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Category: 2010 Vancouver Olympics

Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yuna considering L.A. as a training base

Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yuna has many reasons to love L.A., most notably because she won the 2009 World Championship at Staples Center while building up to her gold-medal performance at Vancouver in February.

The 20-year-old from South Korea likes it here so much that she has begun training at the East West Ice Palace in Artesia, a rink owned by Torrance native Michelle Kwan, a two-time Olympic medalist, five-time world champion and nine-time U.S. champion.

Kim will make the rink her base at least for the next month while she practices for the All That Skate LA show Oct. 2 and 3 at Staples Center, in which she and Kwan will be featured alongside a stellar collection of Olympic and world champions. If Kim likes the conditions enough she might stay even longer because of the availability of rinks and quality coaches here, said Koo Dong Hoi, an executive with the agency that represents her.

Kim was surrounded by Korean TV and print journalists Tuesday at Burbank's Pickwick arena during a news conference to promote next month's skating extravaganza. That's nothing new. "In Korea, she is much more than a movie star," Koo said.

That constant attention might lead Kim to take up residence here for a while.

"I was training for about four years in Canada," she said through a translator, her only reference to her departure from her previous training base in Toronto and breakup with Coach Brian Orser. "My coach and where I am going to be training is not decided definitely yet. But I’m here for the show and also find out the atmosphere and environment of training.

"L.A. has a large Korean American community and I also won a world championship here and trained a little bit when I was young here. So I’m going to make those decisions slowly, step by step. Since L.A. is a city that gave me great support for skating, I think I’m going to be very comfortable and enjoy the great energy in the city."

Training here, she said, "I'm going to have a comfortable environment and plan out what's next."

Check www.latimes.com/sports later for an update on Kwan's life after competitive figure skating and how she's preparing to make an impact in another field: international diplomacy.

-- Helene Elliott



Skater Johnny Weir says he plans to reinvent himself

Johnny Weir Johnny Weir's off-ice charisma has overshadowed his competitive skating for several seasons. Now, the three-time U.S. champion has decided to step back and assess himself, for what may be a comeback in a different guise.

U.S. Figure Skating announced Thursday morning that Weir will take next season off from competition in an attempt, as Weir put it, "to reinvent myself as an athlete and artist.  I say this with the hope of returning as a competitor for the 2011-12 season.''

Read more: "Skater Weir taking competitive break to reinvent himself"

-- Philip Hersh in Chicago

Photos:  Johnny Weir gets into the Kentucky Derby spirit with an outlandish hat. Credit: David Perry / McClatchey-Tribune

Skaters Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, once the future, are now history

Barely two years after being hailed as the next great U.S. pairs skating team, Keauna McLaughlin of Tarzana and Rockne Brubaker of Algonquin, Ill., are done skating together.

McLaughlin, 17, has decided to leave the sport for at least a year and concentrate on high school. Brubaker, who turned 24 on Monday, will search for another partner.

Brubaker After winning the 2008 and 2009 U.S. titles, they dropped to fifth last season, failing to win a 2010 Olympics spot.  At the time, Brubaker vowed they would press on.

"Sometimes things don't always work out the way you would like them to," Brubaker said in January. "It's about staying the course.  We're young."

Pairs is a discipline that often demands years for the chemistry of excellence to catalyze. The 2010 Olympic champions, Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China, skated together 18 years; silver medalists Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China for 17 years; and bronze medalists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany for seven.

McLaughlin and Brubaker stayed together just four seasons. They had immediate success on the junior level, winning the U.S. and world junior titles in 2007, then took the national senior title in 2008 with a performance so compelling NBC commentator Sandra Bezic said it gave her shivers when she thought of how promising their future looked.

Despite winning a second straight U.S. title in 2009, McLaughlin and Brubaker consistently struggled over the last two seasons, finishing 11th at the 2009 worlds.

They switched coaches after that, moving to John A.W. Nicks in California, but that did not stop their slide from a team that won everything in their first season together to one that had become distant also-rans in 2010.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker after finishing fifth at the 2010 U.S. Championships. Credit: Rick Bowmer / Associated Press

'Law & Order' scene won't push Vonn from slippery slope

LVNBC Lindsey Vonn as Alicia and Jeremy Sisto as Det. Cyrus Lupo on the upcoming May 24 episode of NBC's "Law & Order." (Eric Leibowitz / NBC)

By Philip Hersh

Lindsey Vonn has a scene on Law & Order's 20th season finale May 24.

Sometime earlier that day, the 2010 Olympic alpine skiing champion intends to put a little law and order back in a schedule that has been a whirlwind of celebrity appearances since she returned from Europe in mid-March after winning four World Cup season titles: Overall, downhill, Super-G, combined.

