Sports

Ashley Wagner's Olympic dreams are only beginning

Ashley Wagner, an 18-year-old with ties to Kitsap County, brought the crowd to its feet with s strong free skate performance at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane. - Photo courtesy of U.S. Figure Skating
Ashley Wagner, an 18-year-old with ties to Kitsap County, brought the crowd to its feet with s strong free skate performance at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of U.S. Figure Skating

One-half a revolution may have cost her an Olympics bid, but Ashley Wagner believes her dream will come full circle.

Wagner, 18, placed third at the U.S. Women's Figure Skating Championships in Spokane Jan. 23, missing a berth to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver by one spot.

Although she fell to the ice on a botched triple lutz during the short program, leaving her more than 7 points behind and in fourth place, Wagner delivered an error-free long program, or free skate, two nights later to climb to third.

The performance brought a sold-out crowd to its feet and left Wagner pumping her fists as she skated off the ice, grinning.

"I've shown myself that I have a ton of potential," she said. "I know how much I can improve."

Top finishers Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu advanced to the Winter Games, which begin Feb. 13, meaning Wagner must wait until 2014 to write the ending of what was nearly a storybook Spokane script.

Following the U.S. Championships, Wagner flew to Virginia, where she trains and shares an apartment with her mother Melissa.

She took a few days off, but is already training to get back into international competition. Her first major event is in Moscow.

“I’m ready to go,” Wagner said. “I could skate another long (program) right now.”

Wagner, who has ties to Kitsap County because her grandfather lives in Seabeck and her parents grew up in Kitsap, admitted it was “difficult” to come so close to a dream, and then have it put on hold.

But the third-place finish, and experiences that came with it, will give Wagner the confidence – and motivation – to continue her pursuit of the Games.

She is convinced the fall on the triple lutz, the most difficult jump of her routine, happened for a reason.

"That lutz was a complete fluke," Wagner said. "It was some weird twist of fate.”

Wagner will be 22 when she gets her next shot at the Olympics, and by then, she may not be the only skater in the family who will be pursuing the world’s biggest stage.

Younger brother Austin Wagner, 16, also competed in Spokane, finishing fifth in the men’s novice division, and Ashley said he too is primed to take the next step.

The younger Wagner grew up playing soccer but was always a “rink rat,” grandfather Mike James remembers. James added that Austin attended many of Ashley’s practices and picked up on her technique.

Naturally right-footed, Austin favors his left foot on skates because Ashley is a lefty and that’s how he learned to skate.

Austin is equally eager to climb the skating ranks.

“They both came out of Spokane with fire in their belly,” James said.

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