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  1. #1
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    Ashley Wagner finds strength under pressure, consistency (article)

    USA TODAY article (Wagner skated on the Today show at the Rockefeller Center rink on Tuesday morning): http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports...tency/1718085/
    "Randy [Starkman (1960-April 16, 2012)] lived by the same motto as the rest of us. The Olympics isn’t every four years, it’s every single day. He just got it." --Canadian Olympic kayaker Adam van Koeverden

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    "I chose to work with Mr. Nicks because he had so many incredible skaters," she said. "He changed my technique a little bit but not a ton, just enough to make it more consistent which is what I really needed. What he saw was a consistent skater who under pressure couldn't put up the goods. The mental aspect of my training is where he really has helped me because confidence leads to consistency under pressure."
    Well it's certainly working for her.

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    It's nice and all, but I still don't want to get excited yet. For FOUR STRAIGHT YEARS we US fans have had some reason or another to hope and every single time those hopes have been dashed. Ugh, I give up...

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    While it's true that the last time we had a US lady who was National Champion, Four Continents Champion, Skate America Champion, TEB Champion, 4th in the world, and heading to the GPF everything went downhill steeply (Meissner in 2007, though she was 2nd at TEB), I don't see that happening to Wagner as long as she remains injury-free. And honestly, Wagner is skating a lot better than Kimmie did even at her best. Maybe it's unwise, but I am fully on the Wagner train.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RD View Post
    It's nice and all, but I still don't want to get excited yet. For FOUR STRAIGHT YEARS we US fans have had some reason or another to hope and every single time those hopes have been dashed. Ugh, I give up...
    U.S. fans were just totally, and I do mean totally spoiled during the Kwan, Lipinski, Cohen era in U.S. ladies figure skating! But don't give up, just yet. Ashley Wagner sure didn't give in or give up.


    Quote Originally Posted by michiruwater View Post
    ... Maybe it's unwise, but I am fully on the Wagner train.
    Me too.

    Anyway, what's the point in getting off the train if you've 'bought the ticket to ride?' IOW, I'm staying with the skaters I love through thick and thin. Even whether or not there's possible danger of a train wreck ahead, I'm going to trust in the conductor and the professionals working the signal switches that they are prepared to do their job to avert a disaster. I'm going to stay in my seat and cheer, and toot, toot right along with the train whistle, and pray for good things to happen for the skaters I believe in. And, like that unforgettable scene in Spielberg's E.T. when the kids on their bikes escaped danger as the bikes became airborne, maybe magic will happen on this train ride too.

    I rooted for Ashley from the beginning, and I'm not getting off Ashley's train no matter what happens. I believe her train is going to make it to the station just fine, and the important thing anyway is to enjoy the journey while it lasts. Reaching the destination is simply icing on the cake.
    Last edited by aftershocks; 11-21-2012 at 05:55 AM.

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    [QUOTE=aftershocks;3750429]U.S. fans were just totally, and I do mean totally spoiled during the Kwan, Lipinski, Cohen era in U.S. ladies figure skating! But don't give up, just yet. Ashley Wagner sure didn't give in or give up. QUOTE]

    Agreed, we were spoiled...but it just goes way further back than that, as we had a world medalist virtually every year (ok not '93 or '94 but Kerrigan choked and then didnt compete). But yeh, before Kwan were world medalists Bobek, Kerrigan, Yamaguchi, Harding, Trenary, Cook (ugh, worst world medalist ever), Thomas, Kadavy, Chin, Sumners, Fratianne, Hamill, Lynn, Fleming...you get the point. There has never been a drought (in terms of world and olympic medals) in US ladies skating like this in our lifetimes.

    Regardless of how Ashley performs the rest of the season, she has been a real joy to watch the last year and very deserving of the attention she is getting. Very happy for her!

