It’s one thing to conquer domestic competition – it’s another to win Four Continents over a two-time World champion. Ashley Wagner did just that, winning the biggest title of her career last February. It was the first time an American stood atop the ladies’ podium at the competition since 2007.
Coming off a career-changing win at U.S. Nationals, Wagner took it a few notches up two weeks later at Four Continents, where she defeated Mao Asada on her way to the gold. Her programs, unheralded internationally up to that point, felt transformed with her new air of confidence and sureness.
It was clear at Four Continents – Ashley Wagner has arrived.
Yes, Asada has had her share of inconsistency in the past few seasons, but her performances at Four Continents were solid. Even though she had problems fully-rotating her triple axel, she still delivered a free skate with five clean triples. But it was not enough to beat Wagner’s clean six-triple Black Swan free skate.
The win was significant for American skating, which has struggled to find a female skater who could consistently deliver. There hasn’t been a skater who has won Nationals in consecutive years since Michelle Kwan last repeated as champion in 2005. Wagner went on to take fourth at Worlds and has proven that she isn’t a one-season wonder with her wins on the Grand Prix during the fall.
Even the sponsors have taken notice – she has signed partnership deals with Nike and PANDORA Jewelry. In an era when the Americans haven’t been the dominant force in ladies’ figure skating, these deals are quite a show of confidence.
Another big test is coming up. Wagner looks to repeat as national champion in a matter of weeks.