Arts & Entertainment

Sochi Winter Olympics: Southern California athletes compete; local skater disappoints

Ashley Wagner of the United States reacts to her score after competing in the Figure Skating Team Ladies Short Program during day one of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on Feb. 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Ashley Wagner of the United States reacts to her score after competing in the Figure Skating Team Ladies Short Program during day one of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on Feb. 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
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Ashley Wagner of the United States reacts to her score after competing in the Figure Skating Team Ladies Short Program during day one of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on Feb. 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Ashley Wagner performs in the Women's Figure Skating Team Short Program at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on Feb. 8, 2014.
Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images
Ashley Wagner of the United States reacts to her score after competing in the Figure Skating Team Ladies Short Program during day one of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on Feb. 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Cory Butner of United States pilots a bobsleigh practice run ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Sanki Sliding Center on Feb. 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Ashley Wagner of the United States reacts to her score after competing in the Figure Skating Team Ladies Short Program during day one of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on Feb. 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Bobsledder Lolo Jones of the United States (R) has her photo taken by teammate Lauryn Williams of the United States on the set of The Today Show ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Olympic Park on Feb. 3, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Ashley Wagner of the United States reacts to her score after competing in the Figure Skating Team Ladies Short Program during day one of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on Feb. 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Delegations arrive during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on Feb. 7, 2014 in Sochi.
Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images
Ashley Wagner of the United States reacts to her score after competing in the Figure Skating Team Ladies Short Program during day one of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on Feb. 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
A member of the Russian Olympic team enters during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on Feb. 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Ashley Wagner of the United States reacts to her score after competing in the Figure Skating Team Ladies Short Program during day one of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on Feb. 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Dancers perform Natasha Rostova's First Ball during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on Feb. 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images


Southern California athletes were competing Saturday in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, including figure skater Ashley Wagner. She received a disappointing figure skating score in team competition after previously facing controversy over whether she should be allowed on the Olympic team, thanks to a struggle at the U.S. championships where she finished fourth.

Her short program was more representative of her talent, according to the Associated Press, although she two-footed a landing that cost her points.

"That performance for me was incredible," Wagner said, the AP reports. "I needed that, for myself, for my confidence. I needed to put out that performance."

The Winter Olympics kicked off in earnest at Friday night's opening ceremonies, and NBC4's Whit Johnson reported from Sochi and spoke with KPCC.

Johnson said he spoke with several Southern California athletes, including Yucaipa bobsledder Cory Butner, who used to work for SoCal Edison. Johnson said Butner described the Winter Olympics as "unlike any other experience he's ever had in his life."

Everyone he spoke with said it was a humbling experience, according to Johnson.

Johnson said that Lolo Jones, who made her name as a summer Olympian, told him, "It doesn't matter what you've done in your career. The opening ceremony brings you down to Earth and you realize that it's about so much more. It's about pride in your country; it's about the world coming together."

Johnson was also on hand Friday night for the opening ceremonies.

"Suddenly, you can hear sort of these booms and roars of applause coming from Fisht Stadium," Johnson said.

He said the lighting was incredible, and once the Olympic cauldron was lit, there were fireworks and the athletes and spectators came pouring out of the stadium. Not that controversy can always be avoided — the athlete who lit the cauldron received attention last year for tweeting what was seen as a racist tweet about U.S. President Barack Obama.

While there's been controversy around issues including the relationship between the U.S. and Russia, whether Sochi was ready, terrorist threats and Russia's anti-gay propaganda law, Johnson said it was an important moment for the Russian people.

"They were misty-eyed, and they were just thrilled about this opportunity to host the world," Johnson said.

California locals will continue showing up in the Olympics — short-track speed skaters who live and train in Southern California compete early next week.