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U.S. champion aims for Olympics, awaits Kent showcase
For Ashley Wagner, it's more than just show and tell.
Events like the Hilton HHonors Skate America at the ShoWare Center on Oct. 19-21 bring out the best in the reigning U.S. ladies figure skating champion.
She intends to compete and win, meeting her high expectations.
"For me, it's so exciting because I worked so hard to get to this level of my skating," said Wagner, a strong hopeful to make the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team. "So now that I'm at this level of my skating, I can travel around, perform and compete.
"It's extremely rewarding. All the hard work is paying off."
Wagner is one of several national champions who are expected to join a strong international presence for the showcase on Kent ice. Olympic champion Evan Lysacek – who intends to defend his Olympic title at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia – is among the big names scheduled to appear in Kent.
Other current U.S. champions – Jeremy Abbott (men's), Caydee Denney and John Coughlin (pairs) and Meryl Davis and Charlie White (ice dancing) – also have been invited to Kent.
Hilton HHonors Skate America is the opening event of the International Skating Union's Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series.
Such events enable the 21-year-old Wagner to remain sharp and focused between the long, hard regiment of training.
The 5-foot-3, German-born Wagner trains an average of 20-25 hours a week, just on ice. She also puts in long hours in the gym, doing cardio, running, hot yoga and swimming to enhance flexibility, endurance and strength.
All that preparation enables Wagner to produce a technically sound, compact eight-minute routine on ice. She has emerged over the past few seasons, adding a triple flip-triple toe in her short program, something she calls "a necessity."
Wagner performed well in her short and free skate programs at the pressure-packed 2012 World Championships, where she finished fourth overall. She is the current Four Continents champion and a two-time (2008 and 2010) U.S. bronze medalist. She has won five medals in the Grand Prix Series.
"The public might not know how just hard of a sport it is," said Wagner, of Alexandria, Va., who trains under coaches John Nicks and Phillip Mills in Southern California. "My job is to make it look perfect and easy. But at the same time, they don't really know that we're on the ice four hours, maybe even more, a day. ... So much work goes into it."
Wagner began to skate at age 5 in Alaska. She grew up in a military family, having moved nine times in her younger years.
The frequent travel and changes matured her beyond her years.
"It has made me very adaptable," she said.
After Kent, there is more travel associated with a full schedule in front of Wagner as she prepares for the 2013 Worlds at London, Ontario, Canada in March and the chance to qualify for the Olympics.
"I just don't want to go to the Olympics, I want to go and be competitive," said Wagner, who is ranked 12th in the world.
After her skating career, Wagner plans to pursue a career in sports broadcasting and remain in figure skating as an ambassador. She supports Classroom Champions, the Wounded Warriors Fund and Skate for Hope.
Wagner enjoys the opportunity to visit Kent and perform for the audience.
"It's great to be coming out to the Northwest. The fans are awesome," Wagner said. "Everyone is going to be able to fill it up pretty easily and make it nice and noisy. It will make for a wonderful event.
"The audience can expect great competition. We have some really top-notched skaters coming in," she said. "It's going to be an awesome event."
Tickets are available at www.2012skateamerica.com/tickets, the ShoWare ticket office or by calling 253-856-6999.
NBC will broadcast live coverage of Skate America on Sunday, Oct. 21.
Skaters will compete for $180,000 in prize money at the Kent event, including $18,000 for the winners in each division; $13,000 for second; $9,000 for third; $3,000 for fourth; and $2,000 for fifth.
For more information about the Grand Prix Series, including the complete list of events and skater selections, go to www.isu.org.