Sunday, May 30, 2010

No offseason for determined Wagner

Don't tell Ashley Wagner there's plenty of time to worry about new programs. The skater, who turns 19 on May 16, is already growing impatient.

"There's not much of an offseason," she said. "We've started the search; there are a lot of ideas. Finding music takes a long time -- way too long, in my opinion."

Since placing third behind Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January, Wagner -- who lives with her coach, Priscilla Hill, in Wilmington, Del., -- has been hard at work.

"I've been doing as many shows as I can without having it interfere with my training," she said. "What Priscilla and I are trying to do is put together show programs, similar to [competitive] short programs. Shows are fun, but at the same time, they're great opportunities to practice before an audience."

At the Cityskate show to benefit Brooklyn Ice in Hackensack, N.J., last month, Wagner included triple flip and triple loop in programs set to music from Miley Cyrus and Christina Aguilera. She's also done a club show in Detroit and joined Smuckers Stars on Icefor its Bridgeport, Conn., stop.

"I absolutely loved S.O.I," Wagner said. "When I finished the program, I felt like going out and doing it again. I loved meeting some of these skaters I've been watching for years; it was really exciting meeting Todd Eldredge. I admire his career and the way he dealt with things. It's kind of similar to the way I'm doing things, hopefully."

Eldredge, the 1996 world champion, won U.S. titles in 1990 and 1991 as well as the 1991 world bronze medal. Later, he had lean years, missing a few U.S. world teams before rebounding with a third U.S. title and world silver medal in 1995. He ended his eligible career with six world medals and six U.S. titles, the last in 2002 when he was 30 years old.

While Wagner has miles to go before she approaches those achievements, the teen gains inspiration from Eldredge's fight to regain a spot on the U.S. world team. Wagner placed 16th at worlds in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2008 but narrowly missed out on trips in 2009 and 2010 despite success on the Grand Prix circuit, including a silver medal at 2009 Rostelecom Cup, silver at 2009 NHK Trophy and fourth place at the most recent Grand Prix Final.

"Worlds was obviously a huge opportunity for me, so my placement was disappointing," she said. "A lot of people don't realize I skated after [defending champion] Miki Ando had that meltdown and walked off the ice [and withdrew]. I had no time to calm myself down. I was 16, and I just got caught up in nerves and the excitement of the moment. As time goes on, I'm getting stronger as a competitor."

That's why Wagner was stunned when she blew her Olympic chances by missing a triple Lutz in her short program at the 2010 U.S. Championships.

"It was a huge Lutz, and I think I anticipating landing it way before I hit the ice," she recalled. "It was so unexpected for me. It was a surprise, for sure."

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