For close watchers of U.S. figure skating, the absence of a certain someone at the 2018 Olympics is probably still a bit of a shock. Where is Ashley Wagner, America's top figure skater at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi? She was cut from this year's team in a spate of unexpected scoring that surprised just about everyone. But Wagner has promised to be in PyeongChang, fulfilling her role as the U.S. figure skating team's alternate.
Wagner did not go quietly. The 26-year-old has become known as an outspoken spitfire in the otherwise demure world of figure skating. And when it came to the eyebrow-raising low scores doled out to her, Wagner's reputation for bluntness did not fail her.
At the U.S. figure skating championships in early January, Wagner said she was "absolutely furious" about the judges' scoring that put her in fourth place, just shy of a full spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Those scores were surprising for a good many experts on all-things-figure-skating too, especially given Wagner's three-time National Champion status, with a bronze medal from the 2014 Olympics to boot.
Wagner was asked if she regretted speaking out so candidly about her sense that she'd been underscored. "This is how I feel, and I feel I need to stick up for myself and I deliver when I needed to. But I want to be on that Olympic team, and I’m really mad that I’m in this position again," Wagner responded.
During the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, Wagner refused to stay silent about Vladimir Putin's repressive policies toward the LGBTQ community. The Russian government had signed into a law a prohibition on any "homosexual propaganda." That stipulation extended to such behaviors as holding hands or in any public way promoting gay rights. Offenders could be put in prison for up to two weeks.
At the time Wagner said, "I have such a firm stance on this that we should all have equal rights," later noting that spending her youth in the figure skating world had meant she "was surrounded by the LGBT community."
And she was also outspoken about the lack of enough forceful repudiation coming from the U.S. Olympic team about Putin's crackdown.
At the end of the day I'm an athlete, and that's what I'm focused on. But I felt that too many people are quiet and they're not comfortable sharing their opinion, and it's just my opinion.
Wagner's also had some choice words for the current president. Commenting on his remarks on the now-infamous Access Hollywood tape, Wagner said Trump was "absolutely disgusting."
Fans of Wagner will only get to see her skate in PyeongChang if one of the three other women figure skaters on the U.S. team — Bradie Tennell, Mirai Nagasu, and Karen Chen — are unable to perform. However, viewers everywhere may get treated to some of Wagner's signature unadorned commentary if she does show up on the "media side of things." Perhaps Wagner will join Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski — two former figure skating Olympians — in providing play-by-play narration of the competition? Wagner hasn't given any specifics as of now.
Wagner is also featured in Olympics ads for Toyota and Bridgestone Tires. Even just as an alternate on the U.S. women's figure skating team, Wagner is still easily the most recognizable face from the sport for many viewers. Her bronze medal in Sochi and subsequent wins in national and international competitions have solidified her place as one of the best skaters in the United States.
There's no word yet on whether or not Wagner will make a run for the 2020 Olympics team.