Ashley Wagner
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Ashley Wagner looks to 2018 after Worlds breakthrough

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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

World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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