Ashley Wagner

Ashley Wagner has Worlds medal in sight, but aims higher

Leave a comment

If this is the year the U.S. women end their medal drought, Ashley Wagner is the favored skater to make the podium at the World Championships next week.

“I need to prove now more than ever that I belong,” Wagner said Monday, pausing before finishing her thought, “and I think Nationals definitely did that for me.”

Wagner, 23, is a military brat who takes pleasure in continuing to skate after her critics called her to step aside for the next generation of teens to pass her by.

Her best career performances came this season, rallying for bronze at the Grand Prix Final in December and reclaiming the U.S. title at Nationals in January, shattering records for her third crown.

Wagner now leads an American trio into the World Championships in Shanghai, looking to keep dominant Russia from a one-two-three sweep and to capture the first U.S. women’s medal since 2006.

How will she pull that off?

“I need to get all the levels on my spins and my footwork and have a clean-edge [triple] Lutz,” Wagner said. “I know that it’s going to be a little bit more difficult at Worlds because it’s going to be compared against many, many flawless triple Lutzes. So I’m going need to make sure that that outside edge is very clear. And the triple-triple [jump] combination, which I think at the past couple competitions I’ve shown I’m really capable of doing it. Now I just really need to consistently keep on delivering it.”

The mountain is high to overtake the two best Russians — Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Yelena Radionova. Wagner landed seven triple jumps in a clean free skate at the Grand Prix Final and still scored more than five points fewer than Tuktamysheva and Radionova.

But the bronze medal may be up for grabs, as it was at the Grand Prix Final.

The third Russian, Anna Pogorilaya, fell in both of her Grand Prix Final programs and then finished more than 17 points behind Tuktamysheva and Radionova at the European Championships in January.

Nobody in the women’s field next week comes in already owning an Olympic or World Championships individual medal.

Wagner counters the Russians with experience they can’t match. This will be her fifth World Championships appearance.

“I can offer a level of emotional connection to my performances,” Wagner said. “I’ve lived through it all.”

Wagner will also be competing against countrywomen Gracie Gold, the top American last year in the Olympic season, and Polina Edmunds, coming off a breakthrough victory at the Four Continents Championship in February.

Gracie Gold goes into Worlds after turbulent season

They are the same three women who finished fifth (Gold), seventh (Wagner) and eighth (Edmunds) at the 2014 World Championships, one month after they made up the U.S. team in Sochi.

It’s a rare window of consistency for the U.S., which fell behind Japan and then Russia in the last decade. It’s cyclical, Wagner said.

“It’s kind of like how training hubs change as years go by,” Wagner said. “Colorado Springs is a training hub. Then Boston is a training hub. It’s just a natural process for different countries to be stronger at different times. Japan was reigning with Mao Asada for a long time. Right now, they’re building up their junior ladies field. … Russia had a drought for a very long time. Now look at them. … I know that for the U.S. it’s uncommon to have such a long drought, but I think that we now finally have a very talented field.”

Russia had zero women in the top seven at the 2010 Olympics. Japan, with Asada taking the year off and perhaps done for good, is not expected to factor into the medals next week.

In January 2014, Wagner was in tears after she finished fourth at the U.S. Championships but was picked for the Olympic team over third-place Mirai Nagasu due to her stronger recent résumé.

In February 2014, she became best known at the Olympics for an Internet meme.

Now, Wagner gushes about her sport.

“I am madly in love with skating,” she said. “As long as I can physically and mentally push through this sport, I’ll be around.”

She hopes that a World Championships medal will not be the cherry on top of her career. She wants more.

“The whole reason I’m in this sport is to get that Olympic medal,” said Wagner, who does own a Sochi team event bronze but was seventh individually. “[If I win a Worlds medal] I think I would start thinking ahead, start planning to figure out how I would try to take over the world.”

Polina Edmunds hopes reputation doesn’t impact Worlds

Steve Penny, ex-USA Gymnastics president, arrested on charge of tampering with Larry Nassar evidence

AP
Leave a comment

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Former USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny was arrested Wednesday after a Texas grand jury indicted him, alleging he tampered with evidence in the sexual assault investigation of now-imprisoned gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

In a statement issued late Wednesday night, the Walker County district attorney’s office in Huntsville, Texas, said Penny was arrested by a fugitive task force in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and awaits extradition to Texas.

