Rachael and Tom learning how to curl. With Figure Skating Team Leader Lorrie Parker at practice.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


I think it was very fitting that I watched the closing ceremonies from the comfort of my living room. The past 16 days have been rewarding, exciting and transforming to say the least. I probably described it much more thoroughly and accurately in my other entries (Doing this last entry reminds me of how much I hated writing summary paragraphs at the end of a paper.)

Now I am back home. Back to the reality of everyday life. Back to work. Back to the task of helping figure skating athletes reach their dreams over another four year cycle...

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Since many reporters have called and I have received several e-mails from many people, I thought I should say something about Rachael's technical scores from the long program. Rachael and I accept the calls about her triple flips being downgraded. In our sport these type of calls are labeled "field of play decisions". The ISU can better explain this process since it is not entirely transparent to coaches and athletes like it is in the NFL or other sports that use instant replay.

After watching her performance first on CTV and then on NBC when I returned home, I did not see anything that made me suspicious that both triple flip jumps were underrotated. In fact, commentators from both television stations were also surprised by the calls based on slow motion replay of the jumps in question from their camera angles (the ISU camera is not part of the various network cameras). Her GOEs from the judging panel indicate that in the case of the triple flip-triple toe combo she gained an extra .60 points based on the quality of completion. (In her short program when she was given full credit for the same combination, she gained .40 points.) If a judge thinks a jump is not fully rotated when they review it on their screen (judges can review up to four elements in slow motion), that judge can take a minus deduction between -1 to -3, with -1 being less severe and -3 being the most severe. On her second triple flip combination with 3 jumps, Rachael was given 4 base values, 2 +1s and 3 -1s. She lost only .06 on this combination after the high and low marks were dropped and then averaged. These are the facts I know from the score sheet that Rachael and I were given.

Downgrades are common in our sport for many of the top skaters (men and women)--not just Rachael. When they are not obvious to the naked eye, these calls are frustrating not only to the skaters and coaches, but also to the fans and audience that doesn't understand. Perhaps the ISU can show the camera angle they use on a big screen like they do in the NFL and give the audience the ability to agree or disagree with the specialists' call. Even though this would not change the final decision, greater transperency would be good for the sport.

Friday, February 26, 2010


What a great evening of ladies figure skating. I was so proud of Rachael and impressed with the high level of competition. Obviously, the downgraded triple flips cost Rachael a whole lot of points, but overall she had a great experience here. She is definitely learning that the podium is about faster, higher and stronger, in addition to poise.

There seems to be some confusion regarding personal bests so I thought I would clarify things. When Rachael scored over 200 points at nationals, that number becomes her new national personal best. Her score of 182.49 at the Olympic Games is now her new ISU personal best, which means her short program and long program scores were her highest of the season for any international event. The ISU does not count any skater's score from their own national championship because they assume there will be a certain amount of national bias in the score.

As her coach, I was pleased with little things in her performance like the combination spin being faster and receiving positive GOEs from every judge and her triple loop and triple lutz-double toe combination, which were both done with ease. Next week, it will be back to work for the World Championships which will be held in Torino, Italy, the site of the 2006 Olympic Games.

During the Olympics, I have been working out in the Olympic Village gym, which is like you would expect it to be: amazing! While there I observed Mark Johnson, the coach of the US women's silver medal hockey team (he played and scored two goals on the winning 1980 Men's hockey team in Lake Placid). He was already on the treadmill when I walked in and was still on the treadmill when I left about an hour later. I was speaking to some of the ladies from his team this morning (and congratulating them on their silver medal) and they told me he has completed 3 IRON MAN competitions. No wonder I felt like I was being lazy when I worked out the other day.

There is a place called the Olympic Village living room. It is an actual building that has any type of video game imaginable, a Vitamin water bar, a signature wall for the athletes, a living wall of plants and a stage where variouos bands perform. The music styles vary from day to day and have included jazz, soul, hip-hop, rock, alternative, etc. Most notably eighties band Devo hit the stage a few days ago.

Frank and I are off to do some sightseeing on this very rainy day in Vancouver.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Today was a back to work day for Rachael and I and all of the other 24 female skaters (the bottom six were cut after the short program) and their coaches. At this highest level of the sport all of the ladies have a plan for exactly how they train on the day in between the short and long program. Every lady today did something different on the first practice and only three of the top six ladies did the second practice: Rachael, Mirai and Mao.

