U.S. Figure Skating disappointed over all questions left unanswered by SafeSport decision to end investigation into allegations against late national champion John Coughlin

U.S. Figure Skating disappointed over all questions left unanswered by SafeSport decision to end investigation into allegations against late national champion John Coughlin

 The U.S. Center for SafeSport has ended its investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against the late figure skater John Coughlin despite a strongly worded request from U.S. Figure Skating to complete the process.

That news was contained in an opaque statement Tuesday from SafeSport spokesman Dan Hill “regarding its (the Center’s) application of interim measures in response to recent events.“

The statement did not mention Coughlin by name, which Hill indicated in an email was a SafeSport policy.  Its critical point, made obtusely, was Coughlin’s death precluded the need to continue:

“Since the Center’s response and resolution process works to protect the sport community and other covered persons from the risks associated with sexual misconduct and abuse, it cannot advance an investigation when no potential threat exists,” the statement said.

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New story about an old speedskating event revives warm memories of an icy magical mystery tour

New story about an old speedskating event revives warm memories of an icy magical mystery tour

 It was with a sense of wistful nostalgia, gratefulness and fascination that I read Andrew Keh’s excellent story about the “Alternative Elfstedentocht” in Sunday’s New York Times.

The Elfstedentocht, which means 11 Cities Tour, is 124-mile speedskating marathon linking 11 Frisian cities via the canals of the northern Netherlands. It is a Dutch cultural and sporting touchstone.

But it is one that sadly may have permanently been relegated to warm memories by the lack of cold that has prevented the event from taking place in the Netherlands for 22 years.

So, as Keh wrote, there is an “alternative” version of the race, which takes place on a frozen lake in the Austrian mountains, preserving the sporting challenge but not the historical and traditional essence of the event. No matter how stunning the surrounding vistas, 10-mile loops of a lake cannot match the city-to-city course in Friesland.

Truth be told, few winters since the first recognized Elfstedentocht in 1909 have been cold enough for the canals to have the ice thickness necessary for the marathon.  It has been held just 15 times in 110 years –and just once since 1986. As measured in days, the drought since 1997 is the longest ever between races.

I had the good fortune to be there as a journalist in 1986, and it led to a story that always will be one of my favorites, as it gave me a chance to blend sport, culture and anecdota in a way that was hopefully enlightening and entertaining.

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In men's skating, Nathan Chen now a real challenger to even the best of Yuzuru Hanyu

In men's skating, Nathan Chen now a real challenger to even the best of Yuzuru Hanyu

 All you Hanyu bots can start getting your fingers near the send button.

Because no figure skating fans get more dyspeptic than many of Yuzuru Hanyu’s if anyone dares suggest the sport’s biggest global star is not one million times better at all times than any other men’s figure skater.

And I’m saying this: the free skate Nathan Chen did in winning his third straight U.S. championship nine days ago was considerably better than any other men’s free skate in the world since Hanyu’s at the 2017 World Championships.

That 2017 Hanyu performance in Helsinki simply is the best free skate ever when one looks at it in terms of execution and difficulty of jumps (four pristine quads), quality of footwork and spins and overall level of artistry and skating skills.

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Lindsey Vonn, who sped past limits to top of ski racing (and sometimes flew into safety nets, as she did again in her penultimate race), is coming to a stop

Lindsey Vonn, who sped past limits to top of ski racing (and sometimes flew into safety nets, as she did again in her penultimate race), is coming to a stop

I am not a skier.  So, when I began intermittently writing about the sport in the 1980s, I had no first-hand appreciation of the speeds top Alpine ski racers reached – and the danger that sped along with them.

Television didn’t help, because the head-on camera angle does not provide a frame of reference.  And you could tell me they were hitting 75 miles per hour, but I had no perspective on what that meant until the 1989 World Championships in Vail, Colo.

One day during women’s downhill training, I hiked partway up the side of the final pitch to the finish.  From that vantage point, with the skiers coming past me rather than coming at me, as they did when I stood in the media area at the finish, it was very clear how fast they were moving.  Frighteningly fast.

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In three-peating as U.S. champion, Nathan Chen dazzles everyone but his coach

In three-peating as U.S. champion, Nathan Chen dazzles everyone but his coach

DETROIT – What Nathan Chen did in Sunday afternoon’s free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships looked like otherworldly brilliance to everyone who saw it.

“Honestly, it’s incredible,” said Jason Brown, who had a chance to watch Chen because Brown had skated before him.

And yet Chen’s coach, Rafael Arutunian, refused to get carried away after his skater easily became the first man since Johnny Weir in 2006 to win three straight men’s national titles.

“I am not completely satisfied,” Arutunian said Sunday. “There is so much more he can do.

“He didn’t do a quad Salchow. I still want him to try a quad loop. This was a program he has executed before. You always like to improve.”

Chen was not surprised by hearing Arutunian’s comments.

“Raf is always the overachiever,” Chen said. “That’s why I am with him. Of course, there are things I can improve on.”

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