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Ashley Wagner on competitive future, role as coach, and upcoming shows

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When Ashley Wagner finished the 2018 season, she made a promise to herself that she would live a little bit more of life. She moved across the country, from Los Angeles to Boston, and while she’s still on the ice every day skating and participating in a slate of upcoming shows, she’s now added to her resume as a coach.

We caught up with the three-time national champion and World silver medalist. (Questions and answers lightly edited for clarity.)

How did you get involved in the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation show, Scott Hamilton & Friends

I have actually performed in Scott’s show a couple of times but it’s always during the Grand Prix season, so I haven’t been able to skate in it for the past few years because I needed to focus on my training. It was one of those things where I feel like he heard that I was taking the Grand Prix season off and he reached out to me and asked if I wanted to take part. It was such an easy yes. It’s a really great show. He does a fantastic job at putting together the golden era of figure skating shows. This is how figure skating shows are meant to be. You always know that you’re going to be skating in something that is quality.

The last time I spoke to Scott, he said that even though he says this every year, this show is gonna be the best ever.

I mean, yeah, ‘cause I’m skating in it! [laughing] No, it’s gonna be great. I’m really excited. He passed along my music to me and he sent me an email. He’s like, I heard this song and I thought it was just made for you right away. It’s nice to know that he goes through all of the music selections and really caters it to his show. I think that’s a detail that makes this show so much different than anything else. The music is selected for each athlete so you know that’s it’s a cohesive show. It should be great. We have a couple Olympic medalists. This is the best show you’re gonna see, no joke.

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Working on something new today!🎵🎶

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What’s different about skating to live music compared to a track?

Live music is a lot harder to skate to because you can have an artist up on the stage and maybe they’re feeling a note and you’re in a spiral. All of a sudden you’re like, okay you need to end this note! You’re singing it a lot longer than I’m used to! There are a lot more variables.

It’s like watching skating live versus watching it on TV. When you’re in the arena and the skater is in front of you, you can feel the emotion and the energy that they’re putting out in a performance. I think that skating to live music, you get that same kind of sense. You really get to experience all of the heart that a performer is putting into their music. And that combined with live skating I think it just makes for such a magical recipe. You just really get to experience skating, and experience the music.

How’s life in Boston?

I love it here! This was the best decision that I could’ve made. I’m so happy here. I promised myself after 2018 that I was going to give myself the opportunity to live a little bit of life. I’m still on the ice and skating every single day. But this city just has so much to offer and I feel like I’m really getting to experience a lot more than I was able to in LA. I’m so happy here.

Have you caught yourself adopting any of your coach Rafael Arutunian’s mannerisms when you’re coaching?

Raf is such a loud coach, and he gets away with it because he’s a big Russian man. But as soon as I raise my voice I look ridiculous. It’s been a balance, because it’s a different level of skating here than I’m used to. I’m used to professional, high-level skating and coming here it’s a bunch of kids who are on their way up. Which is really exciting, but it’s definitely been an adjustment for me just to kind of reel back a little bit and not turn into Rafael.

It’s a different phase in their careers.

Exactly. They’re not quite at the level where I can just scream at them to skate a long program. Because they’re 12 years old and I can’t scream at kids.

And they have parents.

And parents! I have to deal with parents. That’s the scariest part of figure skating. I haven’t had to deal with parents since I was 18. That’s been a big change for me.

You did some commentary work for NHK Trophy in Japan. How was that?

It was so much fun and also terrifying. The first event that I covered was the pairs’ short program, so it was definitely a sink or swim moment. I think pairs skating is like the moon. I don’t understand it. It’s so different from anything that I do in my skating life. It was terrifying. I spent the first warm up in a blackout. And then finally was like, ‘okay, I can do this!’ I’m really glad that I got to see what it’s like on the other side. It’s way harder than it sounds.

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Adulting with Andrea

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Did you have a lot of homework?

I did. It was tough because I didn’t really know what I was walking into. I was working with Andrea Joyce so it was like how communication was gonna go, what her role was going to be, what I was responsible for. Once I experienced that I knew how to prepare myself a lot more.