LV  Since then, she has walked the red carpet at the Academy of Country Music awards in Las Vegas, attended the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, sat with Eli Manning and designer Tory Burch at the Met Costume Institute Gala in New York and starred at the Race to Erase MS Gala in Los Angeles.

And, following up on her Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue appearance, Vonn was ranked No. 59 on the 2010 Maxim Hot 100  in an issue that came out this week.  She and Danica Patrick (No. 25) are the only athletes on the list.

But the time has come to start preparing for the next ski season.

``I'm going to start working out the same day my episode airs,'' Vonn said Thursday.  ``I'll hit the gym and begin my six-day-a-week, six-hour-a-day training program.  We start on-snow training in the beginning of August in New Zealand.''

Vonn, still just 25 years old, has not pushed skiing from  the center of her life.  

``I can't imagine myself doing anything else but skiing, at least for the moment,'' she said.  ``Skiing is my passion.''

Even after the highs -- and injury angst -- at the Olympics, there was no question of her not going back for the final two weeks of the World Cup circuit, despite the difficulty of shifting her mind from celebration mode to competition mode.

 ``It was a little anti-climactic to finish off the season,'' she said.  ``I'm really thankful I was able to do it well.''

Vonn said she was more nervous about being on the TV set with her favorite actors than in the start house about to tear down a downhill course at 70 miles per hour.

``I was completely shaking, but I had a grin from ear-to-ear,'' she said. ``I was supposed to be a serious character that is ratting out her boss, and I just couldn't stop smiling.  I think the producer was scratching his head a little bit.

``All the other actors were able to joke around between takes and then as soon as they called, `Action,' they were serious.  I was still just smiling.  I don't know if I did a great job.''  

Vonn is such a fan of "Law & Order" she had said she was willing to play a corpse just to get on the show.  ``My role was a little more fun that that,'' she said.

If you see her on the street, Vonn might be wearing the "Law & Order" robe that was part of her swag for doing the scene.  ``I've pretty much had it on since it came to the house,'' she said.

Ironically, even as she was talking about how much she loves the show, the entertainment website deadline.com was reporting that "Law & Order" will not be renewed next year.  An NBC spokesperson declined to comment.

``I really hope it's not cancelled,'' she said.  ``I would be devastated.''

She got her biggest kick from being on the show after the filming ended, when the other actors started trying on her Vancouver medals -- gold from the downhill and bronze from the Super-G. 

``I was standing there with my favorite characters,  hanging out with my Olympic medals,'' she said.  ``It was definitely a surreal moment.''

When she is home, Vonn keeps the medals close to her bed and doesn't leave home without them.

``They are kind of part of me now,'' she said.

(Photo: Lindsey Vonn and country singer Joe Nichols presenting the record of the year award at the Academy of Country Music Awards last month in Las Vegas.  Ethan Miller / Getty Images.)

Skater Mirai Nagasu says she will move with her coach

Got a couple of responses Thursday from a very busy Mirai Nagasu, answering a question I had texted her recently about the effect of her coach Frank Carroll's planned move this summer from the Toyota Sports Center near Los Angeles International Airport to a new rink 130 miles east in Cathedral City.

(For my blog post on the situation, published Tuesday, click here.)

Mirai Nagasu, who lives 45 miles from El Segundo and about 100 miles from Cathedral City, will be along for the ride.

"Yes, I'm going with him," she said in the first message, then added, "If you could raise money so I can move there that'd be great ... lol.''

Nagasu, 16, was texting from Fort Myers, Fla., where she will be performing in the Smucker's Stars on Ice show that opens a 41-city tour Thursday night. Stars on Ice plays the Staples Center on May 20 and the Honda Center in Anaheim on May 21.

"I'm skating a show today in brand new skates ... literally!!!'' Nagasu texted.

She had returned home Monday from the World Championships in Turin, Italy, then flew east Wednesday with her "chaperon,'' Olympic champion Evan Lysacek. 

Lysacek is juggling 26 appearances with Stars on Ice with his work on "Dancing With The Stars," which requires he be in Los Angeles from Sunday through Tuesday for as many as nine more weeks (if he makes the "DWTS" final).  He and partner Anna Trebunskaya survived the first cut Tuesday.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Mirai Nagasu in the free skate last Saturday at the World Figure Skating Championships. Credit: Clive Rose / Getty Images

Skate coach Carroll expects his move won't affect Nagasu

Bumped into Frank Carroll at Monday night's "Dancing With the Stars" show, where he was a front-row guest of his Olympic champion skater and "DWTS" contestant Evan Lysacek.

