To icenetwork, hail and farewell - and thanks

To icenetwork, hail and farewell - and thanks

I had covered figure skating for 35 years – and, to that point, at 10 straight Winter Olympics - when I took a generous buyout in November 2015 from the Chicago Tribune because the paper’s management decided it no longer could afford to support the travel necessary for me to cover international sports the way I had for three decades.  The time was right for me to make that move, and I have nothing but gratitude for the Tribune’s having allowed me to make international sports and the Olympics my news beat.

But I hoped to continue getting paid for covering figure skating at least through the 2018 Winter Olympics.  I am forever grateful that, beginning in 2016, icenetwork provided me the chance to it, and I am disappointed that this figure skating web site will soon be no more.

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Balancing act: Skating officials moved to find better harmony between artistry and athleticism in the sport

Balancing act: Skating officials moved to find better harmony between artistry and athleticism in the sport

Quadruple jumps were limited, the practice of backloading programs to gain bonus points was severely curtailed, and neither a major conflict-of-interest issue nor raising the minimum age for senior competitions was even approved for discussion.

Those were the major takeaways from the biennial International Skating Union congress last week in Seville, Spain.

But the impact of what did -- and did not -- happen at the 57th ISU Ordinary Congress will likely be far less significant than the ramifications of ISU Communication No. 2168 (pdf), issued 10 days before the congress began.

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Out of his funk, Jason Brown moves forward with a big change

Out of his funk, Jason Brown moves forward with a big change

Even before he failed to make the 2018 Olympic team, Jason Brown sensed the time had come for him to make a significant change.

Part of such a change was bound to seem momentous, given that the 2014 Olympian had spent his entire 18-year figure skating career with the same coach, Kori Ade. Once Brown graduated high school, he followed Ade from the Chicago suburbs to Monument, Colorado.

"Kori is like a second mom to me," Brown said via telephone from Toronto. "That's what made it hard to take the next jump."

It was quite the leap.

Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, announced Tuesday he was moving to the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club, where coach Brian Orser presides over a group of singles skaters that next season also will include: two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan; two-time world bronze medalist Boyang Jin of China; two-time world champion and 2018 Olympic silver medalist Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia; 2017 world bronze medalist Gabrielle Daleman of Canada; 13-year-old phenom Stephen Gogolev of Canada; and, occasionally, two-time world champion Javier Fernández of Spain, torn between full competitive retirement and the idea of trying for a seventh straight European title.

Being on the ice with such skaters will be a tremendous change for Brown, who was by far the most accomplished skater at his rinks in Illinois and Colorado.

"I have never been long term in a place with a ton of high-level people, so I really have no idea what that environment will be like," Brown said. "I'm very internally driven, so it has never been a huge piece for me to be in a place like that for motivation.

"At the same time, I couldn't be more excited and honored to train alongside some of the greatest skaters in the world. Can I learn from them? I hope so. I'm turning a page, and the future awaits."

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Proposal to raise minimum age for senior events brings figure skating back to the future

Proposal to raise minimum age for senior events brings figure skating back to the future

Jeroen Prins long has been deeply involved in figure skating, with a wide range of expertise.

Prins, 54, was a national-level skater in the Netherlands who now is an international referee and technical controller in singles, a technical controller in pairs and a judge in ice dance.  He holds several positions in the figure skating section of the Dutch Skating Federation and is a candidate for membership on the International Skating Union’s singles and pairs technical committee.  He is a figure skating commentator for Eurosport Netherlands.

And Prins had been thinking long, hard and deeply about the issue of minimum age in senior figure skating before writing the urgent proposal to raise it to 17 that the Dutch federation submitted to the ISU Congress that begins June 4 in Seville, Spain.

“I has this idea in mind already at the start of this past Olympic season, but I wanted to see how everything unfolded,” Prins said in an email.

What unfolded was the second youngest women’s Olympic champion in history, 15-year-old Alina Zagitova of Russia.  And the top two women (girls?) at the World Junior Championships, also both Russians, were 13 and 14.  And the top three women at the Junior Grand Prix Final, all Russians (the top two were the same as at junior worlds), were 13, 14, 13.

One of those three, world junior champion Alexandra Trusova, did two quadruple jumps in her winning free skate at the world juniors.  Since then, video has been posted of another Russian – Anna Shcherbakova, 14, who did not compete in the 2017 world juniors or the 2017 Junior Grand Prix series – doing a clean quad lutz-triple toe-triple loop combination in practice.

So Prins decided the time was right to ask that the ISU raise the minimum age for seniors in all disciplines from 15 to 17 as of the 2020-21 season, with the two-year wait designed to prevent any 15- or 16-year-olds already in seniors from being forced back to the junior level.

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The Medvedeva saga: Orser on her ex-coach's reaction, plus money, choreography. . .& more

The Medvedeva saga: Orser on her ex-coach's reaction, plus money, choreography. . .& more

Evgenia Medvedeva’s stunning announcement Monday that she was leaving her longtime coach, Eteri Tutberidze, in Moscow to work with Canadian coach Brian Orser in Toronto continues to make headlines in Russia and both dominate and invigorate Internet and social media discussions about figure skating.

After writing about Medvedeva’s move Monday in an icenetwork story featuring my interview with Orser, there remained many facets of the story to be covered.  Here are several:

When emotions run high. . .again

Orser understands the emotions that led to Tutberidze’s critical comments about Medvedeva when the Russian coach learned Medvedeva was ending their working relationship after 11 years.

Orser had reacted similarly about Yuna Kim’s decision to leave him after she won the 2010 Olympics.

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