She steps out on the glassy surface, with nothing but two 3/16-inch-wide figure skate blades connecting her to the ground. As the crowd silences, the music starts and Ashley Wagner comes to life gliding, spinning and jumping through the air with grace and poise. She’s at home on the ice, and has made it to the top of the sport.
Ashley was born in Germany to an Army family, and started skating at age 5 while stationed in Eagle River, Alaska. “Growing up as an Army brat was really amazing,” she reflects. “I moved nine times in 10 years.” Yet her parents saw what skating did for Ashley and always ensured there was an ice rink within driving distance when they moved.
Whereas many would see that as a challenge – and it certainly did have its challenges – Ashley saw it as an opportunity. “As a military kid, it’s really hard to get a sense of home. The rink became that sense of home for me,” she says. “You walk in an ice rink and it’s the same wherever you go. I feel comfortable on the ice.”
Through the years, she has worked with myriad coaches who taught different perspectives and techniques in skating. “It was challenging because you’re working with different people with different techniques to learn a very technical sport. Many people played a part in creating the athlete I am today.”