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Ashley Wagner

Francois Mori, Associated Press

Wagner is ready to reaffirm American figure skating glory

  • Article by: NANCY ARMOUR
  • Associated Press
  • January 24, 2013 - 6:50 AM

Go ahead. Put an entire country's Olympic medal hopes on Ashley Wagner's shoulders. Ask that she singlehandedly return the American women to glory in a sport they once ruled.

She can take it.

Since winning her first title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last year, Wagner has shown she's not like the one-hit wonders who preceded her. Rather than cracking under the pressure and expectations, she's thrived, giving the Americans their best shot on the international scene since Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen hung up their skates.

"For me, it has been my dream to not just go to the Olympics, but be competitive at the Olympics and be a medal hopeful," said Wagner, an overwhelming favorite at this year's nationals, which begin Thursday in Omaha. "I think I have proven I can be competitive among some of the top competitors in the world, and that is very gratifying. I still have a lot of work to do, and I'm not where I want to be going into next year's Olympics. But I am closer."

For six decades, the podium at the Olympics and the world championships was U.S. territory. Americans won seven Olympic titles from 1956 to 2002 and 25 world titles from 1955 to 2006. These days, well, the Americans are a bit of a mess. They haven't won a world or Olympic medal since 2006 and will have just two spots at worlds for a fifth consecutive year.

It isn't much better at home, where six different women have won the last seven U.S. crowns. Should Wagner win this week, she'd be the first repeat champion since Kwan in 2005. The women's competition begins Thursday night with the short program. Pairs also begins Thursday, and men and dance start Friday.

"I want to continue building on a great season," Wagner said.

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