The Washington Post

Ashley Wagner says triple-triple ‘feels great’ after solid first Olympic practice

Despite a disappointing performance at the U.S. figure skating championships, 22-year-old Ashley Wagner is headed to Sochi as a medal contender. (Lee Powell/The Washington Post)

SOCHI — It was a long work day, but Ashley Wagner had spent years working toward it.

She awoke in Munich at 4 a.m., flew to Sochi, got registered as a 2014 Olympian, moved into the athletes’ village and capped with a 9:30 p.m. practice — her first on Olympic ice — in which she twice completed the triple flip-triple toe combination that’s planned for her short and long programs.

“I can’t sugarcoat it: That is really what is going to make or break this competition for just about everyone in this event, so I need it to be solid,” Wagner, 22, said of the triple-triple combination following Tuesday night’s practice at the Sochi Olympic Park. “And the more I do it in practice, the better I’ll feel under pressure.”

A West Potomac graduate from Alexandria, Wagner worked on the triple-triple combination all season with an eye toward winning an Olympic medal. It tripped her up last month at U.S. Nationals, where the two-time U.S. Champion finished fourth after falling twice in her long program.

But she has made some major changes to ensure she’s steadier for the Olympics: Overhauling her long program and ramping up her fitness.

Said Wagner: Coach Rafael Arutyunyan “was kind of brutally honest with me, as he should be because that’s what I pay him the big bucks for. He said, ‘Your life would be a lot easier if you lose some weight. Your life would be a lot easier if you let me train you to the point of exhaustion, and we keep going from there.’

“It’s all about feeling in shape and feeling comfortable with the jumps. And I know physically I can get around on the jumps, and I am actually doing them. Then, just having the run-throughs to back me up really helps.”

Wagner will be announced Wednesday as the U.S. squad’s choice to compete her short program Saturday for the inaugural Olympic team medal, according to a source with knowledge of the selections. She declined to confirm it, but asked how she’d feel if given the opportunity, she said:  “The short is one of those programs that I feel so great about. It’s my money-maker. I step out onto the ice, and that’s who I am as a skater. To be able to perform that at an Olympics would be really great for me.”

More Olympics news from the Post:

Ashley Wagner: ‘I’m in this to be remembered’

As Sochi Olympics near, Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin takes flight

Olympic dream in Sochi: Internet in the hotel

Mikaela Shiffrin: Poised to be great

These Olympics have a dangerous ring

Bobsled offers a second chance

Liz Clarke currently covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. She has also covered seven Olympic Games, two World Cups and written extensively about college sports, tennis and auto racing.



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Liz Clarke · February 4, 2014