Even though Carroll was dazed by his 24-hour Sunday trip back from the world championships in Turin, Italy, we talked briefly about news of another trip he is taking, moving his primary coaching base from the Toyota Sports Center near LAX  to a new rink 130 miles east in Cathedral City, near his home in Palm Springs.

EvAnna2 Carroll, 71, confirmed a report about the move that surfaced over the weekend on the figure skating fan site Michelle Kwan Forum.  In our brief conversation, he said the move shouldn't present any problems for his other Olympic skater, 16-year-old Mirai Nagasu.  They began working together before the 2010 season.

"From where she lives, it takes about the same time to get to Cathedral City as it does to [Toyota]," Carroll said.

Carroll will remain at Toyota through July, then coach at Lake Arrowhead until the expected October opening of the rink in Cathedral City.

As for Lysacek, who lives about two hours closer to Toyota than to Cathedral City, he has yet to decide about remaining in competitive skating at the Olympic level.

During a Tuesday conversation in the "Dancing With the Stars" lunch trailer, where he picked at fruit and salad, Lysacek said there would be ways for him to continue working with Carroll should he remain in Olympic-style skating. 

"If I go to my house in Las Vegas on the weekends, I could hit that rink on the way back [to Los Angeles, where he also will keep a residence] and train there for a couple days,'" Lysacek said.  "Frank has a huge house, so hopefully he wouldn't mind if I stayed in one of his many bedrooms.

"We haven't really talked about it.  He didn't want to distract me before the Olympics.  I just sort of heard it [the move] was happening very quickly, but I was busy with all of this, and he was getting ready for worlds.  I'm sure I will also continue to train here at Toyota Sports Center because I live here.

"My general feeling is if I am going to go for another Olympics, I can't miss a whole season.  So I would have to decide soon and be ready to compete in the fall."

Before he went into the "DWTS" ballroom, where he sat between Lysacek's mother, Tanya, and 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski, Carroll shook his head over the mistake -- and the mind-set -- that had cost Nagasu a world bronze medal last week, when she won the short program but finished 11th in the free skate and seventh overall in Turin.

"She kept telling me, 'I'm scared, I'm scared, I'm scared' before going out on the ice for the free skate,'' Carroll said, "and that's obviously something we will have to work on."

Despite several major mistakes -- including a fall on a double axel -- Nagasu finished just 3.14 points behind bronze medalist Laura Lepisto.  Had Nagasu merely stayed upright on the double axel and received a neutral grade of execution, it would have been worth 3.47 more points than she received for the botched, downgraded execution of a relatively simple jump for a skater of her level.

"All season long, we have been telling her, 'Skate, skate' when she comes out of the spread eagle and goes into the double axel, but she still had the tendency to slow down, and this time it really was costly," Carroll said.

The coach still was extremely pleased with Nagasu's season, given her having finished second at the U.S. championships and fourth at the Olympics, the two events before worlds.

"Her last six programs, five of them were great," he said.  "And seventh at your first [senior] worlds isn't that bad.  Dorothy Hamill [the 1976 Olympic champion] was seventh in her first worlds.''

-- Philip Hersh

Evan Lysacek and partner Anna Trebunskaya perform the jive Monday on Week 2  of the current edition of "Dancing With the Stars."  For the second week in a row, judges gave them the second-highest scores.   Adam Larkey /ABC

No tears, but Nagasu still must get past fears


At least there was no big crying jag for Mirai Nagasu this time.

Nagasu has made substantial overall improvement since that episode at November's Cup of China, yet she still must learn to cope with what caused it: the pressure of being first after the short program at an international competition. Call it fear of flying high.

As Mao Asada of Japan won her second world title in three seasons, helped by a second straight badly flawed performance by reigning Olympic champion Kim Yuna of South Korea, short program winner Nagasu came undone in the free skate Saturday at Turin, Italy.

The 16-year-old from Arcadia, Calif., made three significant errors and plummeted to 7th overall with an 11th in the free skate. "Coming off the Olympics, where I was fourth, finishing seventh here is a really big blow," Nagasu said. "I feel really bad." Reigning U.S. champion Rachael Flatt was 9th, four places below her 2009 finish.

Nagasu's coach, Frank Carroll, had insisted she shed "no more tears'' after the China event, when she dropped to 5th after the free skate. Despite some snuffling in her voice, Nagasu kept a mostly stiff upper lip in an interview with Universal Sports after Saturday's poor performance.