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    Quote Originally Posted by aftershocks View Post
    U.S. fans were just totally, and I do mean totally spoiled during the Kwan, Lipinski, Cohen era in U.S. ladies figure skating! But don't give up, just yet. Ashley Wagner sure didn't give in or give up.
    Absolutely. Kwan's consistency in jumping and in results over such a long period of time is incredible. Lipinski was great too, but her span wasn't nearly as long. Cohen was rarely clean but even when she made mistakes she would almost always place well.

    After them, we have skaters who land jumps but don't place well (Flatt, Zhang), or skaters who can score well but just doesn't skate well (Czisny, Nagasu), or skaters who just do not agree with puberty (Meissner). I am so glad that Wagner is putting everything together. She always had it but just needed tweaking. Now she is tweaked and ready.

    Unfortunately, and I am saying this because I love her, I don't think she has that Champion quality about her yet. And I don't think Nicks is necessarily the right coach for her to further upgrade her skating skills. He is doing great with her and achieving results yes, but on the bigger stage she will always have to count on mistakes by better skaters (Kostner, Asada, Kim, etc). That's the Lysacek syndrome. She will easily win GPs and medal at GPFs and Worlds, but when it comes to winning Worlds and Olympics, she is just very Lysacek.

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    ^^ Obviously, your opinions are valid from your perspective, Marco. However, in your second paragraph, I believe you are making some oversimplifications. It's not true that Czisny and Nagasu "just don't skate well." They both have skated beautifully and placed well on numerous occasions. They have also confronted challenges that have been difficult for them to overcome. Kimmie Meissner won the World Championships in 2006 because she was the only skater that year who appeared to have the gumption to go after the gold and to persevere under pressure. Also, it was largely injuries that thwarted the continuation of Kimmie's eligible career, not puberty.

    Also Flatt has done well nationally, and also internationally as a junior. As a senior, Flatt did not medal at Worlds or Olympics, but she does have four silver medals on the senior GP circuit. Caroline Zhang won 4 bronze medals and one silver on the senior GP, and she won a gold at a senior B international event. As a junior, Zhang "cleaned-up" internationally, winning Junior Worlds and capturing gold at three JGP events. Such accomplishments are certainly worthy, even if winning everything all the time, every time is considered the bee's knees (the best scenario) from most fans' perspectives.

    Ashley Wagner is certainly a Champion, whether or not you see championship quality in her yet. Hmmm, "very Lysacek." Well, since Evan Lysacek is the reigning Olympic gold medalist, I guess that means you voted for Ashley Wagner as most likely to win Olympic gold in that recent Trash Can poll.
    Last edited by aftershocks; 11-21-2012 at 07:57 AM.

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    Yes, these girls have showed glimpses of hope one way or another, but no sustained success so far, or at all, on the senior international scene. Czisny is the only lady between Meissner and Wagner to have won any one of GPF, Worlds and 4CCs. IIRC she is also the only one to have won a GP between Meissner and Wagner. So yes, Kwan is the legend and we have all been spoiled so much.

    Quote Originally Posted by aftershocks View Post
    Ashley Wagner is certainly a Champion, whether or not you see championship quality in her yet. Hmmm, "very Lysacek." Well, since Evan Lysacek is the reigning Olympic gold medalist, I guess that means you voted for Ashley Wagner as most likely to win Olympic gold in that recent Trash Can poll.
    I think Wagner can definitely medal at Worlds and Olympics, but if she wins either we are forever going to hear a lot of moaning about Wagner winning despite not being the best skater and winning only because she was hard working and others fecked up, like when Lysacek won.
    Last edited by Marco; 11-21-2012 at 08:16 AM.

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    ^^ I think it's kind of odd to compare Lysacek's talents as a skater with Ashley Wagner's. Maybe the quality they do have in common is their fierce competitive desire and determination. However, as far as their levels of talent and skating styles, I don't get the comparison.


