1980 Soviet hockey coach’s grandson on Russia Olympic Team

Viktor Tikhonov
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The Miracle on Ice will probably be mentioned once or twice when the U.S. men’s hockey team plays Russia on Feb. 15.

Both sides in Sochi have ties to the famed 1980 Olympics game.

The U.S. roster includes defenseman Ryan Suter, son of Bob Suter, who played for the U.S. Olympic Team in 1980. The Suter story has been told often, as Ryan also played on the 2010 Olympic Team.

The Russia roster released two weeks ago included forward Viktor Tikhonov, a first-time Olympian. Tikhonov, 25, shares his name with the coach of the 1980 Soviet Union Olympic Team, who is his grandfather.

The older Tikhonov, once a Central Red Army colonel, was known as an iron-fisted coach for the 1980, ’84, ’88 and ’92 Olympic Teams. He has been called the Tolstoy of Soviet hockey. It appears he hasn’t changed at age 83.

“Of course my grandfather congratulated me when I told him I was on the team,” Tikhonov told the Moscow Times. “He was very proud to hear the news but first asked me why my club team had lost its last game.”

Tikhonov has never played at a World Championships — injury reportedly kept him out the last two times — and has a chunk of one season of NHL experience. Now with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL, he was chosen for the Russian team over the likes of seasoned NHL forward Alexander Semin.

The Moscow Times interviewed a hockey analyst from a Russian sports daily who said Tikhonov was not selected for the Olympics because of his family ties, that he had earned it.

Tikhonov is far different from his grandfather. He has a California accent and surfer hair and visited Russia for the first time at age 15 with an American passport.

“I received my Russian passport when I was 16 or 17,” Tikhonov told the newspaper. “I am Russian by blood and I cannot imagine playing for another national team. But I still spend time in the U.S. in the summer. I guess I am a Russian-American mix.”

The Globe and Mail recalled an interesting story when a young Tikhonov did go to Moscow and worked out at the Central Red Army headquarters.

“Every day, I’d go over to eat with my grandparents and the last day he came with me and said, ‘I’m just going to watch you work out and see what you’re doing and maybe give you a few pointers.’ So I went in, spent half an hour working out and then he stopped me and said: ‘Turn the music off. You’re not going to do this again. Forget this.’

“Then he took me through a workout that was probably 20 or 30 minutes – the time flew by – little weights, lots of jumping, all legs. I couldn’t walk for two days. He said, ‘This is 30 or 40 per cent of what you should be doing every day.’ I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ “

His father, Vasily, coached in various roles for the San Jose Sharks organization from 1993 to 1999 and died in August, falling from a fourth-floor apartment window.

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier top pairs’ short at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the pairs’ short program in what may be their last U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Knierim and Frazier, who last March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, tallied 81.96 points to open the four-day nationals on Thursday.

They lead by 15.1 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe going into Saturday’s free skate in San Jose, California. The top three teams from last year’s event — which Knierim and Frazier missed due to him contracting COVID-19 — are no longer competing together.

After nationals, a committee selects three U.S. pairs for March’s world championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Before the fall Grand Prix Series, the 31-year-old Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“I don’t like to just put it out there and say it is the last or not going to be the last because life just has that way of throwing curveballs, and you just never know,” Frazier said this month. “But I would say that this is the first nationals where I’m going to go in really trying to soak up every second as if it is my last because you just don’t know.”

Knierim is going for a fifth U.S. title, which would tie the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka Ina, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Knierim is also trying to become the first female pairs’ skater in her 30s to win a national title since 1993. Knierim and ice dancer Madison Chock are trying to become the first female skaters in their 30s to win a U.S. title in any discipline since 1995.

After being unable to defend their 2021 U.S. title last year, Knierim and Frazier reeled off a series of historic results in what had long been the country’s weakest discipline.

They successfully petitioned for an Olympic spot and placed sixth at the Games, best for a U.S. pair since 2002. They considered retirement after their world title, which was won without the top five teams from the Olympics in attendance. They returned in part to compete as world champions and to give back to U.S. skating, helping set up younger pairs for success.

They became the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix Series events, then in December became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final podium (second place). The world’s top pairs were absent; Russians banned due to the war in Ukraine and Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China leaving competition ice (for now).

Knierim and Frazier’s real test isn’t nationals. It’s worlds, where they will likely be the underdog to home favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who edged the Americans by 1.3 points in the closest Grand Prix Final pairs’ competition in 12 years.

Nationals continue with the rhythm dance and women’s short program later Thursday.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Pairs Short Program
1. Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 81.96
2. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 66.86
3. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea —- 65.75
4. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 63.45
5. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 63.12
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 56.96
7. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 50.72
8. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 46.96
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 46.81
10. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 45.27
11. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 43.99

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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