Home Archive Photos Slideshows Database


Wagner Hungry to Claim Third U.S. Title

by Liz Leamy

Looking to make big impact en route toward Olympic medal bid

By Liz Leamy

Ashley Wagner, the 2012 and 2013 U.S. champion, seems ready to rock Boston this week and prove herself as a veritable star in the internationally revered U.S. skating community.

Not one to back down, Wagner, 22, has proven over the years to be a budding money player, a slang phrase used on Wall Street to describe someone who steps up to make the most of a given opportunity.

Back in 2010, when Wagner missed making the U.S. Olympic team by one place due to a jump, a disappointment to say the least, she chose to use this as a source of motivation rather than to give up. Within two years, Wagner had catapulted her way right to the top of the American and international competitive ladder, clinching the National title in 2012 and 2013, the 2012 Four Continents event and placing fourth at the 2012 Worlds.

“I feel like I’m a totally different skater from four years ago,” said Wagner in a conference call last week. “I was a girl on the outside hoping maybe my dream would come true, now I’m approaching it much more realistically.”

Wagner, who was born on a U.S. military base in Heidelberg, Germany and grew up moving around the U.S. with her family nine times as a young girl, has always possessed strength and and maturity beyond her years, but has evolved to new heights over the past few seasons as an athlete and individual.

“I’ve really matured and taken control of my skating,” said Wagner, who trains with Rafael Artunian at the East West Ice Palace in Artesia, California. “I feel like I’m a woman now, not just along for the ride, I have a plan.”

No doubt, the turning point for Wagner occurred several years ago, when she made the decision to move from the East Coast to the West Coast, a life change that is certainly not for the lighthearted.

Wagner made this decision after finishing a disappointing sixth at the 2011 Nationals, due primarily to muscle spasm issues, and uprooted herself from Wilmington, Delaware, where she had been coached by Priscilla Hill, longtime coach of three-time U.S. men’s champion Johnny Weir in Delaware, so that she could work with the venerable John Nicks in Mission Alejo, California.

In making this change, Wagner put everything on the line, including much of her finances. She used college funds and savings she had accrued while working at a jeans store in Delaware in order to help pay for the move, as well as rent and training expenses at her new training locale.

This roll of the dice turned out to be a good one for Wagner, who flourished under strict disciplinary ways of Nicks. The following winter, in January 2012, she claimed her first U.S. title and then went on to score gold at Four Continents and fourth at Worlds. (That spring, Nicks awarded the celebrated Coach of the Year citation by the Professional Skaters Association due to his work with her.)

In 2013, Wagner went on to clinch her second consecutive U.S title, but dropped one place to fifth at Worlds.

Not long after the finish of that season, Nicks announced he would no longer be able to travel to international events with Wagner. This decision in turn prompted Wagner to start working with Artunian, coach of the iconic nine-time U.S. champion Michelle Kwan toward the end of her competitive career, at the now defunct Ice Castle facility in Lake Arrowhead, California. (Back in the fall, the two had to relocate to Artesia when that rink closed.)

Artunian, known to be a cerebral coach whose teaching style revolves around a quiet kind of strength, clicked immediately with his new charge. Not one to mince words or spend too much time talking to the press, he is direct and forthright, telling his students to ‘put it out there in order to get the scores,’ an approach that seems to work.

This past fall, Wagner scored silver at Skate America, gold at the Trophee Eric Bompard and bronze at the International Skating Union Grand Prix Final. She earned high points for her short program to Pink Floyd’s ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ created by Shae Lynn Bourne and David Wilson-designed free skate to ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Prokofiev.

‘I’m gaining respect,” she said, adding that her goal is to win a medal at the Olympics in February.

In her usual frankness, Wagner said an Olympic medal would involve more than just reeling off triple jumps and said it would entail skating a memorable performance.

“A clean program will do a lot but it will not win the Olympics,” she said.

This determined athlete, in true form, seems to be taking the appropriate measures to make certain she makes a lasting impact at these events so that she achieves her dream of winning an Olympic medal.

Based upon the many corporate super powers who have decided to sign her on over the past few years, including Cover Girl, Nike, Procter and Gamble, Hilton HHonors, the Century Council, Highmark and British Petroleum (BP), it seems optimistic that all the cards, along with everything else in her life, have been falling exactly into the right place.

In the end, however, it is really all about the journey for Wagner, with Boston and Sochi representing another exciting stop in her many life adventures.

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...

Return to title page