    And re nekkidgator's post:
    Thanks for pointing out the long legacy of excellence in U.S. ladies figure skating. I was making the point that Michelle Kwan dominated for over ten years, which had previously been out of the ordinary (post Maribel Vinson Owen's victories) and especially before the changes which allowed skaters to make money while continuing to compete in the eligible ranks. So, long story short, followers of skating during Michelle's era have definitely been spoiled. Therefore, the so-called "drought" for some fans is apparently very painful in contrast.

    In general, transitional cycles and ups and downs in skaters' careers are the norm, not the exception. Even despite the fact that U.S. ladies have tended to always be in the medals, I think we have to look at the changes that occurred during the course of the Michelle Kwan era, including the rise of the Internet, changes in the way fans view skating, changes in the scoring system, and the boom in skating and depth of talent in countries other than the U.S., especially and most particularly in Japan.
    Last edited by aftershocks; 11-21-2012 at 08:29 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aftershocks View Post
    ^^ I think it's kind of odd to compare Lysacek's talents as a skater with Ashley Wagner's. Maybe the quality they do have in common is their fierce competitive desire and determination. However, as far as their levels of talent and skating styles, I don't get the comparison.
    Really? I find their qualities very comparable. They both have above average to very good skating qualities all around but do not really excel at any specific area, and they both have very good elements but with slight technical flaws that sometimes hamper them (Lysacek the axel and Wagner the flutz). Technically they are solid but have not yet consistently nailed the iconic element (Lysacek the quad and Wagner the 3/3). Presentation wise Wagner is much less frantic these days which is good but they both skate to tick the boxes more than from within and have yet to really demonstrate a deeper level of interpretation of mood or tempo. I love that they both have clean lines and polished skating.

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    ^ Wagner may get there in due time, but as of right now I can agree that she is trying a bit too hard to "switch styles". Trying too much to be a Kwan. She's perfectly fine as an athletic skater. Being athletic didn't stop skaters like Slutskaya from winning...

    Still, I REALLY hope she ends this world medal drought for the US! And hopefully she can handle increased expectations and being in the spotlight. She's gonna have to, anyway...Can only fly under the radar for so long.

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    With a nod of respect re your viewpoints, RD, I don't think Ashley is at all "trying to switch styles." She's trying to carve out her own identity on the ice, and she sees Michelle Kwan as a role model to emulate, not to try and be exactly like. There's a thread in Trash Can which discusses Ashley in comparison to Michelle (I have to smile at all the threads popping up about Ashley, but I'm not complaining ). In that Trash Can thread someone excerpts a quote from Ashley in which she talks about wanting to "reach the level" that Michelle attained on the ice in "skating not only to win, but to perform" for the audience. That's an exemplary goal for Ashley to set her sights on. But IMO, it does not mean that Ashley is "trying a bit too hard to 'switch styles'." She's simply exploring and perfecting her own strengths.

    Ashley also has a vision of wanting to attain the "performance level" that Michelle achieved, but she's not trying to do it in exactly the same way that Michelle did it, because she's not Michelle. I'm enjoying watching Ashley's growth as a skater. I like what she brings to the ice that's uniquely hers to bring.


    With respect to your opinion too, Marco, beyond their equal hard work and determination, I don't see any similarity whatsoever in the skating styles of Evan and Ashley. I think it is kind of odd to compare the style of a male skater with that of a female skater. As far as what you specified in your post, I think both Ashley and Evan clearly excel in their skating by virtue of desire and hard work, and excellent coaching. And yes, neither are perfect in all areas of their skating -- and that can be said about any skater.

    Ashley is trying to carve out her own unique identity on the ice. In Evan's case, I don't think he has yet managed to develop a compelling and unique artistic on-ice identity. However, I have found his great energy and enthusiasm very infectious, and he has many fans who love him and his skating. Figure skating is and will always be subjective and debatable.

    And again, if you are trying to put down Ashley by characterizing her as "very Lysacek," she'd probably take that as a compliment, and continue on with the business of achieving one of her biggest goals, one that Lysacek of course has (with a dollop of luck, countless hours of training and pounds of sweat) already achieved.

