Figure skater Ashley Wagner back home, proving 'age is just a number'
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Sitting on a couch on a day off during a whistle-stop tour, Ashley Wagner looks every bit one of the top athletes on Earth.
That is until she makes an admission.
"I think that I'm definitely the Martian of figure skating," Wagner said with a smile, trying to explain why, at now 26 years old, she is still one of the best figure skaters in the world. "Age is just a number, and I think people, in general, like to focus on female athlete's age and define them by that, and my job is just to show them how irrelevant that is."
She's made that age irrelevant, in a sport which tends to call people over the hill in their 20s. She won a team bronze at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, and the U.S. Championship a year later. In 2016, she was the World Silver Medalist in Ladies figure skating, and won Skate America.
They are accomplishments she brings to town during a brief stay in a place she has called her "heart home." Wagner will appear in the "Stars on Ice" tour at KeyArena Saturday and a show in Wenatchee Sunday.
"I love coming back here. Moving around so much as a kid, this area, in particular, coming back to Seattle, where my family, my parents took us so we could get a sense of home and belong somewhere," Wagner said.
She counts Seabeck as a place near and dear to her heart. That's where her grandfather was a park ranger at Scenic Beach State Park and where she first thought about the possibility of figure skating long term.
"Such a sense of peace and comfort and being at home. Seabeck was really home for me, (where) family would come together, we'd celebrate Christmas."
Wagner would bounce from place to place, as a child in a military family, and skated in places like Mountlake Terrace, Tacoma, Spanaway, and Portland. She said the chaotic upbringing, with the constant moving, was given some sense of normalcy in the rink.
"Rinks are universal. There are sheets of ice, kids skating, (I had) something in common with these kids. I was painfully shy as a kid," Wagner said.
She said she doesn't plan on giving up the rink anytime soon and is still fully focused on a spot on the U.S. team at the Pyeongchang, South Korea, Olympics in February.
"I feel like I'm technically stronger than I have ever been," Wagner said. She said she has worked on her strength training to help with jumps, and endurance, which will help her navigate a busy schedule up until the U.S. Nationals and the Olympics.
"I'm not quite satisfied with my career at this point," she said, "I discovered my passion at five years. I owe it through to that kid, to see it to the end."
You can watch Wagner at several other top skaters at Stars on Ice, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at KeyArena. The same skaters perform at the Toyota Town Center in Wenatchee on Sunday Night.