While the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships were certainly filled with some exciting and memorable moments, perhaps the best part of it all was the fact that we no longer have to hear the words “ladies medal drought” annually or read the same recycled articles year after year with the age-old question of, “who will end it? Ashley or Gracie?” Ashley Wagner certainly answered that question in Boston, when she gave us two more iconic performances, a well-deserved silver medal, and countless other moments off the ice. It’s time for a new storyline in U.S. ladies figure skating, and Ashley is going to be the main character leading up to the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang. But first, lets reflect back on Ashley’s amazing accomplishment last week:
- She Defeated Her Short Program Demons In Style: When Ashley first unveiled her new short program to Hip Hip Chin Chin at Skate Canada this season, I think we all knew that this was going to be a very special program. It highlighted everything we love about Ashley: her untouchable musicality, out-of-this-world sass, and ability to immerse herself into a character. But a series of mistakes throughout the season left us all a little disappointed, knowing that she was capable of something truly amazing in this program. The return of Marissa Castelli’s lucky dress certainly worked in Ashley’s favor, as she delivered her highest scoring short program ever, and some would argue that she even got a little underscored. The jumps were easy, the facials were fierce, and she hit every nuance of the music with a new level of confidence that we have ever seen from her. She truly put it all together when it really counted.
- The Celebration Fall: I think we were all jumping around with her when Ashley finished her stellar short program, but the thrill of it all got the best of her. She took a tumble, but thank the skating gods that it was AFTER her program was over. She had a smile on her face the whole time and managed to laugh it all off, but I suppose that's not too difficult when you just skated a personal best at the World Championships.
- She Skated Last - And Owned It: Sitting in fourth place after the short program was exactly where Wagner wanted to be - an underdog, but in fighting distance for the podium. While skating last in the freeskate at the World Championships is a terrifying place to be in and she easily could have crumbled under the pressure, Ashley rose to the occasion and skated the program of her life. She had the highest program component scores of the night, and also the highest scoring element of the night. I wasn’t even there and you could hear the energy of the crowd building and building as the program reached its climax. She blew the roof off of the TD Garden, and it was with arguably her best free skate program to date. It’s going to be hard to beat the magic of Moulin Rouge, but I can’t wait to see what Ashley has in store for next season.
- Ash And Raf Are The Dream Team: I don't think there has ever been a skater and coach relationship that has worked as well as Ashley Wagner and Rafael Arutunian. There's no doubt that he is quite a frightening man, as I'm sure we all remember the death glare he gave Ashley after her free skate at nationals. It was nice to finally see a (slightly) softer side of Raf when he told Ashley, "You give me big hug" in his thick Russian accent after her long program. He has been with Wagner through her lowest lows, and it is nice to finally see them reaping the rewards of their hard work together.
- She Continues To Be The Most Quotable Skater Ever: The refreshing thing about Ashley Wagner is that what you see is what you get. She won’t hold back on her feelings about anything, and her world silver medal provided her with much to talk about. Her press conference went from comparing herself to a fine wine to the discussion of witch craft, (shoutout to Adam), not to mention that she was already discussing how she was going to improve for next season less than an hour after the most significant accomplishment of her career. Ashley isn't even close to being done yet. Ashley Wagner will be turning 25 this month, and she's never looked better. She truly is like a fine wine, getting better with age. After putting together two clean and inspired programs when many had already counted her out, Ashley proved to the world that she belongs and is here to stay. Having been on the scene since 2008, it only seems fitting that Wagner was the one to end the medal drought for the U.S. ladies, and we can officially stop asking her about it. Here's to many more shoulder shimmies, hair colors, and medals to come.