Ashley Wagner will be remembered well after the torch is blown out at the Sochi Olympics, but the 22-year-old American figure skater is no America’s sweetheart. Wagner has been polarizing since before the Games began. Once there, the two-time U.S. National Champion made fewer headlines with her performances than with her meme-worthy faces, mouthed-under-breath remarks at her scores, and her less-than-shy comments about the disputed result of the women’s competition.
“People need to be held accountable,” she told reporters after Russia's Adelina Sotnikova was awarded her controversial gold medal. “They need to get rid of anonymous judging. There are many changes that need to come to this sport if we want a fan base."
Wagner’s vocal scoffing at her own marks might not have been best way to curry favor with the judges, potential sponsors, and the gods of Good Sportsmanship. At Bustle, Kelsea Stahler writes that Wagner’s outspoken remarks and “indignant faces” were “disappointing” and concludes such behavior is “bad for figure skating.”
But I spent a better part of my formative years as a competitive (but not very talented) figure skater, and I can say with certainty that plenty of real-life young women working their way through the sport’s ranks are just like Ashley Wagner. They can be brash, opinionated, feisty, and have some attitude. Why? Because they’re regular adolescents and young adults. Olympic observers may call her a poor sport; I say she’s an athlete daring to be a human in a sport that asks its female athletes to be camel-spinning Stepford wives.