Three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner stopped her Skate America free skate due to an ankle injury, withdrawing during a competition for the first time in her career Sunday.
Wagner recently missed a week and a half of training due to a right ankle injury — a topical infection that prevented her from wearing a skate boot, according to Icenetwork.com.
She is not expected to compete again until the U.S. Championships in January, after which the three-woman Olympic team will be named based on a committee decision.
If healthy, she remains a favorite to make her second Olympics.
“I came here feeling that I could mentally will myself through these programs and pretend I wasn’t in pain,” an emotional Wagner said on NBC. “But my focus is nationals. I’m out there on the ice, and I’m in so much pain. I’m here to be national champion. I’m here to make it onto the Olympic team. At the end of the day, that is my goal this season, so there’s no point in me going out and skating a program in pain and injuring myself further.”
Japan’s Satoko Miyahara won Skate America with 214.03 points, two points ahead of countrywoman Kaori Sakamoto.
American Bradie Tennell earned bronze in her senior Grand Prix debut, joining Wagner as the only U.S. women to make a Grand Prix podium this season. More on Tennell’s performance — the best by a U.S. woman internationally in nearly two years — here.
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Those results could play into a committee’s decision to determine who is chosen for the three-woman Olympic team. That’s Wagner’s focus.
“As an athlete, it’s the toughest decision to pull yourself out of something,” Wagner said. “My business isn’t finished here, but my goal is nationals, and that’s what I’m here to do.
“I’ve never withdrawn from a competition. So I didn’t even know where to go to talk to the referee. I’m a competitor through and through. To not be the competitor that I want to be, it’s really tough, and it breaks my heart.”
Wagner finishes the Grand Prix season ranking fourth among U.S. women in best scores this fall behind Tennell, Mirai Nagasu and Mariah Bell.
But none rank in the top 10 in the world this season, leaving an opportunity for many skaters to shine at nationals to prove they deserve to be on the PyeongChang team.
“I have to go home and get better first, and then I can start working towards nationals,” Wagner said.
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VIDEO: Skater dislocates shoulder in Skate America fall