Prior to Saturday, she had put together five straight strong performances -- three short programs, two free skates -- at major events: the U.S. Championships, Olympics and worlds. That was big step up from last season, when a growth spurt, a foot injury and teenage angst left her a very tearful fifth at nationals -- a year after her surprising U.S. title at age 14 -- and prompted the coaching change that brought her to Carroll. 

She always has been hard on herself, and Saturday was no exception. "I told myself last year that I wouldn't feel like this any more, so it's really a bummer to feel like this again," Nagasu said. "It took a lot to get me out of the pits last year, and I sort of feel like I'm there again now. I'm going to go home and try to get ready for next season and just take it one step at a time." 

Nagasu started badly in the free skate, with a stepout on her first triple lutz that kept her from doing a combination. Then she had a two-footed landing on her second triple lutz, which was downgraded to a double, and a fall on a double axel, which was called a single.  Her final planned triple, an easy toe loop, also was downgraded.

"Sorry," Nagasu said to Carroll after coming off the ice. An hour later, she was trying to talk a U.S. figure skating official into going for ice cream at a nearby mall. The only positive about the free skate came in the component (or artistry) scores, where Nagasu ranked a more presentable 6th. 

Kim's chances of retaining her 2009 world title disappeared when she botched two of her final three jumps. Kim's score, 130.49, was nearly 20 points below the record total (150.06) she amassed in her Olympic victory last month. It was good enough to win the free skate, but well short of overcoming the eight-point lead Asada had over Kim after the short program, when the South Korean made mistakes on three different elements.

Asada, the Olympic silver medalist, finished with 197.58 to 190.79 for Kim. Extremely generous scoring for a program filled with double jumps (eight doubles to just three triples) gave Laura Lepisto 178.62, allowing her to hang onto third by .8 over Japan's Miki Ando and become the first Finnish woman to win a world medal. HugDamienMeyerGettyNagasu had 175.48, Flatt, 167.44.

Kim fell on a triple salchow and popped a double axel.  She also lacked spark throughout the 4-minute program. "My short program and the morning practice was not good, and I was worried," Kim said. "I am glad I was able to overcome the difficulties."

Kim's free skate score was still more than respectable. Only three other women (Asada, Joannie Rochette and Sasha Cohen) have scored higher. Kim, 19, said she would wait until after taking a break before deciding about competing next season. She was the first woman to skate at worlds in the same season she won the Olympic title since Kristi Yamaguchi of the U.S. in 1992.

Upon arriving in Turin, Kim said she had struggled with finding the motivation for worlds. "The Olympic Games were the biggest goal in my life," Kim said Saturday. "After winning the gold medal, I thought there was nothing more." 

Asada was second in 2007, first in 2008, then fourth last year, when Kim began to dominate the women's competition. "It has been a long time that I felt I had to work harder because of her (Kim)," Asada said. "Thanks to her, I grow as a skater, and I will be encouraged to work harder even from now on."

Asada, 19, gave every indication she will continue competing.  She is looking for a new coach after two seasons with Russia's Tatiana Tarasova.

-- Philip Hersh

Top photo: A dejected Mirai Nagasu, with coach Frank Carroll, after hearing her free skate scores. Credit: Clive Rose / Getty Images. Bottom photo: World champion Mao Asada of Japan congratulates silver medalist Kim Yuna of South Korea before the medal presentation Saturday. Credit: Damien Meyer / Getty Images

Kim loses world title to Asada; Nagasu falls to seventh


Kim Yuna's chances of retaining her world title disappeared when she botched two of her final three jumps in Saturday's free skate at Turin, Italy. Japan's Mao Asada took the title for the second time in three years.

And short program leader Mirai Nagasu of the U.S. came undone, dropping all the way to seventh in the final standings after a free skate with three major errors.

Nagasu was only 11th in the free skate.

Kim's free skate score, 130.49, was nearly 20 points below the record total (150.06) the South Korean amassed in her Olympic victory last month.

Asada overtook Kim in the overall score. Asada was lower in the free skate. Asada had a total score of 197.58 to 190.79 for Kim.  Laura Lepisto was third, becoming the first Finnish woman to win a medal at worlds.

Kim, 19, fell on a triple salchow and popped a double axel.  She also lacked spark throughout the 4-minute program.

As she came off the ice, her coach, Brian Orser, said, "You got through it.  Don't worry about it."

Kim's free skate score still was more than respectable.  She had only 111.70 at Skate America last fall, and only three other women (Asada, Joannie Rochette and Sasha Cohen) ever had scored higher than 130.49 going into Saturday's action.

But Kim had finished just seventh in the short program Friday with the third lowest score of her senior career, 10 points behind Nagasu and 8 behind Asada.  Kim botched a jump, a spin and a spiral in the short program.

