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Wagner hungry as ever

November 21, 2017
By CHRISTIE SAUSA - Correspondent , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Ashley Wagner has been working toward this season for a long time.

The 26 year old has already earned a world silver medal, three national titles and was part of the team that captured a bronze medal at the 2014 Olympics. However, Wagner has had her share of ups and downs, and after a difficult past season she is determined to make this Olympic season her year to shine.

"Last season definitely had some highs and lows; it started really strong, and I was very pleased with how nationals went," she said. "The world championships were not what I wanted them to be, but it was what I needed it to be. As soon as I was done, I felt I was looking towards the Olympics and I was motivated and hungry again, so I feel like I got what I needed out of last season and now I'm just focusing on getting onto that Olympic team."

Article Photos


Ashley Wagner performs in the 2017 US Championships in Kansas City, Missouri in January.
Provided photo — US Figure Skating

Her first Grand Prix event this season was Skate Canada in October, where she placed third. Although she didn't have her best performance, she felt the event was a step in the right direction.

"I would like to medal at both of my GP events, and I'm off to a pretty decent start with that," she said. "And then I would probably say, my main goal is to become national champion."

After nationals, the big goal is the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Wagner acknowledges that she has learned from her previous Olympic experience and plans to take a different approach.

"My approach would change. I think that it's easy to get overwhelmed by how big an event the Olympics are, but at the end of the day, it's just another skating competition," Wagner said. "So, for me going in trained and mentally solid is going to be what gets me through the Games."

At the last Olympics in 2014, Wagner helped the US team win a bronze medal in the team event, but was perhaps best remembered for her disbelieving reaction to her scores in the team event short program, an image that quickly became a widespread meme. This honesty and transparency is part of what makes her such a dynamic and popular athlete.

"I'm a performer. I hope that when people watch me they feel something - that's what I aim to do," Wagner said. "I have the life experience of a 26 year old and I bring that to the ice, and hopefully it makes my skating that much more believable".

While in many other sports elite athletes are expected to be in their 20s or 30s, figure skating is known to be populated with younger competitors. Figure skating is one of the unique sports in which athletes often peak in their teens when it is easiest to master and execute technically demanding triple and, in some cases, quad jumps.

If Wagner were to qualify for the Olympic Games, she would be the oldest U.S. female figure skater to compete at the Olympics since 1928, a fact that is both amusing and somewhat disappointing. Wagner has certainly accepted her mantle as a sort of "elder veteran" in the sport.

"It is a testament to my strength as a female athlete. Here I am at 26 and I feel like I am, honestly, at the peak of my career," Wagner told Excelle Sports. "I think that it's important for people to see age really is just a number. I can laugh it off.

"Yes, I am surrounded by girls - some of them 10 years younger than me - but, at the same time, it blows my mind that a room full of adults see 26 as old."

While many skating purists worry the sport is increasingly overrun by these young skaters who can just jump rather than express the music, skaters like Wagner carry on the tradition of mature, artistically developed skating. Watching her skate, one can feel the emotions she is conveying and she is genuinely entertaining to watch.

Her passion for the sport consistently shines through, and she considers it her motivating force.

"I can credit my longevity to my passion for the sport. I love what I do; every single day I get to wake up and skate," Wagner said. "(While) it's hard work, it's so satisfying, and I love that feeling at the end of a training day (of) being so exhausted, but knowing you're one step closer to being ready for competition.

"I think over the years that's definitely been what kind of keeps me coming back."

She also credits her love of performance to be a great motivator.

"I love that moment, center ice, when the crowd is on their feet cheering for something that you did," she said. "So moments like that definitely are the reason why I skate, and I think that's why I have been around for so long."

This season, she will be demonstrating her performing prowess with two programs she has used in previous seasons: Hip Hip Chin Chin by Club des Belugas for the short program, and music from the film 'Moulin Rouge' for the long program. While she previously planned to skate to music from the film 'La La Land' this season, she scrapped it to reclaim the 'Moulin Rouge' program. Wagner believes her familiarity with the programs will give her an edge this season.

"The familiar aspect of (those programs) definitely had some appeal; I think that programs these days are so technically demanding for skaters, so to have a piece of music you're familiar with, you know the nuances and know how to perform it so you can just kind of turn your mind off and skate when you're under pressure," Wagner said. "That's why I went back to both programs, that comfort level for sure, but also being able to focus on the technical side while still being able to really perform a program."

Wagner has a very specific goal for Skate America: to qualify for the Grand Prix Final event in Nagoya, Japan later this season.

"Going into Skate America, I have the opportunity to potentially get into the Grand Prix Final, so for me a win at Skate America would be crucial to getting into the Final," Wagner said. "That would make me the only US Lady who qualified for this Final, so that would provide a little bit of cushion going into nationals and with Olympic selections."

Wagner competed in the 2003 US Junior Figure Skating Championships in Lake Placid as a 12 year old.

"I don't remember all that much, but I was in 17th place at Junior Nationals (in Lake Placid) so I've come such a long way since then and I think it will be kind of fun to see where all this started," Wagner said. "Coming back as a Senior Grand Prix athlete, that will be kind of surreal."

Wagner, along with the rest of the ladies' field, can be seen in the Skate America event Saturday, Nov. 25 and Sunday, Nov. 26. For more information, including how to purchase tickets, visit the event website at www.2017skateamerica.com.

 
 

 

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