What a Year for Wagner

Articles, Articles by Barry Mittan

Ashley Wagner

It’s been quite a year for Ashley Wagner, with personal bests coming throughout the year in both juniors and seniors. She started 2007 by winning the bronze medal in junior ladies at the U. S. Nationals. Although she had placed fourth in 2006, she had never reached the top three at any level in skating at Nationals until that time.

Then the 16-year-old won the bronze medal at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany, in her first and only appearance at the event. World Juniors was a homecoming of sorts for Wagner, who was born in Heidelberg, while her father, an Army lieutenant colonel was stationed in the country. She is already a seasoned traveler, having moved nine times with her family. They finally settled in Alexandria, Virginia, near the Pentagon, where her father was actually working when it was attacked on September 11, 2001.

Wagner opened the 2007-08 season by finishing fifth at Skate Canada in her first ISU senior Grand Prix appearance. Then she came from behind to win the bronze medal at Trophee Eric Bompard Cachemire in Paris for her first senior Grand Prix medal. “I’m really excited about this season,” Wagner said. “It was time to move up to seniors and I hope it goes well. I’m just hoping to show everyone that I am a senior lady and that I can skate with the big dogs.” In France, competing against World champion Kimmie Meissner and Mao Asada, she showed she could indeed hold her own against the best.

The year 2006 was also a good one for Wagner, who burst on to the international scene by winning three events in late 2006 — the Triglav Trophy, the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Courchevel, France, and the ISU JGP in The Hague, Netherlands. She capped off 2006 by finishing second at the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Wagner started skating in Eagle River, Alaska when she was five. “There was nothing to do there in the winter and I was driving my mom crazy,” Wagner recalled. “So I had a choice of ballet or skating and I wasn’t going to do anything in pink shoes. I’ve actually started ballet now though because people were telling me I didn’t look as mature as other skaters so I’m trying to improve on that.”

Wagner’s younger brother, Austin, also competes nationally for the U. S. in intermediate men. “It’s nice to have him skating at the same rink,” Wagner stated. “We both go to Mount Vernon Recreation Center. I usually have about three and a half hours on the ice, five days a week and another hour or an hour and a half of off ice practice. I do Pilates and I like to run after practice but I don’t do anything else special. I used to do karate as a kid and got up to a yellow belt.”

Shirley Hughes has trained Wagner for the past six years. “Being a military brat really affected my skating,” Wagner said. “This is the longest I’ve ever been in one place and it’s really helped working with Shirley.” Wagner landed her first triple salchow at 13, but thinks her triple lutz is her best jump.

“My lutz is the best but I can tack a triple loop on the end of anything,” she said. “My triple toe is not amazing yet. I’m working on making every jump better as well as improving my skating skills and the quality of the jumps. I’ll have triple loop-double loop, triple flip-double loop-double loop, and a triple lutz-triple loop in my programs.”

Jill Shipstad-Thomas choreographed Wagner’s programs for 2007-08. “Both of my programs are new this season,” Wagner said. “The music just sounded right to me. I like to use music that tells a story to entertain the audience, not boring repetitive music. So far I’ve always changed both of my programs every year because I get bored with them after a year and want something fresh.”

Wagner’s short program is to music from the soundtrack of “Henry VIII” by Camille Saint-Saens while her free skate is to “Tango Jalousie” by Jacob Gade and “Mambo Jambo” by Perez Prado. “I’m using ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ from the Broadway musical ‘Fosse’ for my exhibition program,” Wagner said. “It’s a nice upbeat song that’s kind of fun to skate to.” Off ice, she listens to anything that’s alternative and upbeat, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

To relax, she likes to hang out with friends, go shopping, and watch movies. “I like cheesy romantic comedies, definitely not horror,” she said. She also collects Russian dolls. Her father brings them home to her as gifts on his international business travel. Her family has a cat, a frog, and two dogs as pets, including her German wirehaired pointer, Millie.

Wagner is a junior at West Potomac High School, from which she walks to the ice rink every day. “I hope to be a sports medicine doctor,” she said. “But skating affects when I’ll go to college. I’ve always been kind of interested in medicine. I watch the Health Channel a lot. I think it would be a chance to combine skating with a career.”

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