Ashley Wagner looks to 2018 after Worlds breakthrough

Ashley Wagner
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NEW YORK — Once Ashley Wagner flew home and settled down after the excitement of her World Championships silver medal, her coach posed an interesting question.

“Do you want to keep skating?” coach Rafael Arutyunyan asked her after they returned to their Southern California training base.

Yes, Wagner plans to compete through the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics.

It would be a shock if she didn’t. At a seasoned 24 years old, she’s the first U.S. woman to earn an individual Worlds medal since 2006.

But she wasn’t offended, or really surprised, by Arutyunyan’s query.

“He’s such a realist,” Wagner said at a Figure Skating in Harlem event on Manhattan on Monday night. “He has been with so many athletes, where they just want to get their World medal, and then they’re good to go. They’re happy with their career.

“He didn’t ask me in a way that he thought this was my only chance to do well. He meant it more in a practical way. You know it’s only going to get harder. Is this really what you want to do? Because if it is, he’s committed 100 percent. He just needs me to be committed that much.

“I have a long ways to go before I’m the athlete I want to be for 2018, but I think that with him I’m in good hands.”

The only time that silver medal sinks in is when Wagner rewatches video of her free skate at Boston’s TD Garden from two weeks ago.

“The audience was unlike anything I’ve ever heard,” she said. “It reminded me of the Michelle Kwan era of figure skating. They were so loud and passionate about the performance, you could feel it in your chest.”

Wagner’s climb to the top of the podium will mean getting past Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva, who at Worlds broke Yuna Kim‘s free-skate record and easily beat Wagner by 8.47 points overall.

Medvedeva, 16, is the youngest woman to earn an Olympic or World title since Tara Lipinski in 1998.

“You can tell that she’s a younger skater, but beyond that, technically, everything is so supreme,” Wagner said of Medvedeva, the third different Russian to win an Olympic or World title in the last three years.

“I left points out on the table at Worlds, and I know my little flaws,” said Wagner, who has fought to nail down triple-triple jump combinations in recent years and could have been stronger on her jumps at Worlds. “They used to be big flaws. I’m slowly crunching down the numbers and getting where they need to be. My competition, their biggest challenge at this point is longevity. I’ve already gotten past this point. I’ve proven that I can stick around. That’s going to be their biggest test. I’d rather be in my shoes than theirs.”

Wagner spent last week choreographing her program for the Stars on Ice tour, which begins Friday in Hershey, Penn. She received help from two-time Olympian Jeremy Abbott, who took a break from competition this past season but hasn’t announced if or when he’ll return.

“You never know with him,” Wagner said. “I feel like he has feelers out, seeing if that’s what he wants to do.”

Wagner said she’s seen the emotional interview from teammate Gracie Gold after she fell from first to fourth at Worlds, but they hadn’t yet spoken in the whirlwind since Boston.

“She’s a perfectionist, and that’s how she got to this level,” Wagner said. “She’s very tough on herself. I don’t think she needs to be that tough on herself. But she’s an athlete. She’ll bounce back from this. She’ll learn from it.”

Then there’s another Sochi Olympian, short track speed skating silver medalist Eddy Alvarez, who happens to be Wagner’s boyfriend and now a minor-league baseball player with the Birmingham Barons.

Wagner said Alvarez watched the Worlds free skate while on a bus with his parents FaceTiming a screen to him.

She’ll travel to Alabama in early May to catch his performances in person.

“Fall/winter is his time to come out to me,” Wagner said, “and then spring/summer I go out to him.”

MORE: Five takeaways from World Figure Skating Championships

Katie Ledecky out-touches new rival at swimming’s U.S. Open, extends streak

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It was a rare sight: Katie Ledecky being matched stroke for stroke in a distance race in an American pool. She was up for the challenge.

Ledecky out-touched emerging 16-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh by eight hundredths of a second in the 400m freestyle at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday night.

Ledecky and McIntosh were tied at the 300-meter mark. Ledecky ended up clocking 3:59.71 to McIntosh’s 3:59.79 to extend a decade-long win streak in freestyle races of 400 meters or longer in U.S. pools.

“I know we’ll have a lot more races ahead of us,” Ledecky said on Peacock. “We bring the best out of each other.”

The U.S. Open continues Friday with live finals coverage on Peacock at 6 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

At the Tokyo Olympics, McIntosh placed fourth in the 400m free at age 14.

She accelerated this year, taking silver behind Ledecky at the world championships and silver behind Tokyo gold medalist Ariarne Titmus of Australia at the Commonwealth Games.

Then in October, McIntosh outdueled Ledecky in a 400m free — also by eight hundredths — in a short-course, 25-meter pool at a FINA World Cup meet in Toronto. Long-course meets like the Olympics and the U.S. Open are held in 50-meter pools.

McIntosh also won world titles in the 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley, becoming the youngest individual world champion since 2011.

A potential showdown among Ledecky, Titmus and McIntosh at the 2024 Paris Games is already being compared to the “Race of the Century,” the 2004 Olympic men’s 200m free where Australian Ian Thorpe edged Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband and Michael Phelps.

In other events Thursday, Regan Smith, an Olympic and world medalist in the backstroke and butterfly, won a 200m individual medley in a personal best 2:10.40, a time that would have placed fifth at June’s world championships. She beat 16-year-old Leah Hayes, who took bronze in the event at worlds.

Olympic 400m IM champ Chase Kalisz won the men’s 200m IM in 1:56.52, his best time ever outside of major summer meets. Frenchman Léon Marchand won the world title in 1:55.22 in June, when Kalisz was fourth.

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Eliud Kipchoge, two races shy of his target, to make Boston Marathon debut

Eliud Kipchoge Berlin Marathon
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World record holder Eliud Kipchoge will race the Boston Marathon for the first time on April 17.

Kipchoge, who at September’s Berlin Marathon lowered his world record by 30 seconds to 2:01:09, has won four of the six annual major marathons — Berlin, Tokyo, London and Chicago.

The 38-year-old Kenyan has never raced Boston, the world’s oldest annual marathon dating to 1897, nor New York City but has repeated in recent years a desire to enter both of them.

Typically, he has run the London Marathon in the spring and the Berlin Marathon in the fall.

Kipchoge’s last race in the U.S. was the 2014 Chicago Marathon, his second of 10 consecutive marathon victories from 2014 through 2019.

He can become the first reigning men’s marathon world record holder to finish the Boston Marathon since South Korean Suh Yun-Bok set a world record of 2:25:39 in Boston in 1947, according to the Boston Athletic Association.

In 2024 in Paris, Kipchoge is expected to race the Olympic marathon and bid to become the first person to win three gold medals in that event.

The Boston Marathon field also includes arguably the second- and third-best men in the world right now — Kipchoge’s Kenyan training partners Evans Chebet and Benson Kipruto. Chebet won Boston and New York City this year. Kipruto won Boston last year and Chicago this year.

American Des Linden, who won Boston in 2018, headlines the women’s field.

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