Ice Network

Jackson-Wagner values teaching aspect of skating

1984 Olympian cherishes time with loved ones, coaching in Tennessee
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Susan Jackson-Wagner enjoys sharing her passion for skating with her daughters, Chloe and Aimme, and son, Ian. -Courtesy of Susan Jackson-Wagner

Though she enjoyed remarkable success during her career as a figure skater, Susan Jackson-Wagner sometimes forgets her own place in sports history. 

A busy skating coach and mother of three currently living in a city renowned for college football and basketball, the 1984 British Olympian's competitive accomplishments come back into view whenever the Olympics roll around, a time that allows the 51-year-old to reminisce, and discuss her experiences with local media in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

"A Winter Olympian in the South is a big deal," said Jackson-Wagner. "Every four years, my Olympic jacket comes out and somebody from the local press interviews me. It really is quite special."

While she was never in the medal hunt, Jackson-Wagner takes tremendous pride in reaching the 1984 Olympic Winter Games in Sarajevo. It wasn't easy for British skaters back then, as each skater had to pay their own coaches to accompany them, but it was still one of the great moments of her life. 

"It still holds a very dear memory in my heart," said Jackson-Wagner, who placed 17th. "It wasn't about winning. That feeling of overwhelming pride and elation of walking into the Olympic stadium was amazing."

Upon leaving competitive skating in 1986, the two-time British ladies champion and world competitor began touring with Holiday on Ice, and Disney on Ice a short time after. She met her former husband, a member of the technical crew, while touring with Disney

Tired of life on the road, the couple was looking for a place to settle down, and Knoxville -- home of the University of Tennessee -- seemed like the perfect fit. Disney on Ice had a warehouse in Tennessee, so they were somewhat familiar with the area. 

Twenty-one years later, she still calls the state home. 

"We'd been coming to the area for quite some time and it really didn't matter until we got here and I realized there's no work for me here," said Jackson-Wagner, who greatly admired the late Pat Summitt. 

To keep busy upon retiring, Jackson-Wagner worked for Willy Bietak Productions and Glacier Ice. She even toured in Great Britain with 1984 Olympic teammates Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. Despite the enjoyment she received from these outlets, Jackson-Wagner was thrilled to have the opportunity to begin a vibrant coaching career, one that began nearly 15 years ago when a new rink was built in Knoxville.

"I'm pretty busy seven days a week," said Jackson-Wagner, who in addition to coaching figure skating works with hockey players on skating technique. 

Originally from Nottingham, Jackson-Wagner moved to London for professional training. In her own coaching, she often calls upon the lessons she received from her coach, the late Arnold Gerschwiler. 

"Not a day goes by that I don't use something or a comment that he gave me," she said. "I'm indebted to him forever and can't thank him enough for everything he did for me. He taught me so much more than just skating; he gave me life lessons. I'm still in touch with his daughters."

As much as she loves coaching, Jackson-Wagner takes even greater pride in being mom to three ice-loving children: daughters Chloe, 16, and Aimee, 15, and son Ian, 12, who plays hockey. Aimee will compete at the novice level this year, while Chloe is determined to follow in her mother's tracings and join Disney on Ice after she turns 18. 

Adding even more to her already busy schedule, this year's U.S. Open marked Jackson-Wagner's return to competition for the first time since the American Open in late 1990s. She skated both a solo and in the ensemble with American Ice Theatre Boston, all while showing that she still has the passion and charisma to perform at a high level.

"It was fun to play with the crowd and be out there under the spotlight again," she said. "I guess you can't take the showgirl out of me."