You already mentioned you’re taking the Grand Prix season off. Can you say anything else about your competitive future?

Right now, to be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure what I want to do. Watching the ladies’ event [at NHK Trophy] in Japan, it was one of those situations where definitely maybe take a step back and think, okay, in order to even be competitive on the scene right now, you need to be throwing out technically perfect programs with two triple-triples, and if you’re not even thinking about a triple Axel, then maybe you should step aside.

It’s one of those things where sometimes it’s best to just take a step back and let skating progress the way it’s going to. I watched Carolina Kostner and what she was able to do toward the later part of her career and I really admire that. I think that there’s something to be said about coming out and putting out quality and still being able to perform that doesn’t entirely write off someone who’s not trying the technically most difficult program. But it’s a lot of work. It’s one of those things where I have to start considering whether or not it’s worth it.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series 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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MORE: Karen Chen out of Grand Prix Series

Mariah Bell focused on the big picture ahead of NHK Trophy

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Mariah Bell brushed off not making the Olympic team. Her eyes are on January’s nationals, where she wants to be U.S. champion, and on the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

“Looking forward another four years, it’s my goal to be on that Olympic team,” she told NBC Olympic Research at the start of her season. “This year, not making the team, it’s not a huge deal. It’s just taking all this experience to help me get there four years from now.”

She’s viewing this season as a “fresh start” because it’s just the beginning of the new quadrennial. She had a strong showing and finished fourth at September’s Nebelhorn and was fourth at Skate Canada.

She skates next at NHK Trophy in Japan this weekend. NBC Sports Gold will live stream every men’s, ladies, pairs’ and dance programs.

After her tour of the Grand Prix circuit, her focus is nationals.

“My top goal is to be national champion. As I lead up to nationals I think I can do really well at both of my Grand Prixes. It’s just a matter of staying in the moment.”

After a surprise trip to the world championships – where she finished 12th – Bell spent the summer working on her triple-triple combinations, which she said helped build her consistency. She also spent two weeks doing shows in Japan, where she was able to perform her new short program in front of audiences.

Her short program this season is set to “To Love You More” by Celine Dion and it was choreographed by her longtime training partner Adam Rippon.

“I trained with Adam for the last two or three years,” Bell said. “He’s always been there to give me advice on little things or help me with some technical stuff. But I’ve never actually worked with him for a program so that was so exciting. I’m honestly so lucky that he had the time because he’s so famous now!”

Her free skate lands on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, portraying a loss in life and learning to live without what was lost.

“It’s very deep,” she said. “I’ve never had a program that’s that raw.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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MORE: Assessing figure skating’s Grand Prix season at the midpoint

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE 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.

Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim split from coach Aliona Savchenko

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Married U.S. pair team Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim confirmed a split from their coach Aliona Savchenko after their free skate at Skate America in Everett, Wash.

“Whatever lies ahead, we’re gonna be going through it together,” Chris told Andrea Joyce after their performance. “That’s gonna help both of us over the next three-and-a-half years. We’ve taken so much from Aliona… we’re very grateful for the work that she’s done with us.”

They did not say if they were currently working with a coach.

Savchenko also confirmed the split to NBC’s Johnny Weir.

The Knierims helped Team USA to a bronze medal in the PyeongChang team event in February. After finishing 15th at both the Olympics and the world championships in March, they decided they either needed to make a coaching change or retire.

Alexa has always been vocal about her admiration of Savchenko. After the world championships, Savchenko reassured the Knierims about their performance, which included two falls in the free skate. Soon after, the pair asked the five-time Olympian to coach them.

They moved from Colorado Springs, where they were originally paired by longtime coach Dalilah Sappenfield, to Chicago for a short while where they trained with the Olympic pairs champion Savchenko. Then, the Knierims trained in Oberstdorf, Germany under Savchenko for much of the fall.

They began this season with a decidedly new program style, skating their short program to “Castle” by Halsey and their free skate to “Wicked Game” by James Vincent Monroe.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series 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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Nathan Chen, Yale student, swaps books for boots at Skate America