"I'm sorry,'' Nagasu said to her coach, Frank Carroll, as she left the ice.

Nagasu started badly, with a stepout on her first triple lutz that kept her from doing a combination.  Then she had a two-footed landing on her second triple lutz and fell on a double axel.  She finished at 175.48.

U.S. champion Rachael Flatt was 9th, four places below her 2009 finish.

Kim is the first woman to compete at worlds in the same season she won the OIympic title since Kristi Yamaguchi of the U.S. in 1992.

Earlier this week, Kim said she had struggled with finding the motivation to compete at worlds.

-- Philip Hersh

Kim botches two jumps in free skate; leaders yet to take ice

Kim Yuna's chances of retaining her world title apparently disappeared when she botched two of her final three jumps in Saturday's free skate at Turin, Italy.

Her score, 130.49, was nearly 20 points below the record total (150.06) the South Korean amassed in her Olympic victory last month.

Kim, 19, fell on a triple salchow and popped a double axel. She also lacked spark throughout the four-minute program.

As she came off the ice, her coach, Brian Orser, said, "You got through it. Don't worry about it."

There were nine skaters remaining when Kim finished, including short program winner Mirai Nagasu of the United States and 2008 world champion Mao Asada of Japan.

Kim's free skate score still was more than respectable. She had only 111.70 at Skate America last fall, and only three other women (Asada, Joannie Rochette and Sasha Cohen) ever had scored higher than 130.49 going into Saturday's action. But Kim had finished just seventh in the short program Friday with the third lowest score of her senior career, 10 points behind Nagasu and 8 behind Asada. Kim botched a jump, a spin and a spiral in the short program.

-- Philip Hersh

U.S. skater Nagasu wins world short program; Olympic champ Kim 7th

A month ago, as the Winter Olympics ended, I wrote a blog saying the most enduring memory I would take from Vancouver was a vision of Mirai Nagasu as the next Olympic women's figure skating champion.

MiraiDamienMeyerGetty Friday, the 16-year-old from Arcadia, Calif., looked like just that.

With a stunning performance in the short program at the World Championships in Turin, Italy, Nagasu stands first with 70.40 points going into Saturday's free skate.

Even more stunningly, she took a 10-point lead over Olympic champion and reigning world champion Kim Yuna of South Korea, who had problems on three different types of skating elements and wound up 7th with 60.30 points, 18 fewer than her world-record score in Vancouver.

Given her recent level of excellence, it was undoubtedly the worst short program of Kim's career at the senior level, although she had lower scores twice before, at the 2008 worlds and 2007 Cup of China.

KimAPPaulChiasson An aborted entry meant Kim got no credit for her layback spin. She was given level 1 - of a possible 4- for the spiral, with a negative grade of execution, and the triple flip was downgraded to a double. Kim, who has won her last six international events, said later she had never before missed an element other than a jump.

"I was a little scared to compete again," Kim said. "The Olympic Games were my goal, and I wasn't sure I could fight again for the World Championships. But tomorrow I will fight, because my motivation is still high. I have to forget about this."

Nagasu's score -- five points better than her 2-year-old personal best short program -- gave her a lead of 2.32 points over Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada of Japan.

"I'm trying not to think about (the free skate)," said Nagasu, a world meet rookie now in position to become the first U.S. woman to win a world medal since Kimmie Meissner took the title in 2006.

Showing the same confidence that carried her to 4th at the Olympics, Nagasu upped her technical ante with a triple-triple on the opening combination (the second jump was downgraded to a double). It was her third straight strong short program performance in a major event, following those at the U.S. Championships and the Olympics.

U.S. champion Rachael Flatt was 6th with 60.88.MiraiSpDamkien 

Asada lost at least five points when the triple axel in her combination was called a double.  That mistake accounted for the difference between the score Friday (68.08) and her 73.78  last month in Vancouver, where she became the first woman to land a triple axel in an Olympic short program.

"Of course, I'm very disappointed because of the downgraded axel, but I think I was able to perform relatively well," Asada said.

The top two in Friday's ice dance final repeated their Olympic finish, with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada taking gold and Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. earning silver.

-- Philip Hersh

Photos, top to bottom: Mirai Nagasu points one finger as she reacts to seeing she is first in the short program. Credit: Damien Meyer / Getty Images. Kim Yuna has an expression and gesture of disbelief after her badly flawed performance. Credit: Paul Chiasson / Associated Press. Nagasu shows her grace and extension during a spiral sequence. Credit: Damien Meyer / Getty Images


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