Not many know that two-time U.S. figure skating champion, Ashley Wagner, spent part of her childhood in Puyallup and Vancouver, Washington. During her early years, she skated at the Sprinker ice rink in Tacoma, about 30 miles south of Seattle.
Her father was a lieutenant colonel in the army, so Wagner moved nine times as a child, but the one place she always seemed to come back to was Washington. She would visit her grandparents almost every summer at their home in Seabeck, right outside of Silverdale. It has been the one place that has always felt like home.
Enjoying the brisk cold air and the overcast sky, Ashley seemed content to be back in the Seattle area on her recent visit for a Pandora appearance at the Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood. No longer a child and now living in Los Angeles, she is gearing up for a season that will hopefully lead her to the podium at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.
Wagner has recently undergone some major changes. Only a few short months ago she added a new coach to her coaching team and worked with new choreographers this season for both her short and long programs. “I’m feeling really really great about it,” Ashley says referring to the season ahead with a big smile.
Wagner barely missed being on the 2010 Olympic team and even considered quitting after missing such an incredible opportunity, but Ashley is putting the past behind her and is ready for a new season.
“I’m a totally different skater than I was in 2010,” she said confidently. “And beyond skating I have had four years to grow up and I feel like I am an adult now, whereas before I was just kind of like, I’ve said this before, but just like a little girl on the outside looking in at my dream,” she explained. “I can make this happen; I’m in control of getting onto the team. I think it makes a huge difference on how I approach it. So I’m aware of what is hanging over me, but I feel like I’m much more in control this time.”
In 2010, Ashley was only 18, now at 22 she is more sure of who she is and what she wants. In a sport with critics, judges, coaches and choreographers constantly reinventing skaters, Ashley has not only discovered who she is, but she has learned how to maintain her sense of self by telling her coaches and choreographers what she wants and she works with them to achieve the desired result, versus allowing others to determine her skating.
“And so for me it’s about, you know taking control, knowing who you are as a skater and as a person, and not letting anybody else kind of walk all over that,”Ashley said. “I have a much larger part in the design process...I’ve been able to create my own identity with that. I own my skating a lot more, so it’s more fun for me because it’s my sport.”
Since Ashley has now discovered who she is, she has also become more clear about what she wants. So what does she want this season? For the Grand Prix, Ashley’s goal is to gain confidence with her triple-triple combination, test her programs and gain the mental toughness that she will need heading into the Olympics. Wagner readily admits that she would love to have a three-peat at Nationals and defend her title, but at the end of the day she wants to make the Olympic team.
When it comes to the Olympics, Wagner has quite a few competitors worth losing sleep over. Yuna Kim, the 2010 Olympic Champion returned last season and was untouchable as she went completely undefeated the entire season. In discussing Yuna Kim, Wagner conveys, “I am very aware of who I am up against. Yuna is a force to be reckoned with and I acknowledge that entirely. My main goal is to get onto the podium,” she expressed. “I would love to be Olympic Champion, but I also know that compared to last season I need to step it up a lot more. I need the triple-triple, I need the full package, cause I’m going up against a favorite and that’s pretty tough, so there’s no room for mistakes and I’m doing everything I possibly can to get the most juice out of those programs.”
Going up against such fierce competitors with so much on the line has to be a heavy weight to carry. When asked where she feels that most of her pressure comes from, she responded, “Mostly from myself. Because once you get a taste of that success it’s something you don’t really want to give up and for me now, being on the podium is awesome, but I want to be on the top of the podium. I think I’m capable of it so I have these expectations from myself. I don’t want to be in second place; I want to be the best performance at an event.”
To learn what obstacles Ashley has overcome, how she is training and if she will retire any time soon, continue reading. NEXT- Exclusive: Ashley Wagner 'taking control' - Part 2