The third-degree felony is punishable by two to 10 years in prison. It was unclear if Penny has an attorney. Messages left with USA Gymnastics weren’t immediately returned.

Penny resigned under pressure in March 2017.

The indictment alleges Penny ordered the removal of documents from the Karolyi Ranch relating to Nassar’s activities at the ranch, near Huntsville. It alleges Penny acted after learning that Texas Rangers and Walker County authorities were investigating the ranch, which was being managed by USA Gymnastics.

The indictment states the documents were delivered to Penny at the USA Gymnastics headquarters in Indianapolis, they have not been recovered and their whereabouts are unknown to authorities.

Nassar was charged in June with sexually assaulting six minors in Walker County. A former sports medicine trainer, Debra Van Horn, was also indicted on one count of second-degree sexual assault of a child. Prosecutors said Van Horn was charged as “acting as a party” with Nassar.

In Michigan, Nassar was sentenced earlier this year to decades in prison, after hundreds of women and girls accused him of molesting them with his hands under the guise of medical treatment. They said the abuse went as far back as the 1990s while he worked at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

Nassar was a former team doctor for both the women’s program at USA Gymnastics as well as Michigan State University athletics.

In Texas, a number of gymnasts who had trained at the Karolyi Ranch have said Nassar sexually assaulted them there. Walker County prosecutors have said there is no corroborated evidence of wrongdoing by world-renowned gymnastics coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi, and the couple has denied wrongdoing.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Biles leads 6-woman team for world championships

Kip Keino, Kenyan Olympic legend, hands himself over to police in corruption case

AP
Leave a comment

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Running great Kip Keino handed himself over to police in Kenya on Thursday and is under arrest, set to face charges of corruption and abuse of office that threaten the reputation of one of track and field’s most revered figures.

The 78-year-old Keino, former Kenyan sports minister Hassan Wario and two other former sports ministry officials surrendered to police to meet a 6 a.m. deadline.

They are due in court Friday to plead to the charges relating to the misuse of more than half a million dollars meant to fund Kenya’s team at the Rio Olympics. Keino was president of the Kenyan Olympic committee at the time.

Keino is a two-time Olympic champion, an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee and was one of the first athletes to be inducted into track and field’s half of fame in 2012.

He was the forerunner for generations of Kenyan distance-running champions, winning the 1500m at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

He is accused of playing a role in the misappropriation of more than $545,000 of government money set aside for Kenyan athletes at the Rio Games two years ago. Keino and six other current and former Olympic and government officials were accused by prosecutors of the embezzlement of more than $200,000 and misuse of more than $300,000.

Relating to the misuse, prosecutors allege the seven wasted more than $150,000 on unused air tickets to Rio, overpaid allowances amounting to nearly $150,000, and incurred tens of thousands of dollars of other expenditure on “unauthorized persons” — people who were not Olympic officials or athletes.

The Daily Nation newspaper in Kenya reported that Keino will be charged with giving his son nearly $25,000 of Team Kenya’s money for an air ticket to Brazil and spending money in Rio. The exact charges against the four who reported to police Thursday morning will be published when they appear in court.

Three other officials, current Olympic committee secretary general Francis Kinyili Paul, Rio team manager Stephen Arap Soi and former sports ministry official Richard Ekai, appeared in court Monday. They were charged with multiple counts of corruption and abuse of office. They pleaded not guilty and were granted bail, with a judge saying the trial of all seven would start Nov. 16.

Keino, possibly Kenya’s most respected sportsman, handed himself over to police at about 5.30 a.m., the Daily Nation reported, to beat the deadline.

Wario is a former member of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s cabinet and now the ambassador to Austria, meaning the corruption case reaches upper levels of the government. Ekai, his former sports ministry colleague, was recently appointed Kenyan ambassador to Russia.

Details of a chaotic Kenyan Olympic trip emerged in 2016, with allegations of joy riders being given thousands of dollars in allowances and hundreds of thousands of dollars and equipment meant for Kenyan athletes disappearing.

Despite that, Kenya finished second in the track medals table and had its most successful Olympics.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: Bolt scores first 2 goals for pro soccer team; decision next