As a result, she chose to sleep through the 7:30 a.m. women’s practice, targeting the 6:30 p.m. session instead. But by mid-afternoon, Wagner still had no skates, no outfits and only a slim chance of taking part in the next-to-last practice for the all-important world championships, in which résumés are polished for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
“I’m at worlds, and I don’t have my skates, and that’s definitely a weird feeling,” a slightly bleary-eyed Wagner conceded. But in much the same way skaters insist that falling in practice often helps “get the jitters out,” Wagner maintained that her off-ice misadventure had a silver lining.
“Things like this make me take a step back and not get so intensely focused on one event,” said Wagner, 21, who finished fourth at the 2012 world championships. “It’s a huge event, but I need to breathe and relax and remember I’m only human. I’ll be fine.”
This year’s world championships, which get underway with the pairs and men’s short programs Wednesday and conclude Saturday, feature one of the more competitive women’s fields in years.
It includes defending world champion Carolina Kostner of Italy, a brilliant if inconsistent performer; defending Olympic champion Kim Yu-na of South Korea, who returned to competition just three months ago after a 19-month hiatus; and two-time world champion Mao Asada of Japan, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist and Kim’s chief rival.
They’re the most prominent among the roughly 200 figure skaters from 50 countries who have descended on London to compete not only for individual medals but also for their nation’s allotment of spots in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
For the United States to reclaim its customary three women’s spots after being bumped down to two for the 2010 Vancouver Games, its two entrants at worlds — Wagner and 17-year-old Gracie Gold of Chicago — must place no worse than 13th when their final scores are tallied. For example, fourth- and ninth-place finishes would secure a third Olympic berth; fourth and 10th would not.
The United States faces the same challenge in men’s, pairs and dance, its strongest discipline at the moment.
No skater understands the imperative of securing that third spot better than Wagner, who just missed the 2010 Olympics as a result.
“It definitely is a tall order to fill, but I think Gracie and I, if we skate strong, we’ll be able to get that spot for the country,” said Wagner, whose skates were delivered to the rink just as the 6:30 p.m. practice got underway. “I personally want it back because I know how it feels to be third place at nationals — where every Olympics prior, third place was good enough — and have it not be quite enough.”