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    Ashley isn't Michelle, she is showing lack of sportmanship with her overly abundant confidence.
    How much pitching is John nicks doing to overlook all her faults

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    I feel that Wagner has a naturally athletic style on the ice. She displays power, spunk and athleticism at her finest. Whereas you take a skater like Czisny and she's the total opposite- refined, paying attention to detail, attempting to bring the audience in. Either style is fine, but IMO one should not try to be like the other. A "power" piece, while perfect for a Wagner, would overwhelm a Czisny. Vice-versa for a soft, lighter piece- fits Czisny to a T but give that to a skater like Wagner and it appears (to me, anyway) that she is trying too hard.

    It is fine if Wagner aspires to be like Kwan- in fact, I think it is great that she is setting such a high standard for herself. (Other US ladies- take note!!) But- in the quest to be like MK, she should be careful not to lose sight of her roots. Black Swan was a good compromise/balance between the two, I think. S&D has a little too much posing and posturing for my taste and it seems odd to me to see her doing that.

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    I definitely see similarities in how Ashley is presenting herself on the ice to Michelle's exquisite presentation. Her overall style remains the same though. I also see her skating to a variety of pieces just as Michelle did. No need to just stick with "power pieces."

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    I'm loving Ashley's growth in artistry and presentation. I feel like the sensual quality she has in S&D is a reflection of her own maturing personality (the kind of sensuality that Michelle Kwan never naturally possessed nor pretended to capture on ice, as she had her on personality and style; Yuna Kim, on the other hand, possesses it in abundance). Ashley is athletic, but also growing into a bit of a diva, and that's coming out on ice. Just because it wasn't apparent in her skating before (or perhaps because some fans don't like that emergent aspect of her personality), doesn't mean that she's trying too hard or faking it...

    Personally, I'm loving her confidence and personality on ice. The last time US had a ladies skater with this much confidence and personality, along with the technical goods, skating skills, and polish, was definitely Michelle and sometimes Sasha Cohen (e.g. Dark Eyes).

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    Quote Originally Posted by aftershocks View Post

    With respect to your opinion too, Marco, beyond their equal hard work and determination, I don't see any similarity whatsoever in the skating styles of Evan and Ashley. I think it is kind of odd to compare the style of a male skater with that of a female skater. As far as what you specified in your post, I think both Ashley and Evan clearly excel in their skating by virtue of desire and hard work, and excellent coaching. And yes, neither are perfect in all areas of their skating -- and that can be said about any skater.
    I never compared their styles. It was just you. I was comparing their skating qualities and their competitive edge.

    I also disagree that they excel in their skating (or any aspect of their skating).

    And again, if you are trying to put down Ashley by characterizing her as "very Lysacek," she'd probably take that as a compliment, and continue on with the business of achieving one of her biggest goals, one that Lysacek of course has (with a dollop of luck, countless hours of training and pounds of sweat) already achieved.
    Anyone who cared to pay attention to my posts at all would know I have always been a huge Wagner supporter. But that doesn't mean I am not realistic as to what else she could improve on if she wants to contend for gold with the very best. And comparing her to Lysacek is in no way putting her down. Making that inference reflects more on your view than on mine.

  19. #19
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    Phil Hersh's latest column: Wagner's schedule, skating breathtaking
    "Randy [Starkman (1960-April 16, 2012)] lived by the same motto as the rest of us. The Olympics isn’t every four years, it’s every single day. He just got it." --Canadian Olympic kayaker Adam van Koeverden

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    For those who are not Chicago Tribune Digital Plus subscriber, you can still read the Phil Hersh article using this little trick:
    Go to Yahoo (not Google), and search "chicago tribune phil hersh wagner breathtaking". Look for the article in the search result (should be on top), then click 'cached' to read the article. Enjoy!

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