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“You didn’t have to think about other things or people coming to ask you, ‘Oh, what are you going to do now that this and this [happened]?’” Rippon said. “I think it was very therapeutic for her just to go and train and be able to put your head down and just get dirty and get all that hard training done.”

You have to keep pushing

The tears streaming down her cheeks told the story. If a fall at the 2010 national championships cost Wagner a shot to join the Olympic team, she was certain the two falls during her free skate would prevent her from competing in Sochi.

The morning after the competition brought unexpected news. Based on the strength of her international performances, the national committee decided that Wagner would join national champion Gracie Gold and runner-up Polina Edmunds on the Olympic team.

It was a relief, but changes would have to be made. Uncomfortable with the program set to Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” and willing to purge the memories of her two falls, she and Arutyunyan worked to bring back much of her gold-medal 2013 national championship program, set to “Bacchanale” from Camille Saint-Saens’ opera “Samson and Delilah.”

“If she can put all those doubts behind her and just do what she’s done in practice and do what she’s trained to do in the competition, I think she can do very well,” Rippon said. “I think she can have no problem whatsoever where she should not come back a two-time Olympic medalist, both with the team event and also [the individual competition].”

South Korea’s Kim Yu-na and Japan’s Mao Asada, the gold and silver medalists in Vancouver, figure among the medal contenders. So does Julia Lipnitskaia, the 15-year-old defending European champion who will be competing in her home country.

After all the changes Wagner has made to achieve her dream, she doesn’t want to let it overwhelm her. In recent weeks, she reached out to former gold medalists Scott Hamilton and Brian Boitano for advice, and each told her not to get caught up in the experience.

The most poignant wisdom, though, came from her parents, who have constantly reminded her, in action and in spirit, that life is not easy.

“You’re going to have a bad day,” Wagner said. “You’re going to just have to keep your chin up, keep pushing and believe that everything happens for a reason.”