American figure skater Ashley Wagner faced plenty of scrutiny heading into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and while she silenced many of her critics with a good showing in the individual women's event, it wasn't quite enough to medal.
Wagner finished with a score of 193.20, good enough for sixth place, as Adelina Sotnikova Russia took home gold while Yuna Kim of South Korea and Carolina Kostner of Italy won silver and bronze.
|2||Yuna Kim||South Korea||219.11|
|4||Gracie Gold||United States||205.53|
|7||Ashley Wagner||United States||193.20|
|9||Polina Edmunds||United States||183.25|
|10||Mae Berenice Meite||France||174.53|
Wagner is a two-time American champion; however, her spot on the 2014 Olympic team was a hot-button issue. She finished fourth at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships due to a number of uncharacteristic mistakes, yet she was still named to the team because of her impressive resume.
After a strong short program in the team event helped the United States win a bronze medal, Wagner was able to settle in. She proved a lot to herself as well as her detractors with that performance, and she felt as though it took plenty of pressure off her, according to Liz Clarke of The Washington Post:
I'm here; I'm living my dream. At the end of the day, I have been here for so long that it's not that the Olympics are any less glamorous to me— but I'm used to it now. I feel I'm more settled. My dream has already pretty much been accomplished, so this is really more about me going out and skating than focusing on competing or being nervous.
Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post spoke about Wagner's performance considering all of the discussion around her presence on the team:
Got to admire Ashley Wagner's fight. Pure determination ever since the Oly Trials.— Sally Jenkins (@sallyjenx) February 20, 2014
Despite the disappointing result, Wagner was pleased with her performance (via Kelly Whiteside of USA Today):
She won't medal but as Ashley Wagner as said to her coach, "I'm proud of that, no matter what."— Kelly Whiteside (@KellyWhiteside) February 20, 2014
There didn't appear to be any signs of nerves during Wagner's individual short program on Wednesday. Wagner looked confident and steady as ever, which resulted in a sixth-place standing heading into the free skate.
As Richard Deitsch of SI.com highlighted, Wagner was one of three American women in the top seven after the first half of the competition:
The U.S. women are fourth (Gracie Gold), sixth (Ashley Wagner) and seventh (Polina Edmunds) after the fig short. Kim Yu-na leads.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) February 19, 2014
Wagner had a famously peeved reaction to the score her short program received in the team event, and while she was more subdued on Wednesday, she still wasn't particularly happy with the judges awarding her a 65.21, according to Nick McCarvel of NBCOlympics.com:
Wagner scores a 65.21 to put her in fifth behind Lipnitskaya. Pointing at board, unhappy with score and can't hide it #Sochi2014— Nick McCarvel (@NickMcCarvel) February 19, 2014
Despite that, compliments rained down on Wagner following her individual short program.
American men's figure skater Jeremy Abbott praised the fierceness of Wagner's routine:
Three-time Olympic figure skater Todd Eldredge had positive things to say, too, and wished Wagner luck on the free skate:
Even though Wagner's sixth-place showing in the short program was respectable and then some, she faced an uphill climb in terms of reaching the podium. She entered the free program about nine points behind Italy's Carolina Kostner in third, so the margin was fairly substantial.
Points can be made up in the free skate, but the numbers simply didn't break in Wagner's favor. Perhaps some will consider Wagner's finish off the podium a failure, but the truth of the matter is that she was part of an extremely talented and competitive field. Even so, Wagner proved that she belongs among the world's elite skaters.
Were Wagner's Olympics a success?
Like any great Olympian, Wagner is probably somewhat disappointed about not winning an individual medal. Winning team bronze likely takes much of the sting away, though, and there isn't anyone who can take that hardware away from her.
Wagner winning an individual Olympic medal would have made for a fantastic story of redemption, but it wasn't meant to be. She performed well enough to validate her spot in Sochi, though, and her American teammates have to be happy with the decision in retrospect.
Even without a podium finish on Thursday, Wagner, along with Gracie Gold and Polina Edmunds, proved that the present and future of American women's figure skating is in great hands.
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