Wagner believes she's found 'happy medium'

U.S. champion confident she, Czisny will earn third ladies spot for U.S. at 2013 worlds

Ashley Wagner feels figure skaters need to focus more on performance in order to draw in the audience.
Ashley Wagner feels figure skaters need to focus more on performance in order to draw in the audience. (Getty Images)


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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to
(03/29/2012) - Ashley Wagner, the 2012 U.S. champion, was quite happy after her solid practice session Thursday morning. Afterward, she graciously took the time to discuss her programs and views on the sport she loves. She now seems to have found what she defines as "the happy medium" between being a technical athlete and a performer. Her interview proved to be as fresh and lively (and powerful, too) as her own programs. How do you feel, being at worlds again?

Wagner: (Broad smile) It's a huge honor for me to represent my country and be a part of the team that will bring that third spot back to the U.S.! How has it been going so far?

Wagner: Excellent! The ice is good, and the venue is fabulous. As long as I keep my head over my shoulders, it will work out. You can lose your head?

Wagner: I have some nerves. (She thinks a little.) If I did not, I would not be here! But now I can handle them much better. How do you feel to be in Nice?

Wagner: I feel like I'm on vacation! The first two days I could go around the area. We went to Cannes. I can't say enough positive things about that place! I wish all world championships would be held in such places! (She laughs.) I would come more often!

The first time I went to worlds (in 2008), I was so young, you know. My roommate at the hotel is 16 years old (Mary Beth Marley, who skate pairs with Rockne Brubaker), and I can see how I was then. It can be so difficult at times. I am glad that I had a few years to grow and mature since that first time, and live without getting overwhelmed by the pressure of such a huge event. Last time we saw you in France, you were already a true athlete, very much in control of your technique. Now it seems that you've turned into a performer as well. How did you achieve that?

Wagner: That's Mr. Nicks. He is the "showman." Right from the day we started to work together, he made me practice each time like if I were performing in front of a full audience, with the smiles, look, expression, etc. The first two weeks it sounded crazy to me. Coming here, in that big rink, shows me how right he was.

I now have a better understanding of what the audience expects. Mr. Nicks has an amazing idea of an audience's expectations from a program. So he can tell me to look more intense in such sequence, or, on the contrary, to use a softer expression. I learned to bring the same intensity Nina (the character in Black Swan Wagner portrays in her free skate) has. She started as a very innocent young lady and then her confidence and intensity developed. How then do you feel you are relating to the audience now?

Wagner: My goal is to make the audience feel that they are skating with me. I have to draw their attention so that they feel they are living the performance with me.

At a time when figure skating is not as popular as it used to be in the United States, we need more performers to draw the audience.

I like to show people that I enjoy what I'm doing. I don't want to make only a program, or give them the feeling that I'm just doing a job.

I think that I have turned into a performer now, even though I, of course, need to remain concentrated and focused on my technical elements. I have found the "happy medium" between being a technical athlete and a performer, I think.

When we devised my programs, we worked on some specific spots where I could get people in, where I can watch the audience and relate more to them. They are like "focal points" in the programs, I would say, where people can zoom in. The more people are behind you, the more judges will be behind you. That's how it works.

Components and performing are tied together. The more you perform, the higher components you get.