Most would agree that Ashley Wagner is the best bet for the U.S. ladies to medal at the 2014 Olympic Games as she has had quite the success last season, becoming the 2012 and 2013 U.S. champion, 2012 Four Continents champion, 2012 Grand Prix final silver medalist, 2012 Skater America champion and the 2012 Trophee Eric Bompard champion, to name just a few. Yet her success has not come without it’s challenges.
Last season at Nationals, though Ashley won, she also fell twice in her free skate. She admits that wanting it too much and trying too hard played a part in her struggle, substituting desire for the lack of training, which obviously did not go well for her. Her goal this season is to rely on her training and not on simply crossing her fingers.
“I’ve put in a lot of work and I think that last year I was so busy and I was traveling a lot for shows and obligations and things like that,” Ashley explained. “I think this year I’ve made sure to focus on really scheduling everything and getting all of my obligations done early in the season rather than later so that I have the time to just train, stay at home, put in the time on the ice, and I think that will really give me the confidence boost that I need to just go out and skate instead of go out and hold my breath.”
For Ashley, knowing that she has trained and put in the time and the hard work brings her the confidence that she needs to go out there and skate her best. The best way for Wagner to be strong mentally is for her to be well trained. “I think that any doubt that you have out on the ice, it’s because you’re not prepared,” Ashley said. “For me, I gain my confidence in training, that way when I step out on the ice, I know I’m ready and then I don’t have any doubts.”
Another obstacle that Wagner has had to learn to overcome is criticism. After winning Nationals, there were many negative comments about her win, due to her falls in her free skate. Many felt like she did not even deserve to medal, let alone win the event and they were anything but silent about their opinions of Ashley and her skating that night.
“It is tough and people are pretty brutal,” Ashley expressed, “but I have realized that you just need to find that core group of people, with opinions that you really value, and you listen to them and only them and whatever anybody else has to say is just extra noise.”
Along with learning how to overcome the challenges that come her way, Wagner knows that at the heart of it is her training. A normal training day for Ashley begins with her leaving her home around 9am. From core work, to skating skills and edges, to swimming, hip stretching, weight training, running through her programs and much more, she finally ends up back home around 7:30pm. It’s a full day of training and as the season progresses, her ice time increases and off-ice training gradually decreases in hopes that she will peak at just the right time in the season. Wagner is being very strategic with her training and is intentionally preparing for the season ahead of her.
Yet all of Ashley’s training and challenges are not just for a gold medal, it is because she truly loves to skate. “I’m a show pony. Absolutely. I love getting out onto the ice, all eyes on you and performing. I think that is one of the most exhilarating things in the world. Some people jump off cliffs, that’s not for me. I just prefer to perform in front of thousands of people,” Ashley says with a big grin.
Wagner comes alive in front of an audience and seems to enjoy being in the spotlight. She loves what she does and it shows. When asked if she would retire at the conclusion of the season regardless of the outcome, the answer was a resounding, “no” as she does not feel ready to leave the sport, which is good news to all of her fans. Ashley feels very fortunate to do what she loves and is not ready to give up on it any time soon.
“This is what I love to do,” Wagner said emphatically, “and I know that it comes with highs and lows. But you know last year a bunch of my friends graduated from college and now they are sitting behind a desk, at a job that is underpaying them and I’m doing what I absolutely love. There are hard days, but I am lucky to be here.”
Doing what she loves, being who she is within her skating, knowing clearly what she wants, training to get there, learning life lessons and taking control of her own destiny are all part of Ashley Wagner’s journey. A journey which she hopes will lead her to the podium at the 2014 Olympic Games.