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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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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Carroll ends coaching relationship with Gracie Gold

Frank Carroll and Gracie Gold looked like ships passing in the night after the free skate at nationals

Frank Carroll and Gracie Gold looked like ships passing in the night after the free skate at nationals

Frank Carroll said Sunday his coaching relationship with Gracie Gold will end as soon as the two can iron out legal issues related to his contract with the skater.

Speaking exclusively to icenetwork, Carroll responded "No" to the question of whether he could see any way he would coach Gold in the future.

"There will be a change," Carroll said. "But you can't just say goodbye. It's got to be worked out intelligently and legally when we get home."

When reached for comment, Gold said she was caught off-guard by Carroll's decision.

"I am surprised that Frank announced his decision before informing me," she said in a statement. "I continue to have the utmost respect for Frank Carroll and his legacy. He took me on during a very vulnerable time, and I am forever grateful for our work together. Despite my sadness in missing this world championships, I will benefit (from the) extra time entering the Olympic season. I plan to use it well."

Carroll, based in Los Angeles, took over coaching Gold in September 2013 when she suddenly left her previous coach, Alex Ouriashev, in Chicago. Under Carroll's tutelage, Gold won two U.S. titles and finished fourth at the 2014 Olympics and the 2016 World Championships.

But this season has been a monumental disappointment for Gold, 21, who skated poorly at all four of her competitions. A sixth-place result Saturday night at the U.S. championships meant she is not going to worlds for the first time in her five-year senior career.

"When you spend a lot of time with somebody and give them all your energy and realize that it is now going nowhere, I think it is time for a change, definitely," said Carroll, 78, who plans to retire from fulltime coaching after next year's Olympics.

"I hope it will end graciously, because we both deserve that. I can't see being angry when you've spent a great deal of time together in the cold, and you've had great success.

"I think we did a pretty good job together, and then we had one complete disaster at the end of last year (worlds), which to me wasn't horrible, being fourth in the world and first in the short program.

"That, to me, isn't like the end of the world, (but) I think that basically it crushed her, and she felt like it was the end of the world. And then she could never get out of it. It didn't matter what anybody said or did -- it just wasn't going to be."

Gold was fiercely self-critical about her failure at worlds. She said two weeks ago that it was only during a recent trip to work with Ouriashev that she forgave herself for it.

The reunion with Ouriashev came in an effort by Gold to try to salvage the season after what would be its lowest ebb, a sixth-place finish last month at the Golden Spin of Zagreb in Croatia, where Gold received her lowest international scores since 2012. Two weeks of repair work had produced encouraging results for Gold, but the fixes clearly were short lived.

In a text message Sunday, Ouriashev said he had "no idea" whether Gold would return to him full time in preparation for the Olympic season.

"I feel very upset," Ouriashev said of his reaction to Gold's ninth-place free skate in Kansas City. "She was the best talent for ladies figure skating. I still believe in her."

(This article originally appeared on icenetwork.)

Mirai Nagasu finds herself in a better place

Mirai Nagasu finds herself in a better place

The connection had only audio, but you still could see Mirai Nagasu smiling during a media teleconference last week.

Both the tone of her voice and the content of her answers transmitted an image of happiness.

It was an emotion that long had been muted publicly in Nagasu, making the sound of it the most pleasant of surprises, especially since her Grand Prix results this season would not seem a cause for joy.

"This is the first time in a couple years I'm actually really excited to go to nationals and show everyone what I am practicing and what I am capable of," Nagasu told the media on the call.

At age 23 -- yes, still only 23 and about to make a 10th straight appearance in the senior division at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships -- it felt as if the 13-year-old version of Mirai Nagasu was with us again.

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