Three-time U.S. national champion Ashley Wagner is in PyeongChang, South Korea for the Winter Olympics – but not as an athlete.
The 2014 Olympian was named a 2018 alternate, finding out the news via text message after a fourth-place finish at nationals in January.
“I’m not here as the alternate,” she told Cosmopolitan.com. “I am the alternate, but I am here in Korea working — that’s what brought me to the Games.”
Between Nationals and the Olympics, Wagner continued to train in Southern California under Rafael Arutunian.
“I was doing my run-throughs and just kind of keeping everything in shape and fine-tuned,” she said.
Her training partners, Nathan Chen and Adam Rippon, already won bronze in PyeongChang in the team event.
Wagner flew to PyeongChang on Feb. 6 and continued to train until the first official practice. Once those began, she was “in the clear.” The last time an Olympic alternate was called up to compete at the Olympics was 2006, when Emily Hughes replaced Michelle Kwan due to injury.
She got to see Chloe Kim’s halfpipe, which she called “so insane” and plans on attending figure skating events to cheer on Team USA. She said it will be a “bittersweet” experience.
"I’m in a position where I was the top U.S. lady for, you know, a solid amount of time,” Wagner continued. “When I look at the Olympic stage I know that I’m good enough to be there, but based on how everything kind of happened, it just wasn’t my time to be at this Games," she says. "So, I can accept that and I am so excited for my teammates. I mean, these are my friends and family, essentially. I grew up with these people."
She’s been keeping up with best friend Rippon, too… or least trying.
"Adam is always on his phone, but he never texts back!" she said, noting he’s having a great time. "He’s loving this whole experience, and it’s been fun to watch him do his thing on such a big stage. I knew that he would be the darling of this Olympics."
For more on a typical night with Wagner and Rippon, check out the video below, detailing the night they went dancing – before “tragedy struck.”
Wagner hasn’t said if she’s hanging up her skates – she will continue to train through the summer and tour with Stars on Ice post-Olympics – m but would “love to get involved with the other side of the sport.” Perhaps commentary or coaching is in her future?
"My career has been through so many ups and downs. Not making this Olympic team was a huge disappointment for me but I like to think that who I am as an athlete and, you know, my struggle is also part of my story," she concluded. "And people seeing that, and seeing that you can take something that was just a devastating tragedy and turn it into something so much bigger than what you thought it was gonna be in positive direction, I think that’s really important for people to see."