Nightly News   |  February 08, 2014

Is Ashley Wagner Poised for a Comeback?

The figure skater fights for gold amid her controversial addition to the U.S. Olympic team. Could Sochi be her moment?

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> close and personal look at one of the members of team usa without giving away the story you will see unfold tonight. nbc's chris jansing is here with us tonight to talk about a figure skater who has had a somewhat difficult road to get here, chris?

>> reporter: she has, brian, she is ashley wagner and finished fourth at the national competition and came to sochi determined to show she deserves to be here. well, it all could not be more dramatic. her skate in the new team competition will decide whether or not the usa makes the finals. in skating and in life, nothing has come easily to ashley wagner . last month, she fell twice at nationals, mouthing i'm sorry for her mother and making the team on a controversial decision.

>> i'm at a loss for words right now. excuse me.

>> reporter: she was back in familiar territory. the comeback trail. ashley was just five when she first laced up. the daughter of an army officer who was always moving from germany to alaska and beyond.

>> nine times in ten years, moving around was really tough on me. i was painfully, painfully shy as a kid.

>> reporter: so wherever she went, skating became her sanctuary.

>> she loved the ice the moment she stepped on it. i think it has been her passion and consistent best friend .

>> reporter: after 13 years of training ashley was favored to make the 2010 olympic team only to have it all slip away on a missed jump. she wanted to quit.

>> to come so close to your dreams coming true and not really achieving it is devastating.

>> reporter: but the survivor in her kicked in so ashley decided to take a huge risk and move across the country to california to train with the legendary coach, even though there was no guarantee he would take her on. at 19 she gave herself a year to become a national champion , and nick saw in her that fight.

>> people who come back from defeat because they always lose come back stronger because of it.

>> reporter: at first she was juggling her training with college classes and a job selling jeans at the local mall to pay the bills.

>> i was scraping buy and honestly was living off pbj's.

>> reporter: but with friends she worked on the beach and calmed the demons. then, the hard work on the ice started to pay off. winning back-to-back national championships . endorsement deals followed from cover girl to hilton.

>> be a weekender like ashley wagner .

>> reporter: and although the old demons returned last month in boston, she got another chance for a comeback.

>> i have cried and screamed and laughed, i'm so spent right now.

>> reporter: an olympian with something to prove to fans and to herself. besides the team skate, ashley is one of three american women competing for the singles title. and in a gutsy and virtually unprecedented move she scrapped the routine that gave her so much trouble in boston and will begin