Gearing up for nationals

Ashley Wagner took second in Sochi, winning her first ever medal in a Grand Prix Finals. Julian Finney/Getty Images

After a pretty amazing year that included more wins than I thought possible, I rang in 2013 by watching the Times Square ball drop on TV ... and then heading directly to bed. It might not have been the typical New Year’s Eve for a 21-year-old, but what can I say? It was a training night!

Luckily for me, I got to pack in plenty of fun when I was home in Maryland for Christmas. I had been going strong since mid-summer, so a little relaxation with my family was much needed. Plus -- and you’re going to think I’m crazy -- I got some time away from where I train in Southern California. The SoCal weather can't be beat, but I just haven’t quite been able to embrace the lifestyle. I guess, for me, home will always be home. Every year at Christmas, my family goes out to play a game of C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S (like H-O-R-S-E) at the hoops at a nearby gym. It's a fun tradition even though I'm always a shoo-in for last place.

Now I’m back in full training mode, back in a sport that I'm much better at than basketball. It's crunch time, as I'm getting ready to defend my title at the U.S. Championships. Though I’m not totally used to the idea of being one of the favorites going in, it’s great to know that finishing in first place is a plausible outcome. I’ve spent so many years on the sidelines, watching people get sent to worlds and stand on top of podiums. Because of that, I once referred to myself as the “almost girl,” and the media really ran with it. Now people are calling me a frontrunner. Ironic, right?

There will definitely be some added expectations after my success last year, but I’m usually pretty good at making sure the pressure I feel is coming from myself, not anywhere else. I really have to focus on taking things one day at a time -- because my ultimate goal is to make it to the Olympics, and though Sochi 2014 is always in the back of my mind, it’s still over a year away.

I did enjoy getting a little taste of what the Olympics might be like at the Grand Prix Final, held at the Olympic site in Sochi last month. Surreal as it was, I just tried to soak it all in. I spent most of my time at the rink, but I did get to a beach on the Black Sea one day to relax a bit. On the ice, I scored a personal best for my short program, which was great! In my long program, I took one of the hardest falls of my life on a double axel, which was not so great. I ended up on crutches for a few days afterward with a sore hip, but I was able to get up and skate well enough immediately after to take home the silver. I’m more proud of myself for fighting through that than anything else that happened in Sochi.

Outside of skating, I’ve had a pretty memorable few months. In November I signed on as a Nike athlete! Years ago I tore out a Nike ad featuring Allyson Felix and Maria Sharapova looking super fierce and tough. I always told my family that I wanted to be like them someday, so to come home to my apartment and see boxes of Nike gear stacked higher than my doorknob is pretty much a dream come true. And yes, while they may not be looking so fierce anymore, those tattered and torn pages are still hanging from my bathroom wall.

I also became a “style ambassador” for Pandora jewelry in December. My friends and family know that I am a fashion and shopping addict (don’t worry, I set an allowance for myself), so to be able to represent those two brands is so much fun.

But, most important of all, I also have a tiny obsession with winning. As great as 2012 was, I know I have a lot of work to do in the coming year. If I train well and stay focused, I’m confident I can deliver when the time comes. I’m excited to prove that at nationals on January 20th!