Hanyu, Ledecká rise above it all in a year when world sport needed them - and other athletes - as salvation from scandal and cowardice

Hanyu, Ledecká rise above it all in a year when world sport needed them - and other athletes - as salvation from scandal and cowardice

In international sports, 2018 was a year of courage and cowardice and common sense in seeing through a con.

And, as usual, it was a year of athletes of all colors, backgrounds, nations, shapes and sizes rising above the inanity, craven callousness and amorality of the old, white men who run global sports.

To which one can only say this:  Thanks, Yuzuru Hanyu and Simone Biles, thanks Ester Ledecká and Chloe Kim, thanks Eliud Kipchoge and Team Shuster. . .thanks to you and more for the achievements and goodwill that made us remember that sport, for all its ugly, scandalous warts, can show humankind at its most attractive.

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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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In (sort of) suspending a skating judge, international federation mocks fans with ethical relativism

In (sort of) suspending a skating judge, international federation mocks fans with ethical relativism

In mid-June, the International Skating Union gave a one-year suspension to Huang Feng of China for showing “obvious and systematic” national bias in his judging of the pairs event at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The first weekend of July, the international federation allowed Huang not only to attend an important ISU seminar on the ramifications of recent scoring system changes but also to take – and pass – a test for promotion as a technical controller, an event official's position that can have an even bigger impact on the outcome of a competition than a judge.

Huh?

The ISU willingly provided me an answer to that befuddling question, but the logic in the answer smacks of relative ethics in an area where absolute ethics are demanded.  The bureaucratic hair-splitting involved simply is unacceptable.

And the ISU's "discipline" of the miscreant judge gives skating fans yet another reason to wonder if they can ever trust the results in this highly subjective sport.

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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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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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