After finishing fourth at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last month (where she fell twice during her free skate), Ashley Wagner endured some harsh public criticism when she was named to one of only three figure-skating spots on the women’s 2014 Olympic team. No matter that she had consistently scored higher results over the past four years than the Nationals third-place finisher and fan favorite, Mirai Nagasu. The bullying got so bad that Wagner, who had been active on Twitter and maintained a video blog on YouTube, took a break from social media. She told NBC Sports, “Twitter is a blessing and a curse. It’s tough to filter out the good things that you hear and the awful things that people will write.” But now she’s ready to pick herself back up and take her place on Team USA.
Beyond her athletic career, Wagner aspires to be a sports journalist. Her hobbies include writing and reading the classics, and she’s been tapped as a blogger for SI.com. Mediabistro caught up with Wagner just before she set off for Russia to compete at the Sochi Olympics:
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When did you know you wanted to be a professional figure skater?
Well, honestly, I was driving my mom crazy at home. She put me in a skating rink so that she could get some time away from me driving her crazy. That’s how I became a figure skater. [laughs] But, beyond that, when I watched Tara Lipinski win Olympic gold in ’98, that was really where my Olympic dreams took off, and that’s where I felt like I really wanted to become an Olympic athlete.
Tell me about blogging for SI.com. How did that happen—and what are you writing about?
Well, I used to have a video blog, and that was really fun for me. I would take the camera and show people around backstage, show what it was like, you know, walking back to the competitor’s lounge, or what it was like getting rehab done on an injury. So I tried to show the different aspects of skating, beyond those perfect couple of minutes that you see on the ice.
It just comes kind of naturally to me to take something and try and make it relatable and interesting to someone who doesn’t know everything about skating. So I think that [the editors] saw that and thought, ‘Hey, she’s not too shabby at this. Why doesn’t she try blogging for us?’ And it took off from there.
So for SI.com, I’m mostly just giving people a glimpse of what it’s like on this crazy journey to Sochi. I mean because there are so many different aspects of competing and preparing and designing even that go on in figure skating, I wanted to give people a little insight into that.
You’ve said you’re interested in sports journalism after your athletic career.
Yeah, I want to stay involved in sports in one way or another. And I would love to coach, but I also feel like I’ve been on this one side of figure skating, and I’m so ready to see what it’s like to be on the other side—and be able to get those stories out of athletes.
What platform would you prefer—print, Web or broadcast?
Right now it’s pretty equal. It’s so daunting, because I know that journalism right now, it’s going through a lot of changes, and it’s all becoming integrated with social media. It could be fun to participate in something that’s completely changing, but also, I would be totally okay with being on air and interviewing athletes in that way and commentating on figure skating. So it kind of depends on where this road takes me.
Are there other sports you’re interested in reporting on?
I love hockey. That’s actually one of my favorite sports. And this season I have no cable, and I’ve been too busy to watch. But I think if I were to choose another sport, it would be hockey.
I heard you quit social media because you received some backlash over being selected to the U.S. Olympic team. Is that true?
Yeah, I mean I didn’t go cold turkey. I’m coming back. But, honestly, just a bunch of really mean, hurtful things were being said to me. You know, I had people telling me to go jump off of a bridge and things like that, that I was already going through a lot of things on my own. I didn’t need to see all that negativity. I think the great thing about social media is it gives people access to you on a totally personal level that they didn’t have before, so it’s really important and it’s a great way to get people involved and excited about what you’re doing. I’m definitely not gone forever, but I’m taking a break until those trolls realize that I’m not reading what they’re saying nor do I care what they’re saying.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.