Ashley Wagner at Grand Prix Final: ‘Maybe this isn’t what I should be doing?’

AP
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — An encouraging message from a friend back home was all that figure skater Ashley Wagner needed to summon the right frame of mind in the middle of the Grand Prix Final.

Wagner finished fourth at the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona on Saturday, but it was almost a win in her books considering from how far back she’d come.

After a wretched short program, she had a stellar performance in the long program thanks to an inspiring conversation with training partner Adam Rippon, who was back in Los Angeles. The talk, and the Barcelona result, have boosted her confidence for her title defense at the U.S. Championships in January and, she hopes, the World Championships in Boston in March.

It all comes back to the phone call with Rippon from her hotel on Friday.

”I was saying, `Maybe this isn’t my place anymore, maybe this isn’t what I should be doing?”’ Wagner told The Associated Press. ”And he sat me down and said, ‘Maybe you should start listening to all these tweets that you send out, all these Instagram posts that say that you just love the sport, and maybe you should just skate because you love it, not think about the results, and the rest will follow.”’

Wagner said Rippon couldn’t have been more spot-on.

”I read what he said to me before I went out, and it just kind of let me relax,” she said. ”I just talked through my doubts with him, and he sent me a hard copy so that I could just look and remember. That’s what good friends are for.”

Wagner said it was crucial for her to perform as well as she did in her final competitive skate before Nationals. She said that to rebound like that ”was a lot more important than most people” would realize.

”The fact that I was able to better my personal best, it just shows that I am prepared this season,” said Wagner, who couldn’t hold back tears as she left the ice.

”Going into nationals after having three bad skates already, to add a fourth one on top of it, it would be very difficult to mentally be able to get onto the ice at nationals and feel in control,” she said.

”To show myself that it’s not a physical problem, it’s not a technical problem, it’s more of a mental thing that I’m capable of pushing beyond, that’s huge for me going into the Nationals.”

Wagner won her first Grand Prix outing this season, at Skate Canada, but was coming off a disappointing fourth-place finish at NHK Trophy in Japan two weeks earlier.

”The only thing that holds me back is myself, and often that is my toughest competition. So to be able to get out of my own way today was just such a treat,” she said. ”This season my lowest have been spectacularly low, but my highs have been personal bests. So I know what I’m capable of, I know that I can put together stellar performances. It’s just when I’m gonna let myself do that on a regular basis and not just kind of hope for the best.”

At Nationals, Wagner will likely dual with Gracie Gold, who finished fifth in Barcelona.

”It might not have been Gracie’s best performance here, but she always comes to nationals very prepared,” said Wagner, who set all U.S. scoring records when she won her third Nationals crown last year. ”So I’m not going to have any room for error next time.”

Gold was runner-up to Wagner at Nationals, but is not having a good season so far.

”We’ll have to reevaluate the jump content of my programs because I’ve only done one clean program this season,” Gold said. ”I’m pretty far behind in that regard and my consistency is lacking. Going to nationals will be extra motivation. It’s another competition. It determines the rest of the season and next season.”

Nationals in St. Paul, Minn., will qualify skaters for Worlds.

Wagner said it would ”be huge” for an American woman to win a Worlds medal for the first time since 2006.

”I think that’s what American figure skating needs. It needs a ladies’ medalist, and it’s time. We are both two extremely capable ladies,” she said. ”But you know, I’m not going to be able to get on that podium if I skate the two performances that I did here. I need to build on top of this long program and I need to have a short program that boosts me up, not something that is kind of dragging me down.”

MORE: Nancy Kerrigan finds news passion in figure skating

2023 World Alpine Skiing Championships TV, live stream schedule

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Every race of the world Alpine skiing championships airs live on Peacock from Feb. 6-19.

France hosts the biennial worlds in Meribel and Courchevel — six women’s races, six men’s races and one mixed-gender team event.

Mikaela Shiffrin is the headliner, in the midst of her most successful season in four years with a tour-leading 11 World Cup wins in 23 starts. Shiffrin is up to 85 career World Cup victories, one shy of Ingemar Stenmark‘s record accumulated over the 1970s and ’80s.

World championships races do not count in the World Cup tally.

Shiffrin is expected to race at least four times at worlds, starting with Monday’s combined. She earned a medal in 11 of her 13 career world championships races, including each of the last 10 dating to 2015.

Shiffrin won at least one race at each of the last five world championships (nobody has gold from six different worlds). Her six total golds and 11 total medals are American records. At this edition, she can become the most decorated skier in modern world championships history from any nation.

She enters one medal shy of the record for most individual world championships medals since World War II (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt) and four medals shy of the all-time record. (Worlds were held annually in the 1930s, albeit with fewer races.)

She is also one gold medal shy of the post-World War II individual record shared by Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson.

The other favorites at these worlds include Italian Sofia Goggia, the world’s top female downhiller this season, and the two leading men: Swiss Marco Odermatt (No. 1 in super-G and giant slalom) and Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (No. 1 in downhill).

2023 World Alpine Skiing Championships Broadcast Schedule

Date Event Time (ET) Platform
Mon., Feb. 6 Women’s Combined Super-G Run 5 a.m. Peacock
Women’s Combined Slalom Run 8:30 a.m. Peacock
Tues., Feb. 7 Men’s Combined Super-G Run 5 a.m. Peacock
Men’s Combined Slalom Run 8:30 a.m. Peacock
Wed., Feb. 8 Women’s Super-G 5:30 a.m. Peacock
Thu., Feb. 9 Men’s Super-G 5:30 a.m. Peacock
Sat., Feb. 11 Women’s Downhill 5 a.m. Peacock
Highlights 2:30 p.m.* NBC, Peacock
Sun., Feb. 12 Men’s Downhill 5 a.m Peacock
Highlights 3 p.m.* NBC, Peacock
Tue., Feb. 14 Team Parallel 6:15 a.m. Peacock
Men’s/Women’s Parallel Qualifying 11 a.m. Peacock
Wed., Feb. 15 Men’s/Women’s Parallel 6 a.m. Peacock
Thu., Feb. 16 Women’s Giant Slalom Run 1 3:45 a.m. Peacock
Women’s Giant Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Fri., Feb. 17 Men’s Giant Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Men’s Giant Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Sat., Feb. 18 Women’s Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Women’s Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Highlights 2:30 p.m.* NBC, Peacock
Sun., Feb. 19 Men’s Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Men’s Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Highlights 3 p.m.* NBC, Peacock

*Delayed broadcast
*All NBC coverage streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for TV subscribers.

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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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