By Gary SheftickFebruary 12, 2014
SOCHI, Russia (Feb. 12, 2014) -- Before receiving a bronze medal in the inaugural Olympic team figure-skating event, Ashley Wagner spent more than 20 years as an Army family member and said the experience helped strengthen her skating.
Growing up with the military broadened her horizons and exposed her to many different people, she explained, and some of those folks helped sharpen her skating skills. They also helped instill a competitive spirit, stamina and determination, especially after she moved nine times as a youth.
Wagner, 22, was born in Heidelberg, Germany, and began skating at age 5 near Fort Richardson, Alaska (now Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.) Her mother offered her the choice between ballet lessons or skating and Wagner told other media she "never liked the pink tutus," so she picked ice skating.
Installations where she lived as a youth include Campbell Barracks, Germany, and Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She's now a student at Saddleback Community College in Mission Viejo, Calif.
Her father is a retired lieutenant colonel who worked at the Pentagon during the 9/11 terrorist attack, and he still lives in Alexandria, Va.
Her dad has always supported her in skating, she said, and he's in Sochi watching the competition.
"It's the thrill of a lifetime," Wagner said about earning an Olympic medal. "It's what I've always dreamed about."
She was selected for the Olympic Winter Games is Sochi despite falling twice on the ice during her free skate at the National Championships in Boston and ending up in fourth place. Members of the national governing body for figure skating reportedly took her overall winning record into consideration.
She was the "Four Continents" champion in 2012 and finished fourth in the World Championships that year in Nice, France. Last year she finished fifth in the World Championships and second in the Grand Prix in Sochi.
Over the past month, Wagner said she has stepped up her training routine, working harder than ever.
On Feb. 8, here in Sochi, she finished fourth in the Ladies Team Short Program, with an overall score of 63.10, earning Team USA a total of 7 points. That score put the USA among the top five teams and enabled Gracie Gold to continue the next night in free skating.
Gold finished second Feb. 9, in free skating, scoring 67.49 to earn 9 points and guarantee a bronze medal for Team USA.
The team competition includes four events: men's singles, women's singles, pairs and ice dancing. The USA ice-dancing duo of Meryl Davis and Charlie White scored 114.34 during the final team competition Feb. 9, earning 10 points for the USA and setting a new record for ice dancing.
This was the first Olympics for the team event in figure skating. Russia took the gold with a total score of 75. Canada took silver with 65 points, and Team USA finished with a total of 60 points. Italy trailed in fourth place with 52 and Japan was fifth with 51.
The last time a new event was added to Olympic figure skating was in 1976, officials said, when ice dancing was introduced.
This means that a competitor can now win more than one medal in figure skating at an Olympic Winter Games for the first time in 78 years. In 1936, Ernst Baier from Germany won gold in the pairs event and silver in the men's singles.
Wagner will strive to tie that record of two medals next week when she returns to the Sochi ice to compete in women's singles, Feb. 19.