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U.S. Figure Skating Breaks Away from Ashley Wagner

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As soon as Michelle Kwan hung up her skates, U.S. Figure Skating was on the hunt for their next big star. They searched for someone likable and beautiful that fans would rally behind. Many times they bet on the wrong horse, but eventually they settled for what was right in front of them, Ashley Wagner.

U.S. Figure Skating needs a star. They want fans for the sport and so they push different ladies to the forefront in hopes that fans will get behind them and ratings will go up. Ashley Wagner has never been their first choice. Regardless, Ashley has hung around and consistently proved herself. Throughout her 10 years in the senior ranks Wagner has collected hundreds and hundreds of fans. Ashley has not had the international success that Michelle Kwan enjoyed, but throughout her career she has made noteworthy accomplishments that have made her a consistent force within the sport of U.S. ladies figure skating.

Career Highlights

Let’s do a quit recap of Ashley’s career. Ashley Wagner was the one who broke an 11-year losing streak at the World Championships in 2016, where she captured the silver medal. She is a three-time U.S. Champion (2012, 2013, 2015). Ashley is the first U.S. woman since Michelle Kwan to to win back-to-back U.S. titles. Wagner has a bronze medal from the 2014 Olympic team event. She has countless Grand Prix medals and has been one of the few U.S. ladies to consistently make it to the Grand Prix Final.

Whether U.S. Figure Skating wants to admit it or not, Ashley has done a lot for the sport of U.S. figure skating. This young generation was not around for the Michelle Kwan era, but they have been around for the Ashley Wagner era. It certainly has not been as glorious as the days of Michelle Kwan, but Ashley has been that skater that has always been there, competing each season, bringing the headlines and the drama. So when U.S. Figure Skating decided to kick Ashley to the curb, fans are now confused and angry for her.

The criteria to make the Olympic Team was clear. U.S. Figure Skating dangled the criteria carrot in front of Ashley and instead of sprinting this season, Ashley did a light jog. Wagner has not been as focused this season. She has not seemed well trained and that fire that we have seen from her in times past has grown a bit dim, so is her time up? U.S. Figure Skating certainly thinks so. They could have given her PCS a boost during this championships so that Ashley would have placed third instead of Karen, thus putting her in a better position to be selected for the team, but they deliberately chose not to.

Olympic Team Criteria

Samuel Auxier, the president of U.S. Figure Skating, said in the press conference this morning that the criteria used to select the Olympic Team was to choose the athletes with the best chance of winning medals. He went on to speak about the tiers of criteria. He pointed out that at the 2017 World Championships, Karen came in fourth while Ashley came in seventh. He went on to mention that Karen finished with the bronze at this U.S. Championships, while Ashley finished in fourth. He claimed that it was a “straightforward decision” and that there was “very little debate.” They voted and it was apparently unanimous that Bradie Tennell, Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen should be named to the Olympic Team.

It is interesting to me that it seems like the selection committee did not take into consideration the fact that Ashley did win a bronze medal in the team event at the Olympics or that she was the only U.S. lady in that group who had even won a medal at the World Championships. When U.S. Figure Skating said in their criteria that they were going to look at an athletes “full body of work”, they were looking at the last twelve months (which they did state originally), but they did not seem to consider other competitions like the Grand Prix this season or what Ashley has been capable of doing in the past.

Is This The End for Ashley?

U.S. Figure Skating wants fans to become invested in the sport and in the athletes, but when they switch out the most well known skater in exchange for the newest and shiniest competitor that no one really knows anything about, there’s going to be fall out. Not only that, but the way that U.S. Figure Skating is treating Ashley Wagner seems somewhat cruel. It’s like they broke up with her and never told her. She’s angry because she began to rely on the support of U.S. Figure Skating and all of a sudden it wasn’t there.

If Ashley Wagner would have done her job and skated well during this season in particular, this could have been a very different story. Ashley needs to take responsibility for herself and where she didn’t come through this season. At the same time, U.S. Figure Skating did not even give Ashley a consolation prize. They could have at least sent her to the World Championships, but once again they chose not to. They have selected Wagner to go to the Four Continents Championships, which she normally forgoes competing at in preparation for the World Championships. Is this really how they want to end things with an athlete that has been the face of the sport for the last 10 years? This is not the way that Ashley Wagner’s career should end.

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