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Speculation Erupts Following Ashley Wagner’s Withdrawal

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One of the most talked about moments from Skate America was the withdrawal of Ashley Wagner. Ashley was in sixth place after her short program and the favorite going into the event. She was  almost two minutes into her free skate when she stopped and skated over to her coach. She then skated over to the referee and officially withdrew . It was later revealed that it was due to an ankle infection.

What makes this whole situation so mysterious is that she had revealed earlier that she had a topical ankle infection and was taking antibiotics for it. It sounded as if the infection had been resolved and there was no indication of her being in pain. There are so many theories surrounding this situation  because it is odd. Why didn’t Ashley withdraw before the actual event started? Why did it seem like the infection wasn’t a big deal beforehand? There are several questions, but very few answers.

“I came here feeling that I could mentally will myself through these programs and pretend I wasn’t in pain,” an emotional Wagner said on NBC. “But my focus is nationals. I’m out there on the ice, and I’m in so much pain. I’m here to be national champion. I’m here to make it onto the Olympic team. At the end of the day, that is my goal this season, so there’s no point in me going out and skating a program in pain and injuring myself further.”

Rumors circulate

Some speculate that Wagner had heard Bradie Tennell’s score, knew she missed her opening combo and withdrew before she could finish potentially off the podium. Others speculate that she is concerned about having an injury and needing a bye from the federation to get onto the Olympic Team. Certainly Ashley wants to make it onto the Olympic Team this time without any type of complication, so that could very well be the case.

Wagner is a fighter through and through, but she has seemed somewhat weary this season. She has been competing at the senior level for 11 years, she could be getting tired of the repetition of the sport. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was legitimately in severe pain, but was battling mentally about why she was even skating in this event. Ashley had mentioned during her media call that she felt like the Grand Prix Final was a “blessing and a curse.” She knew that if she made the Final she would have less time to train for the U.S. Championships.

Ashley’s goal is to make the Olympic Team, not make the Grand Prix Final. In her mind she very well could have been wondering why she was fighting so hard to compete at Skate America, which she has competed at three other times. She probably already guessed that she was going to give a mediocre performance and the pain was eating away at her. She has been known to withhold injuries from the media in the past, so maybe the ankle was in worse condition than she had originally let on.

Longevity

Wagner has also been doing a lot of promotional advertising for her sponsors. In her Rink side Reactions video she said, “I felt like I had no training underneath my belt.” So not only has Ashly been off the ice for promotional reasons, she was also off the ice for a week and a half with the ankle infection. She knew she wasn’t going to win Skate America with little training, she was in pain, she knew the U.S. Championships were more important than this and she knew that the Grand Prix Final would not be the best thing for her right now. My opinion is that she was battling with these arguments in her mind, maybe even while she was skating in the free skate and just called it.

There’s a reason why many skaters don’t stay in the sport as long as Ashley has. It’s a rough road physically and a lot of hard work that you have to be willing to put in year after year. I do wonder if it would have best if she had taken one year off after the 2014 Olympic Games, just to have given her some freedom and life outside of the rink and outside of competing. You have to respect all of the years and the amount of dedication it has taken for Ashley to stay in the sport as long as she has, but I do wonder if it has taken a toll.

It’s hard to say what Wagner was really feeling or thinking while she was out there, but she knows what she needs to do, she knows where she wants to go. Regardless of all of the speculation and opinions out there (including my own), Ashley did what she thought was best for her and fans need to respect her decision. Wagner may be a role model and her athletic journey may be on public display, but at the end of the day this is her life and she has to live with the choices she makes. Here’s how she describes her decision to withdraw on Instagram:

This is a post I don’t really know how to write. A little over a week ago I was diagnosed with an ankle infection inside of my right foot. I came into this event mentally willing myself to push through this, but every step I took on the ice was shooting nauseating pain into my body. After my first axel, the padding on my foot shifted and pressure was put directly onto my injury. I tried to fight through the next two jumps. Sometimes, you have to take yourself out of the shoes of an athlete and put yourself into the shoes of a professional. My goal is to be national champion. My goal is to make it to the Olympics the way I want to. I’m the only one in control of this destiny and I have proven time and time again that I am a fighter. I weighed my options with a very heavy heart, and decided it was best for me to stop trying to prove to everyone how strong I am, and accept that I needed to heal. My heart is heavy and I know that I have so much more to offer as an athlete. Thanks to the amazing staff at @usfigureskating for supporting me through this. Thanks to Raf for standing by my decision. Thank you to everyone out there sending their love my way. I feel it and it’s because of all of you and your support that I know I will come back stronger than ever and be the fighter I know I am.

A post shared by Ashley Wagner (@ashwagner2010) on

2 Comments

  1. Chris Ransom

    November 27, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Ashley is mature enough to forgo comparing herself to another while deciding to learn how to heal.

  2. Jens Lyon

    November 27, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    I don’t believe the speculation about Ashley getting freaked out over Bradie Tennell’s score. Ashley is a seasoned professional, not some ten-year-old competing at the juvenile level. Bradie’s performance was amazing, but it was one competition. I’m not going to coronate her as the future of U.S. figure skating based on one competition, although I certainly want her to have a successful future in this sport.

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