For show-stopping figure skater Jason Brown, a challenging career transition

For show-stopping figure skater Jason Brown, a challenging career transition

TORONTO – Jason Brown was feeling out possibilities to continue his competitive skating career with a new coach, and he figured it made sense to see what it might be like to work with Brian Orser and his team.

So, Brown came in mid-April to the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club, with no promise other than the opportunity to do a couple training sessions with the coaches who had produced singles champions at the last three Olympics. Orser & Co. already had a rink full of elite talents, with more expected, and he was not sure if there was room for another.

No sooner had Brown taken the ice with several other skaters, the room was his.

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For Russian skating star Medvedeva, a huge change was necessary to keep going

For Russian skating star Medvedeva, a huge change was necessary to keep going

TORONTO – She was not supposed to be sitting here, in a coach’s office at a skating club in Canada. Yevgenia Medvedeva is Russian, just 18 years old, figure skating world champion in 2016 and 2017, and only eight months ago winner of the singles silver medal at the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Barely two months after the Olympics, she left her Russian coach of 10 years, Eteri Tutberidze, who had guided her to the top of the figure skating world, for reasons Medvedeva has not discussed except in general terms. The move she made was startling and utterly unexpected.

Star Russian skaters stay in Russia. Never before had one of the sport’s pre-eminent Russians left the country to train with a non-Russian coach. Not since Michelle Kwan in 2001 had a skater with a career record as brilliant on the world and Olympic level as Medvedeva’s made such a dramatic coaching change, and Kwan did it without leaving her native California.

But Medvedeva felt she had no other choice after a tumultuous 2018 season that did not end with the Olympic gold medal she had seemed a lock to win.

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Frank Carroll: At 80, he retires from a "frozen life" of transcendent coaching success in figure skating

Frank Carroll: At 80, he retires from a "frozen life" of transcendent coaching success in figure skating

It was the middle of 1964, and 26-year-old Frank Carroll was in San Francisco at a career crossroads.

He had done college, getting a degree in 1960 from the College of the Holy Cross in his native Worcester, Mass., with a major in sociology and Dean’s List grades.  He had done competitive skating, with national junior singles bronze medals in 1959 and 1960.  He had done show skating, spending four and one-half years with Ice Follies before leaving the show with plans to attend the University of San Francisco Law School, which had accepted him, then deciding he did not want to start academic studies again.

Over the years with Ice Follies, which was styled like an elaborate Broadway review, Carroll had made friends with many actors in musicals like “Kismet,” “Carousel” and “Hello, Dolly.”  One suggested he go to Los Angeles, where friends could help get him work in films.  He went.

“I would go to auditions, and when they would ask what I did, I said, `I ice skate,’’’ Carroll said.  “I was like a joke to them.”

But he was handsome, with a physique buffed in the gym, and that got Carroll parts as a “body person” in three of the eminently forgettable beach movies of the mid-1960s (think “Beach Blanket Bingo,” although Carroll declines to identify which movies he was in or what his stage name was.)  He would stand among a group of other “body people” in the background and sometimes sing with the group.

There would be months between film shoots, leaving Carroll to spend his days hanging at the gym or going to the beach until, as he puts it, “I got bored with this ridiculousness.”

A friend who had photographed Carroll at skating competitions suggested he might fill the down time as a skating teacher.  After all, he had done some coaching as a Holy Cross undergrad to help pay his school and skating bills and done some more coaching after graduation.  The photographer connected Carroll with a rink in the Los Angeles suburb of Van Nuys, where he began working in the 1965/66 skating season.

By 1968, Carroll was coach of a medalist at the national championships.  A year later, he had his first national champion:  Jimmy Demogines in the novice men’s division.  In 1972, he coached Olympic team alternate Robert Bradshaw. In 1976, he coached his first Olympian, Linda Fratianne.

Over the next 40 years, Carroll would become the most successful coach in the United States

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A sad, untimely farewell to Denis Ten, iconic as "The Artist" on ice

A sad, untimely farewell to Denis Ten, iconic as "The Artist" on ice

Canadian choreographer David Wilson was surprised and delighted when he got an “out-of-the-blue” email last week from Kazakh figure skater Denis Ten.

In the email, Ten asked if Wilson would help rework the free skate the choreographer had done for him last season so the program would fit the new time limit, 30 seconds shorter.

Wilson was surprised because he did not think Ten was going to compete next season after enduring another difficult struggle with chronic foot problems.

And Wilson was delighted because it would give Ten another opportunity to show the world a beautiful program to a song called, “SOS from An Earthling in Distress,” that the injuries had kept him from performing the way the skater and choreographer hoped.

“I was really touched Denis wanted to keep this program and thrilled that he was going to have another chance with it,” Wilson said from Toronto Thursday morning.  “Now it is gone.”

Ten, 25, died Thursday after what Kazakh media reported was an altercation with two people trying to steal mirrors from his car on a street in Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan.

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In (sort of) suspending a skating judge, international federation mocks fans with ethical relativism

In (sort of) suspending a skating judge, international federation mocks fans with ethical relativism

In mid-June, the International Skating Union gave a one-year suspension to Huang Feng of China for showing “obvious and systematic” national bias in his judging of the pairs event at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The first weekend of July, the international federation allowed Huang not only to attend an important ISU seminar on the ramifications of recent scoring system changes but also to take – and pass – a test for promotion as a technical controller, an event official's position that can have an even bigger impact on the outcome of a competition than a judge.

Huh?

The ISU willingly provided me an answer to that befuddling question, but the logic in the answer smacks of relative ethics in an area where absolute ethics are demanded.  The bureaucratic hair-splitting involved simply is unacceptable.

And the ISU's "discipline" of the miscreant judge gives skating fans yet another reason to wonder if they can ever trust the results in this highly subjective sport.

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