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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G.0.A.T. in men's skating? Let the debate begin

G.0.A.T. in men's skating?  Let the debate begin

GANGNEUNG, South Korea - And now for one of those entertaining, irresoluble questions with answers certain to provoke incendiary reactions from supporters of the athletes involved:

Did becoming the first man since Dick Button in 1948 and 1952 to win consecutive Olympic gold medals make Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu the greatest men's singles skater of all time (aka the G.O.A.T.)?

Or should that unofficial title still be bestowed on Button?

Or on Russia's Evgeni Plushenko, the only man since World War II to win individual singles medals at three Olympics (silver in 2002, gold in 2006, silver in 2010) while contributing significantly to the quadruple jump revolution and having to adapt to two entirely different judging systems?

And let's not forget Gillis Grafström of Sweden, who won three straight Olympic golds (1920, '24, '28) and then a silver in 1932.

Comparing achievements from different eras in the sport ultimately is a futile exercise, no matter how much fun it is.

"There's no common frame of reference," said Sandra Bezic, a 1972 Canadian Olympian, noted choreographer and longtime TV commentator.

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