Ashley Wagner needs a break.
With Saturday's "Stars On Ice" performance at Honda Center, Wagner has only five dates left on a tour and the final leg of a marathon season that has taken her to a place on the Olympic medal podium and the center of controversy.
Not that she's counting.
"It's really been a long season," Wagner said this week. "I really need to be away from the ice rink for a while."
Wagner for the first time in her career plans to take a month off from training to recharge both physically and mentally from a draining Olympic campaign. The break will also provide her a chance to digest a season that was both rewarding and confounding.
"I'm going to stay away until I get to the point where I miss it," she said.
And in that regard, Wagner, who turns 23 this month, has no doubt about continuing, recommitted after what she acknowledged was a trying season.
Wagner began the 2013-14 season as the two-time defending U.S. champion, the best American Olympic skating medal hope outside of ice dancing.
But she stumbled to a fourth-place finish at the U.S. Championships in January and needed a reprieve from U.S. Figure Skating selection committee to make the U.S. team for Sochi. The controversy surrounding Wagner's selection over third-place finisher Mirai Nagasu added to the tumult of a season in which Wagner hired Rafael Arutyunyan as her primary coach after John Nicks retired from traveling. The final weeks leading up to the Olympic Games also saw Wagner dump her long program for a previous routine she felt more comfortable with.
She emerged from the chaos to deliver one of the best performances of her career in the Olympic team competition's ladies short program, a display that was crucial to the U.S. winning the team bronze medal. Wagner followed up the bronze with a seventh-place finish in the women's competition and a performance that appeared stronger than the scores she received.
"I feel really great about it," Wagner said of the season. "It was one of the most trying seasons of my life. At times it was really difficult. But I learned a lot about what I'm capable of. There were times it really tested my love of the sport. But I really learned how to compete. I really built into a strong finish."
Despite her weariness, Wagner is already thinking about the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea.
"I'm doing something I love," she said. Her skating career "is such an incredible opportunity. I'm not living in the real world by any means."
When Wagner does return to the ice this summer, she and Arutyunyan will focus on "pushing the boundaries" both technically and performance-wise.
With Arutyunyan using Artesia as his training base, Wagner said she might have to leave "this piece of paradise I have in Laguna Beach" and move to Los Angeles.
"The drive is way too far," Wagner said, sounding very much like someone ready to get off the road.
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