Bring on Skate America!

AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Ashley Wagner, U.S. national figure skating champion for the past two years, debuted -- and landed -- her triple-triple combination at the Japan Open on Oct. 5.

Going into the Olympics, you think everything will flawlessly fall into place and work out for you. That was really not the case for me.

While I was touring with Stars on Ice during the offseason, I met up with my coach Mr. Nicks, who told me he was retiring from travel. In this business you need a coach who can travel with you full time so most of my break was spent searching for a replacement. I was able to go to Hawaii for a weeklong vacation, but I spent the whole time making phone calls trying to figure out what to do. Not exactly relaxing!

The big decision was whether I wanted to stay put and find someone local or relocate to where a particular coach lived. So I had lots of options, but also a lot to consider. I was lucky, though, and I found an amazing coach, Rafael Arutunian, who my good friend Adam Rippon works with in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., just two hours up the mountain from where I used to live.

Rafael is the most animated coach I've ever worked with! He has no concept of what an “indoor voice” is. He speaks very passionately, and he doesn't have the best grip on the English language so sometimes when he tries to explain something it's in grunts more than actual words.

It's been really great though. Raf is well known for his technical abilities, and we've been focusing a lot on the triple-triple combination.

The Japan Open on Oct. 5 was our first competition together, and that's always a big test of chemistry. You have to feel each other out and see how one another works under pressure. When you're at the boards waiting to have your name called, you need a coach who is going to say the right things so you go out on the ice feeling mentally prepared.

Courtesy of Ashley Wagner

Ashley Wagner's new kitten, Dexter, has been a huge stress reliever during her busy offseason.

I was proud of how we did, and I was able to pull off the triple-triple in competition -- a huge accomplishment! I actually felt that my performance was a bit stronger than the scores reflected (Team North America won the silver medal), but this is the sport I chose to live in. I can't control the scores, and I was really happy with the performance overall. My main goal was to get the triple-triple out there, and I did that.

I'm so excited for Skate America coming up this week in Detroit. It's what I've been training so hard for all summer. Beyond the triple-triple, I've been working on my edge quality, and hoping to grow as a skater in that regard. My goal is to show off all of my hard work this week.

It's been tough with the quick trip to Japan. I've been trying to recover from both the stress of the competition and jet lag while also training my programs enough that I feel really prepared.

But luckily I have a new family member to help me relax -- my kitten, Dexter. I named him that because he has eight toes on each paw so he's really dexterous! He's actually been very therapeutic, though. He just curls up on me and we call it a day. It's been just what I've needed through all of this early-season stress.

Now I'm ready to go in Detroit, with a new coach and a new kitten to back me up!