Ashley Wagner

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Ashley Wagner says she was sexually assaulted by John Coughlin

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Ashley Wagner said she was sexually assaulted in 2008 by John Coughlin, a fellow figure skater who killed himself in January after being suspended for unspecified reasons and was later accused of sexual assault by a former pairs’ skating female partner.

Wagner, a 2014 Olympian and 2016 World silver medalist, told USA Today the assault occurred after a house party with local athletes while she attended a June 2008 figure skating camp at Colorado Springs. Wagner was 17. Coughlin was 22.

Wagner recounted it in a nine-minute video and first-person essay published by USA Today.

“It was the middle of the night when I felt him crawl into my bed. I had been sleeping and didn’t move because I didn’t understand what it meant,” she said. “I thought he just wanted a place to sleep. But then he started kissing my neck. I pretended to be deep asleep, hoping he would stop. He didn’t. When his hands started to wander, when he started touching me, groping my body, I tried to shift around so that he would think I was waking up and would stop. He didn’t.”

Wagner said she opened her eyes after five minutes, pulled away from Coughlin, grabbed his invading hand and told him stop. He did and left the room.

“That is such a small amount of time, but it’s haunted me ever since,” she said. Wagner said that, at the time, she told two people close to her what happened and nothing else.”

Wagner said she made a hard decision to include Coughlin’s name to add a bit of legitimacy to her story.

“But this is not about a name,” she said. “This is about the environment that allowed for that act to happen. I want the issue to feel real to people, and for them to understand the dynamics of my sport, where uncomfortable power imbalances thrive to this day.”

The U.S. Center for SafeSport and U.S. Figure Skating had given Coughlin, who became a coach and TV commentator after his retirement, an interim suspension for unspecified conduct.

SafeSport halted its probe in February, saying there was no reason to continue after his death because its purpose is to “protect the sport community and other covered persons from the risks associated with sexual misconduct and abuse.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ashley Wagner, Mirai Nagasu will skip fall Grand Prix

Ashley Wagner, Mirai Nagasu
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Ashley Wagner and Mirai Nagasu both plan to skip the fall Grand Prix series, they confirmed to NBCSports.com/figure-skating. Neither of their names appear in U.S. Figure Skating’s International Selection Pool for the 2019-20 season, though the list is subject to change.

“I have not regularly trained in about a year and I haven’t felt the drive to get back into a regular training environment yet,” Wagner told OlympicTalk when asked how she came to the decision. “I would only consider competing on the Grand Prix circuit if I felt conditioned and prepared.”

Wagner is a 14-time Grand Prix series medalist and won three medals at the Grand Prix Final, which she qualified for five times. She last competed at U.S. nationals in 2018 and has since taken on coaching and made her broadcast debut.

Nagasu last competed at the 2018 World Championships and had hip surgery in September. She was the first American woman to land a triple Axel at the Olympics, where she helped Team USA to a bronze medal in the team event. She also competed at the 2010 Olympics, finishing fourth.

She told OlympicTalk that she relates to the recently-retired Missy Franklin, who wanted to move on with her competitive life after undergoing surgery.

“Loop, flip and Lutz were my best jumps and right now, Sal and toe are my best jumps,” Nagasu said. “I very much dislike that. I’m a creature of habit. I’m just trying to get back into my habitat.

“It was really difficult to go from going to the Olympics, not going and then going again. I think I wanna come back for myself. I want my elements back. Maybe I’ll pull a Daisuke Takahashi. Who knows?”

In 2018, Takahashi ended a four-year competitive retirement with a return to Japanese national-level competitions only. When he was offered a spot at the world championships, he declined.

Nagasu said she won’t compete in the 2022 Olympics, if she does come back at all.

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U.S. Championships ladies’ preview: Tennell, Bell dueling for top placement with 13-year-old Liu

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Bradie Tennell is looking to defend her title at the U.S. Championships this weekend in Detroit. Tennell faces challenges from another national medalist, Mariah Bell, as well as a 13-year-old with triple Axels in her arsenal.

Together, Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold, Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen won seven of the last 11 U.S. Championship titles; none are competing in Detroit. That being said, here’s a closer look at who might land on the podium.

The ladies’ short program is Thursday and the free skate is Friday. Check out the full schedule and live streaming information here.

Tennell tries to defend first title

Tennell was known for her consistency as she rose from relative unknown to U.S. Champion to Olympic team event bronze medalist in the span of a few months last year. These days, she has lost some of that consistency – though she has bettered her technical content to keep up with the best in the world. She’s looking for her improved artistry to show at this year’s championships and could win her second national title in Detroit.

MORE: 3 questions with Bradie Tennell

Mariah Bell hunting for first title

Bell has been on the national championships podium before, but never in the top spot. Since moving to train with Rafael Arutunian in California in 2016, Bell has been third and fifth at nationals. Her short program to Celine Dion’s “To Love You More,” choreographed by friend Adam Rippon, is one to keep an eye one. Bell figures to be one of Tennell’s biggest threats for gold in Detroit.

MORE: Mariah Bell just keeps getting better

Alysa Liu could play spoiler

The 13-year-old isn’t eligible for any senior – let alone any junior – events this season. Nevertheless, she could stand atop the podium with gold, especially with her triple Axel prowess. Liu could be the third-ever lady to land a triple Axel at nationals, behind Tonya Harding and Kimmie Meissner. (Mirai Nagasu landed a triple Axel at the Olympics, but not nationals, in 2018.) Should Liu win, she’d be the youngest U.S. champion ever. Tara Lipinski won at age 14 in 1997.

MORE: Alysa Liu with a “real chance” to win nationals

Others to watch

Starr Andrews has attempted triple Axels in the past, too. She gained game at last year’s nationals for skating to Whitney Houston’s “One Moment In Time,” in which Andrews recorded her own vocals.

Ting Cui is making her senior national debut and is known for her artistry on ice. She’s even working on a couple of quads, but we don’t expect to see them in Detroit.

Veterans like Courtney Hicks, Hannah Miller and Amber Glenn also make reappearance at the Championships. Hicks and Miller have been top-10 in the past, but not on the podium. For the past two years, Glenn finished eighth, and is looking to advance.

MORE: One spot on the line for U.S. pairs at the world championships

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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