- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 5, 2014

SOCHI, Russia (AP) - Ashley Wagner sees a certain resemblance between the multihued designs all around the Sochi Olympics and a rainbow gay pride flag.

The American figure skater has been one of the most outspoken athletes against Russia’s so-called gay “propaganda” law, and she couldn’t help but mention to reporters Wednesday her amusement at the brightly colored graphics at Olympic venues.

“I love it,” she said with a smile.

The two-time U.S. champion carries herself with an easy self-assurance off the ice. On the ice, that confidence suddenly went missing at last month’s national titles.

She fell twice in her free skate to finish a distant fourth, and only three skaters would go to the Sochi Games. U.S. Figure Skating officials added her to the team above third-place Mirai Nagasu because of her accomplishments over the previous year, but it was hardly the way Wagner wanted to go into her first Olympics.

She had less than four weeks to Sochi, time for some drastic changes.

Wagner replaced the music in her free skate, scrapping “Romeo and Juliet” for “Samson and Delilah,” which she used last year.

“This is the program that raises the hair on my arms,” she said.

She just couldn’t relate to the Juliet character.

“I’m so passionate about skating, and I just can’t imagine a single person in my life making me go that crazy for them,” Wagner said. “She just seemed a little bit irrational to me.”

Juliet is “delicate and soft and sweet.”

“And I am not a sweet competitor,” Wagner added. “I’m vicious. I can be nice off the ice, but on the ice, that’s not where it’s time to make friends.”

Her training needed an overhaul, too. Before, she would let coach Rafael Arutyunyan know when she had reached her limit in practice.

Now, she told him, “Tell me what to do. I’ll do everything you want me to do. Just make me someone who’s worthy of being at the Olympics.”

The result, Wagner said, “was the most miserable three weeks of my life.”

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