BOSTON – In a sport full of divas, Ashley Wagner is an ice queen without ego. Warm and quick-witted, Wagner has become the eloquent voice of the U.S. Olympic figure skating team.
"Her world is not all skating, it's not four minutes with all the sequins on," her mother Melissa James said before Wagner's free skate at the U.S. championships.
"I think that we just never let skating become the issue," said James, a retired schoolteacher. "We were doing too many things, moving, working, going to soccer games. I knew it was important to get them out of the rink and keep them in public school. I think a lot of these kids are growing up in too small of a microcosm. Parents need to let go and let these kids make mistakes."
Wagner's father, Eric, was a military officer, and the family moved eight times before settling in Alexandria, Va. when she was 11. Along the way, Wagner learned the life skills that helped her rebound after bitter disappointment, including narrowly missing the 2010 Olympics team.
After the two-time national champ had a disastrous free skate on Saturday, Wagner looked straight into the TV camera and mouthed, "I'm sorry" to her mother. Finishing fourth, she tweeted, "I am so sorry. I let you all down."
For family and friends, fans and even U.S. Figure Skating, no apology was needed. Wagner, 22, was selected for the Olympic team over third-place finisher Mirai Nagasu based on her body of work. "It's the results and participation in events over the course of the past year-plus," said U.S. Figure Skating president Pat St. Peter of the selection criteria. "So if you look at Ashley Wagner's record and performance, she's got the top credentials of any of our female athletes."
Wagner has the talent, and the track record, to contend for a medal, though her stumbles in Boston have dimmed expectations. Following a performance she deemed "an embarrassment," Wagner is now more determined to succeed.
"The USFSA has given me the opportunity to go into the Olympics and make everyone forget about this performance, which I am fully prepared and very excited to do," she said.