Reigning U.S. figure skating champ returning to Northwest roots

Oct 19, 2012, 10:46 AM | Updated: 11:55 am

Ashley Wagner is headlining Skate America as the reigning U.S. champion, the best hope the American women have of ending their embarrassing skid on the international scene. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau, File)

(AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau, File)

Ashley Wagner will have plenty of local fans when she competes at Skate America this weekend at the ShoWare Center in Kent. The reigning U.S. Ladies Figure Skating Champion spent some of her early years in the Puget Sound area.

Born in Germany, Wagner moved around the world nine times with parents who served in the military. They were raised near Seattle and Ashley lived outside Tacoma for a short time. She still considers the Pacific Northwest somewhat of a home base.

A part-time community college student, Wagner told me there are great sacrifices to reach the highest levels of her sport.

“I think you really have to give up a lot to skate, including giving up a normal college life. At the same time, everyday I get to have my passion be my job. Not many people can say that, so I’m very lucky in that respect.”

There are countless hours each week for ballet and dance training, as well as cardio, hot yoga, running, and swimming.

Wagner hopes to use the event this weekend as a stepping stone for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

“Skate America is a very important competition for me. In the pre-Olympic season everyone is watching out to see what everyone else can do,” said Wagner. “It’s the best of the world and some very tough competition, so I’m working really hard to make sure I’m ready for this next Grand Prix event in Kent.”

Many of the skaters will introduce new moves and music at Skate America.

Wagner plans on adding a “triple-triple” to her short program.

“I am going to be doing a triple flip, triple toe, and a double axle, triple toe. Both of them are a high level of difficulty for a jump combination.”

I wondered whether Ashley practices those sort of jumps over a soft surface first.

“Nope, it’s just straight onto the ice for me,” she said. “There’s a lot of trial and error, and when it comes to jumps, falling is just part of the program.”

Selecting the right music is very important to impress judges and entertain fans. Wagner’s song selections have matched her athletic style, including Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” performed by the London Philharmonic.

“It’s an awesome piece of music and Led Zeppelin is an incredible band. I consider myself a stronger skater so I try to find something that has a dynamic beat, something I can see myself skating to every day.”

With a solid performance in Kent Wagner could be that much closer to hearing the Star Spangled Banner played while standing on the podium in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Skate American runs Oct. 19-Oct. 21 at the ShoWare Center in Kent.

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Reigning U.S. figure skating champ returning to Northwest roots