No time for second-guessing myself

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Ashley Wagner pulled off the win at the the 2013 U.S. championships, then obsessed about her two-fall long program, trying to make sure those types of errors never happen again.

I've finished my last week of training and am now in London, Ontario, for the World Championships, which start on Thursday for the ladies.

Since my lackluster performance at nationals, I did what any right-minded elite-level athlete would do: I obsessed about it. But then again, I guess to do what we do, all athletes have to be a little crazy.

I was searching for the reason why that long program was so sub-par compared with my standard of competition this breakout season. I wanted to pinpoint the exact spot where things went wrong, where I mentally broke that barrier and let myself go down on two of my highest-scoring elements.

Courtesy of Ashley Wagner.

Headed to Ontario! Ashley Wagner competes in the ladies' short program on Thursday at the 2013 world championships.

That January night during the long program, I felt great. My jumps had been solid all week; my spins better than usual. Sure, I was starting to feel the wear and tear of competition and fatigue from food poisoning the week before, but overall, I knew I could easily make it to the end of the competition.

So it didn’t make sense to me why I would have such a devastating mental slip -- and fall twice. I started comparing the program to how I felt in the short program, and I began to see the difference.

A mental weakness can sometimes be more devastating than something physical. After all, the mind controls the body, right? It's easy for an athlete to become a prisoner in her own head, locking up her physical talent and letting the mind get in the way. At nationals, I was skating not to lose in that long program. It sounds so trivial, but that mind-set has such a negative spin that every move in that program was cautious.

When you tiptoe around the ice or you don’t skate with conviction, you are certain to knock yourself down at one point in the program. Realizing this, I knew I was going to have to change my mind-set going in to worlds.

There is no room for caution this time around: It’s a high-stakes event, not just for me but also for the American team in general. London is our last opportunity to regain a third Olympic qualifying spot. The U.S. only has two spots for the team in my event, so it is up to my teammate, Gracie Gold, and me to have a combined placement total of 13 or fewer in order to gain that extra spot back. (This means a third-place finish and a 10th place would do it, but a fourth place and 10th place would not.)

Although a lot is at stake in London, I’m starting to feel hungry for the competition. The pressure of this event is enormous, but I’m focusing on the success I've had this past season and drawing on my mental mind-set from that time to push through.

I’ve got just a few days to go until I know what the final chapter of my pre-Olympic season looks like, and I’m ready to finish it up with a bang!