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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On Karen Chen's first Olympics and Frank Carroll's last

On Karen Chen's first Olympics and Frank Carroll's last

Frank Carroll's 12th and final Olympics as a coach ended a day earlier than expected.

Although the premature finish owed to the misfortune of his last Olympic student, Denis Ten of Kazakhstan, it turned out to be advantageous for Carroll, 79, who left for home in Southern California on Saturday, the day after Ten failed to qualify for the free skate.

"I'm sick as a dog," Carroll wrote in a text message Sunday, calling his illness "cold-like but getting worse."

Ten, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist and two-time world medalist, placed 27th of 30 in Friday's short program. Only the top 24 made Saturday's free skate.

His poor performance was not a surprise, given the foot problems that have plagued Ten since the 2015-16 season and were exacerbated by a severe ankle injury suffered last August. Ten, 24, said Friday it was painful even to put on skating boots.

"It has been incredible," Carroll said of his Olympic coaching career.

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An Olympic figure skating fab five, U.S. gold medalists all, reflect on Nathan Chen

An Olympic figure skating fab five, U.S. gold medalists all, reflect on Nathan Chen

Five of the six U.S. men's Olympic gold medalists were in attendance at the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, California. In the days following the competition, icenetwork asked them their overall impressions of Nathan Chen, one of the favorites for the gold medal at next month's Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

The respondents were:

- Brian Boitano, the 1988 Olympic champion and a two-time world champion, who has followed Chen closely for years.

- Evan Lysacek, the 2010 Olympic champion and 2009 world champion, who trained briefly on the same ice as Chen when the younger skater began working with Rafael Arutunian in California seven years ago. The 2018 U.S. Championships were the first time Lysacek had been in an arena to watch Chen compete.

- Scott Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic champion, four-time U.S. champion and four-time world champion, who has watched Chen compete at various levels.

- Dick Button, the 1948 and 1952 Olympic champion, who got his first chance to see Chen -- 70 years his junior -- in person at the 2018 U.S. Championships.

- Hayes Jenkins, the 1956 Olympic champion, who first saw Chen in person at the 2014 U.S. Championships in Boston, where Chen, then 14, won his second U.S. junior title.

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