I agree, Gao needs to increase the difficulty of her skating in between the jumps to get a higher overall score. The jumps were excellent with lots of height and distance, so if she could blend both her transitions and her jumps together, she could be a real threat for a spot at worlds. But she's not there yet.
I personally loved Ashley's program. She looked stunning in that dress, and she interpreted the music really well. I don't think I've ever seen her move with so much fluidity and grace. Her jumps were better with less questionable landings, although she may have two footed the salchow and another jump. But that 3loop2axel combo was a great save and not to mention very difficult. So I think she's showing a consistency that we have not seen in quite some years among American ladies.
And I also liked the fact that her stockings were not pulled over her skating boots. The white boots made her edging and flow seem more noticeable, and made you appreciate it more.
Gao and Wagner -- there are 2 very distinct styles, here. Gao has a way to go in her transitions, I agree, and while her spins were beautiful, I have a feeling that they could have been better. Ashley skated spectacularly, but a bit sloppily. Ashley's jumps are bigger (tho somewhat sloppy), but Christina's jumps are more precise and graceful; they fit her personna. I believe that if and when Christina gets her transitions in order (more difficult), adds some triple-triple's and cleans up her spins (which I believe she'll do) she will be the "dark-horse" of the season. I do think that while Ashley definitely deserved the gold, that her scores were inflated. She is definitely a complete marketing package, as she was last year, even to the color of her hair (this was mentioned in an article and I took notice that yes, the match is quite perfect with the color of her costume). Could she be becoming the new darling of the lady skaters?
The U.S. ladies should give us a run for our money this year, and it just might translate to the international scene.