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Ashley Wagner: The Tonya Harding of our generation

Recently the news outlets revisited the Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding incident, as the 2014 Winter Olympic Games marked the twentieth anniversary of the fiasco.

Ashley Wagner of the United States reacts to her score after competing in the Figure Skating Team Ladies Short Program during day one of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (
Photo by Darren Cummings/Pool/Getty Images

Tonya Harding is known as a competitor, a fighter, a survivor, a victim as well as a conspirator with her ex-husband to physically assault Nancy Kerrigan. Living in a trailer off and on during childhood and yet entering the figure skating world, were like two worlds colliding. Tonya could not seem to figure out how to play the game in the nice quiet way that most figure skaters did and was somewhat of an outcast of figure skating society, yet she had a straight-forward personality that fans and viewers began to relate to.

After watching these Olympic Games it seems that there is yet another figure skater who doesn’t seem to enjoy playing by the rules. Ashley Wagner made some waves during her Olympic debut. Moving away from the A-typical ice princess persona, Ashley is outspoken, somewhat unguarded and thrives on playing roles in her programs where she is presented as powerful and sexy rather then polished and refined.

Wagner certainly got everyone’s attention at the Olympic Games by her facial expression alone after the scoring in her short program during the team event. It was the expression seen around the world and yet instead of justifying it, she owned it.

Shortly thereafter, Ashley competed in the individual event and after skating her free program made some outright comments about the judging of the event. Wagner openly admitted that she felt “gypped” and is calling for an end to anonymous judging and a more fan-friendly scoring system.

Very much in Harding fashion, Wagner does not mince words and is forthright that she is not the perfect ice princess. When asked on the red carpet what was her biggest takeaway from the Olympics, she responded, “I feel like at the Olympics, people really got to see who I really was. People got to see that I wasn’t a pretty princess porcelain doll. I have a personality, I have too much personality, and honestly I take that away as such a good thing that people can understand that athletes are people to and not just these perfect little beings that are put out on the stage.”

Gracie Gold, on the other hand, has all the makings of the next Nancy to play against this generation’s Tonya, which should make for an interesting rivalry as things will be heating up for the U.S. ladies in the coming seasons. These two will be going head-to-head more frequently and the backing of U.S. Figure Skating might begin to shift from Ashley to Gracie.

Ashley Wagner’s strong going-against-the-grain personality has made her similar to Tonya, yet it is probably safe to say that even if the Gracie and Ashley rivalry heats up it probably won’t bring with it the type of debacle that Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan brought to the world. Ashley Wagner does not seem to have the mean streak that Tonya had and she is far more likable of a person, who would not physically harm someone to get ahead. So for now we can just sit back and enjoy the personalities that are currently evolving within figure skating that make it that much more interesting to watch.