Ashley Wagner

Getty Images

Ashley Wagner says she was sexually assaulted by John Coughlin

2 Comments

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 details ‘severe depression’ after nationals

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ashley Wagner went into “a very severe depression” and received professional help after finishing fourth at January’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships and missing the PyeongChang Olympic team.

“I could barely get out of bed. I could barely function,” Wagner said on her Instagram Story on World Mental Health Day on Wednesday. “The day-to-day was such a struggle for me. At first I was just really disappointed in myself for letting one event in my life derail everything that I thought I knew was true about myself and how I saw my place in the world and how I felt about my own sense of worth and value.

“I think, as an athlete, it’s really easy to tie in your sense of self-worth with how successful you are in competition. I opened up to friends and family about that and about how I was feeling and how low I was. Anyway, because I was so open with people about how I was feeling, they were able to kind of push me in a direction where I felt comfortable seeking out professional help to help me figure out how to deal with these emotions. So, long story short, never discredit how you’re feeling and the fact that something can be done about that and steps need to be taken for you to get better. I am in a completely different place now than I was then because I had a professional help me. I’m definitely not 100 percent better, but it’s one of those things where it’s a work in progress and it’s day by day. Because I was able to eventually get myself to a point where I sought out help, I’m finally gaining tools to help myself get better.”

Wagner, 27 and a Sochi Olympic team event bronze medalist, is taking her first competitive break after 11 seasons as a senior skater, sitting out the fall Grand Prix series. It’s unknown if or when she will return to competition.

“After the craziness of last season, I decided to take a breather and sit out of this Grand Prix season,” was posted on Wagner’s Instagram in June. “My passion for the sport burns very bright, but after 11 seasons on the circuit I am ready for a bit of a break! I am continuing to train and take this day by day, but I’m allowing myself the opportunity to open up the definition of what skating means to me!”

Wagner is more decorated than any other active U.S. female singles skater — the only U.S. woman to earn an Olympic or world championships singles medal in 12 years, taking silver at the 2016 Worlds in Boston. She is a three-time U.S. champion and owns three Grand Prix Final medals and five Grand Prix event titles.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Gracie Gold details ‘mental health crisis,’ return to skating

Ashley Wagner takes figure skating break; Gracie Gold set to return

Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ashley Wagner is taking her first competitive break after 11 seasons as a senior figure skater, sitting out the fall Grand Prix series, while Gracie Gold is scheduled to compete for the first time since January 2017.

“After the craziness of last season, I decided to take a breather and sit out of this Grand Prix season,” was posted on Wagner’s Instagram. “My passion for the sport burns very bright, but after 11 seasons on the circuit I am ready for a bit of a break! I am continuing to train and take this day by day, but I’m allowing myself the opportunity to open up the definition of what skating means to me!”

Wagner, a 2014 Olympic team event bronze medalist and 2016 World silver medalist, and 2014 Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova of Russia were the notable singles skaters missing from the Grand Prix assignments published by the International Skating Union on Thursday.

Gold, a two-time U.S. champion who was fourth at the 2014 Olympics, is the newsworthy name on the entry lists.

GRAND PRIX ENTRIES: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance

She announced Sept. 1 that she was seeking professional help “after recent struggles on and off the ice,” then in October said she was in treatment for an eating disorder, depression and anxiety. Gold attended January’s U.S. Championships but had not announced anything regarding a possible return to skating.

The Grand Prix is the equivalent of figure skating’s regular season. The world’s best skaters each compete twice out of six events in October and November, with the top six per discipline qualifying for December’s Grand Prix Final, a prelude to the world championships in March.

This fall’s headliners are Olympic champions Alina Zagitova and Yuzuru Hanyu and silver medalists Yevgenia Medvedeva and Shoma Uno as well as U.S. champions Nathan Chen and Bradie Tennell.

The six Grand Prix series events are Skate America, Skate Canada, Grand Prix Finland (replacing Cup of China), NHK Trophy (Japan), Rostelecom Cup (Russia) and Internationaux de France. The Grand Prix Final is in Vancouver.

Wagner, 27, is the most accomplished U.S. woman over the last decade, taking three national titles, five Grand Prix wins and three Grand Prix Final medals. At her last competition, she placed fourth at the U.S. Championships in January, missing the three-woman Olympic team.

Wagner then withdrew from the Four Continents Championships and declined a spot at March’s world championships after PyeongChang Olympian Karen Chen gave up her spot after the Winter Games.

Sotnikova, 21, has skated just once on the Grand Prix circuit since taking the Sochi Olympic title over Yuna Kim four years ago and hasn’t competed anywhere since the start of 2017. Sotnikova has not announced retirement, though, unlike her Sochi teammate and fellow gold medalist Yulia Lipnitskaya.

Other big names missing from Grand Prix assignments already said they are taking a break from skating (Adam RipponMirai NagasuMaia Shibutani and Alex ShibutaniJavier Fernandez, Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot), retiring (Patrick ChanMeagan Duhamel and Eric Radford) or are simply not expected to compete again (Tessa Virtue and Scott MoirMeryl Davis and Charlie WhiteTatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov).

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Adam Rippon opines on figure skating future