Rachael and I discussed her short program in detail and as you might expect we were very pleased with her debut Olympic performance since she improved her international personal best by over six points. We got to watch it on CTV while she was warming up for her first practice. Except for the triple lutz, which I called a squeaker, many of her elements were done to the best of her ability. She was all smiles yesterday from the moment we met to take the bus over, through her off-ice warm up, on-ice 6 minute warm up, while she was waiting to compete, while she competed, in the kiss and cry and in the mix zone with the press afterward. Needless to say, she was so excited to compete and I think it showed.

As a coach with a critical eye, I offered her feedback on what she did well and kept my criticisms to a minimum. Rachael knows the areas that could have been better besides completing a stronger triple lutz, which probably cost her 4th place (she lost 1 full point of the Grade of Execution or GOE of that jump and placed .12 behind Miki Ando from Japan). She is also learning what it takes to reach the podium. From my point of view, Rachael keeps getting stronger and stronger each time she shares the ice with Yuna and Mao.

Even though we are at the Olympic Games, there is still much to be learned. Becoming the best athlete in the world is a continual development process. What better place to gain experience than here!

Onward to the long program and another day of exciting women's figure skating.

P.S. Snagged tickets to the USA vs. Switzerland men's hockey game in between Rachael's practice sessions. USA won 2-0 and it was the third non-skating event that I attended at the Games. This is more than I expected!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Now I know why my favorite TV show, The X-Files, was filmed in Vancouver. The cloudy and rainy weather that served as the background for much of the action is once again upon us. I joked to Rachael that she would bring the sunshine back today. She smiled. So far, it's business as usual. She was very organized in her 35-minute warm up with music and she will compete in 6 hours. Here comes the sun, da-da dada, here comes the sun....

Monday, February 22, 2010


With all of my entries describing how different things are at the Olympics, tomorrow will be about Rachael and I sticking to her success formula and keeping things the same.

Before I returned to Vancouver, I asked my five-year old son, Dylan, if he knew what the Olympic Games were. He said no. I also asked my seven-year old daughter, Madison, if she knew what they were. She said yes. I asked her to tell me. She said, "It's the biggest competition in the world." She is right.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


After being here amidst all of the excitement with all of the US athletes doing so well in so many sports, Rachael and I are ready to go. The draw for the ladies short program was this morning and Rachael drew 28th out of 30 women. So she will skate third in the last warm up group of five skaters.

The practice groups are now arranged according to the draw and no longer by nation so Rachael and Mirai will no longer practice together (since Mirai's ISU ranking is lower she will skate in an earlier group). It has been a lot of fun for both Frank and I to be around these two bubbly teenage girls. Our bus rides have been an eye opener and mostly full of giggles. And while Rachael and Mirai couldn't be more different, they both have a lot in common.

Earlier today, Rachael and I were both saddened to learn that 2009 Canadian World Silver Medalist Joannie Rochette's mother, Therese, 55, died of a heart attack last night shortly after she and her husband arrived in Vancouver. Our thoughts and prayers are with Joannie and her family. When something like that happens at an Olympic Games it really makes you appreciate what you have in your life, but also begs the question, "What would I do if I was in that situation as an athlete and a coach?" So, as a coach, I would support my athlete in whatever decision he or she would make. We have heard that Joannie will compete and I am sure that is what her mother would have wanted.

Walking through the mix zone with Rachael, I was surprised that the reporters asked her how she felt about the situation with Joannie. Frank and I both learned about what happened minutes before the US ladies practice started and we both independently decided not to talk to both girls about it until after the practice. Needless to say, when the reporters explained what happened to Rachael she was shocked and saddened. I could only think how disrespectful this was to both Joannie's family and Rachael.

On a brighter note, the IOC has organized the first ever youth Olympics in order to encourage young people around the world to participate in sport. The games will be held in Singapore in August and feature 3,600 youth athletes between the ages of 15-18 participating in summer sports. The first winter edition of this new IOC program will be held in Innsbruck, Austria in 2012. In addition to the athletes, the program will also involve young ambassadors and reporters from over 205 nations. Way to go, IOC!