|Ashley Wagner poses with her bronze medal at Trophee Eric Bompard at the Meriadeck Ice Rink on Nov. 22, 2014 in Bordeaux, France.
If she retired tomorrow, Ashley Wagner’s resume would read like this:
- 2014 Olympic bronze medalist
- 2014 U.S. pewter medalist
- 2013 U.S. champion
- 2012 Four Continents champion
- 2012 U.S. champion
- 2010 U.S. bronze medalist
- 2009 U.S. pewter medalist
- 2008 U.S. bronze medalist
And 13 times since she made her debut on the senior international circuit in 2007, Wagner has medaled on the International Skating Union Grand Prix of Figure Skating circuit, including first place showings at 2012 Skate America, 2012 Trophee Eric Bompard and 2013 Trophee Eric Bompard. Wagner won silver at 2014 Skate Canada and bronze at 2014 Trophee Eric Bompard.
“I could end my career tomorrow and be totally satisfied,” the 23-year-old figure skater said last week.
Instead, Wagner will compete at the 2014 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Barcelona, Spain. The short program is Thursday with the free skate on Saturday.
“I have two national titles under my belt,” Wagner said. “I have an Olympic medal. I have a Four Continents gold medal. I have a bunch of things that I have accomplished in this sport. I can kind of compete without all of this crazy pressure. I can do it because I want to and because it’s still what I love to do.”
It helps that at 23 ― the self-proclaimed “old gal” ― still has it. She is the first American woman since nine-time national champion Michelle Kwan in 2002 to qualify for three consecutive Grand Prix Finals. In her two previous Grand Prix Final appearances, Wagner earned silver and bronze medals.
“I feel like I’m going to be a late bloomer in this sport,” said Wagner, who has found inspiration in Italian Carolina Kostner. Last season, the 27-year-old won Olympic and world bronze medals.
Wagner will compete against four Russian teenagers in Barcelona and Japan’s Rika Hongo, 18. Hongo replaced 19-year-old American Gracie Gold who withdrew from the final because of a stress fracture.
“Anybody who looks down upon some old gal going after her dreams, I have many things to say to them,” Wagner said. “But I will just say watch me do it.”
Wagner, who qualified in sixth for the six-person field, admitted medaling in Barcelona may be difficult but she will give it her best shot. (Hongo qualified seventh as Gold’s replacement.)
"I will make sure the triple-triple is there, because I need it. There is no other way of saying it," Wagner said. She plans triple flip-triple toe combination in both her short program and free skate.
After Barcelona, Wagner is focused on regaining the national title she lost last year to Gold. Wagner was the first woman to successfully defend a U.S. title, winning in 2012 and 2013, since Kwan went back to back in 2004 and 2005.
“The main difference between your first title and your second title is that with your first title, even though you’re going out there for the win, it is still kind of a surprise,” Wagner said. “You don’t quite expect it then it happens. Then you’re coming in as the defending champion and the pressures on. All eyes are on you.”
The U.S. championships are Jan. 17-25 in Greensboro, North Carolina. From there, Wagner hopes to compete at the world championships, and end the first season on the Road to PyeongChang on a high note.
“Three and half years is a long time when you look at it on paper, but three and a half years go in the blink of an eye,” she said. “So as long as my body is physically capable of making it to the next Olympics, and as long as my heart is still in it, I absolutely, fully intend on going until PyeongChang.”
Wagner will be 26 in PyeongChang, a year younger than Kostner was when she joined Russian teen Adelina Sotnikova and Korean Yuna Kim, then 23, on the podium in Sochi, Russia.
“So what, I’m going to be 26 at the next Olympics,” she said. “That’s not old. I will probably, for myself, be in my physical prime around then.”