World silver medalist 2016 and 2014 Olympic bronze medalist in the Team Event, Ashley Wagner (USA) started her season with the right foot by winning Skate America 2016.
Q=interviewer (Tatjana Flade for ISU), A= Ashley Wagner
Q: How does it feel to start with a win at your first Grand Prix this season, Skate America?
A: It’s nice. It’s kind of security. I think going into Cup of China, knowing that I have that first place I’m kind of relaxed for this event and continue to use it as practice under pressure. I think the short program here (at Skate America) was a 100 percent of what I wanted. The long program was a nice kind of reminder of where I am and I think that performing in practice and performing under pressure you can be a two different levels of fitness so for me I think I need to keep on pushing a little bit more training-wise to get ready to perform under pressure.
Q: What is the most important lesson you take into the next event?
A: I would say that the most important lesson is that I need to adjust my program, because the timing for my spins there is not enough right now. I think that was a nice thing to know and beyond that just physically continue pushing.
Q: How you are preparing now heading into Cup of China?
A: I have a very tough Grand Prix season, because it is home for two weeks and go, home for two weeks and go, hopefully. It doesn’t really give me any time to come down. I just have to kind of keep training through. Raf (Rafael Arutunian, coach) and I have been talking about really pacing myself this season. This is why my long program is kind of at the point of training that it was so far. So going home it will just be about concentrating on the second half of that long program and continue to push the short.
Q: The short program, “Sweet Dreams”, suits you really well. How did you pick it?
A: I was thinking this is my last couple of years skating. I don’t know when I’m retiring, but I know I have only so many programs left and I wanted it to be so fun, like a show program. My short last year was kind of that same feeling and I felt so strong when I did that. I thought about all the music I love and I perform this as a show program. I felt so sexy and tough when I did it and I thought why not making it into a short. I think that that’s a show program and I get to skate it in competition and I love every second of it, so that’s kind of what gets me through it. We’re not supposed to say badass, but I think that’s what I want to be; this tough, badass woman. I think it suits my personality, it suits my character and it suits my competitive mentality, which is what I wanted.
Q: The long program to “Exogenesis Symphony” is quite different.
A: I wanted something that is totally different from what I typically do. I usually do something with some kind of a character, some kind of a storyline. I’m really good at that, that’s my strength. So I wanted to save that for the Olympic year, so I’m not doing the same thing always and people would be refreshed by it instead of thinking that’s all I can do. It has kind of helped me, because it has forced me to become a better actress on the ice. There aren’t words or a storyline people telling how to feel, so I have to really get into that program so that people know what it is about or they have an idea what I’m trying to say. It’s been a challenge, but it’s been really good for me and I love it. It’s so true to my heart and the feelings are so real and it’s the favorite program I’ve ever skated. This one is like therapy at the end of the day, it’s so emotional, chaotic and a release. I just love skating it. It’s absolutely my own, I channel my own story throughout it. The way that I see it, it’s kind of going through something and having this person in your life and all of a sudden things start to go wrong and it gets to the point when it’s so bad you just wish you could just take it all away and start over. But that’s not how life works. It’s kind of about finishing it up and being able to let go and forgive yourself, before you can really be okay again. It’s complicated and you need Kleenex.
Q: The music is just beautiful.
A: I was a bit intimidated, because I know that Jeremy (Abbott) set the bar so high, but I wanted to do something that hopefully people see as a totally different version of that.
Q: What did change for you after you won the silver medal at Worlds and this dream had come true?
A: I didn’t let anything in my life change. For the most part I think it made the Olympics seem very real and like it is something that could be achievable. And that is inspiring. So I think it really just inspired my training this summer and I worked very hard, because I felt like, you know what, I could almost do it this last time and what if my jumps got better, what if my spins got better, what if my programs were just so much better and I think that is just all it did – it refreshed my energy to train.
Q: What goals are you setting for yourself this season?
A: This season I want to get back up to the world podium. That’s my main goal. Getting through the Grand Prix season, I don’t have any serious goal. I would love to be at the Grand Prix Final again, but every program is a stepping stone to the Olympics. So I’m trying to use every competition for what it is and practice competing.
Q: What do you think you need to beat World Champion Evgenia Medvedeva?
A: I need to be a robot (laughs). She is insane, she is tough. I think the game I have to play is – I just have to max out every jump that I have. I won’t go in being the technical strongest competitor. She’s going to have me on that, always. But if I do a triple flip-triple toe it has to be the nicest triple flip-triple toe, if I do triple loop, it has to be the nicest triple loop. Everything has to be maxed out on quality and that’s what is going to give me a fighting chance.
Q: Thank you very much for the interview and good luck for the rest of the season!