Skater Gracie Gold has comeback plans after long break from competition

Skater Gracie Gold has comeback plans after long break from competition

Gracie Gold is coming back to competitive figure skating after a lengthy absence from the sport to cope with eating disorders, anxiety and depression.

The two-time U.S. champion and 2014 Olympic bronze medalist in the team event received a berth to the Rostelecom Cup Grand Prix competition next November.

She has not competed since the January 2017 U.S. Championships.

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An old debate about the young in figure skating heats up again: is it time to raise the minimum age for seniors?

An old debate about the young in figure skating heats up again: is it time to raise the minimum age for seniors?

Is it time to raise the age minimum for singles figure skaters in senior international competition?

Rafael Arutunian thinks so. The coach of the only two U.S. skaters to win senior World Championship medals since 2009 brought up the idea unprompted during our lengthy recent conversation at his training base south of Los Angeles.

For a number of reasons, including health, career longevity and competitive equity, Arutunian favors a minimum age of 18 for senior men and women rather than the current 15.

“Everyone now talks about jumping too much and people starting to damage themselves,” Arutunian said.  “How do you want to stop that?  In my mind, there is only one way: not allow them to compete (at seniors) until 18.

“If I am 12 years old, and I know real money is after 18, do you think I will do too many quads, or I will do just enough quads to win and save my body for later?”

Several other coaches and skaters contacted by phone, email or text message, including Alexei Mishin of Russia, Brian Orser of Canada and Tom Zakrajsek of the U.S., agreed with Arutunian, especially where female skaters are concerned.

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Wait for It: Stars on Ice shines brighter as show goes on, leaving you wanting more

Wait for It:  Stars on Ice shines brighter as show goes on, leaving you wanting more

The first half of Sunday’s Stars on Ice show at Allstate Arena in suburban Chicago felt like an interminable rock concert with skating as an incidental accompaniment to music blared at twice the necessary volume.

The decibels didn’t drop much in the second half.  But, despite a difficult two days of travel, the skaters amped themselves up after intermission with programs richer in choreography and polish.  Those performances thankfully dampened the music, putting the skaters at the center of the icy stage and allowing the visual to take the expected precedence over the aural.

By the penultimate star turn, with new world champion Nathan Chen doing “Nemesis,” his competitive short program this season, this was a show that clearly understood the maxim to always leave the audience wanting more.   As Stars finished with the entire cast - 13 U.S. Olympians - combining on “You Will Be Found” from “Dear Evan Hansen,” the two hours of entertainment had become more and more compelling.

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Comings, goings and questions as coach Rafael Arutunian looks to next season

Comings, goings and questions as coach Rafael Arutunian looks to next season

LAKEWOOD, Calif. -- In an upstairs locker room at Lakewood ICE, a skating facility with three rinks 21 miles south of Los Angeles, each dressing stall has a plate above it with the name of a figure skater or coach who regularly trains or teaches there.

On a recent afternoon early in what passes for the (brief) off-season in figure skating, odds and ends of clothing lay in the dressing stalls assigned to Team USA members Nathan Chen, Ashley Wagner, Adam Rippon and Mariah Bell. Michal Březina of the Czech Republic and Romain Ponsart of France have their fair share of personal belongings in the locker room as well, as do their coaches, Rafael Arutunian and Nadia Kanaeva.

Which of those skaters will be using the stalls next season remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: there definitely will be some new ones working with the only person who has coached U.S. singles skaters to World Championships medals since 2009 - Chen's gold last month and Wagner's silver in 2016.

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Breathtaking Olympic performances highlighted figure skating season

Breathtaking Olympic performances highlighted figure skating season

Some random observations on the competitive figure skating season that ended last week at the World Championships in Milan:

1.  The enduring memory will be of the overall excellence at the 2018 Olympics – the best skating in all four disciplines at the 11 Winter Games I have covered.

The full flowering of the quad revolution led to boggling feats in the men’s event, where Japan’s peerless Yuzuru Hanyu won a second straight Olympic title with a balance between athleticism and art unmatched by any man during the 14-seasons the IJS has been used at global championships.

Russians Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva were flawlessly stunning in taking gold and silver, respectively, in the women’s event, and Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond won bronze with her huge jumps, expressiveness and sense of choreographic purpose erasing one relatively minor mistake.

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