin, including a stellar catch foot camel spin out of a sit position. As the music softly echoed, Ashley built speed, to launch into an excellent (and rare) triple loop, half loop, triple Salchow combination, followed by a triple flip at the other end of the rink - her only visible mistake, where she almost stepped out of the jump.
A solo triple loop followed as Nicole Kidman's voice hit the high notes, then an elegant step sequence around the centre of the rink. As the music swelled towards a dramatic climax, the solo triple Lutz was hit and landed perfectly. By now the crowd was going positively bonkers; and a smile graced Ashley's face as she swept into the dramatic choreographic sequence.
The noise of the crowd was by now drowning out the music; all around me as Ashley swept into the final combination spin I could feel people getting ready to stand. And stand we did, almost instantaneously, to celebrate an incredible, wonderful conclusion to a wonderful event.
The only question was what colour the medal was going to be, and Ashley's shriek of delight when it was revealed to be silver was lost as we all roared our approval. For a skater who had been told she was done, a skater who had been written off so many times, a skater considered "old" in skating years, it was a validation.
And you couldn't have written the script any better, for Ashley Wagner to close out a US Worlds with a performance like that.
Watch Ashley's stunning free skate here.