Ice dancing coach can’t choose between gold, silver

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SOCHI, Russia – Marina Zoueva loves her job. She wouldn’t change it for the world. She actually thinks it’s easy.

Monday night inside the Iceberg Skating Palace the St. Petersburg-born Michigan resident will watch as her two star ice dance teams battle it out for the gold medal, four years after they did the same in Vancouver in 2010.

“I just wish for a good sleep and to be ready for tomorrow,” Zoueva said when asked if she would have a difficult time sleeping Sunday night. “I love my skaters skating – I can’t wait to get up and work again. They are beautiful, both teams. You can see they have different skates, different approaches. I truly enjoy it.”

It’s one of the many confusing intricacies of the figure skating world that baffles and awes us every four years: coaches, even those of the highest-caliber athletes, train skaters who oftentimes compete against one another, including on Monday in ice dancing for Olympic gold.

VIDEO: Davis, White dance to new world record

Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White hold the lead over Vancouver gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, the two teams coached by Zoueva in the same suburban Detroit rink, a situation unfathomable if you put it this way: What if the U.S. and Canada played again in the gold-medal hockey match? And were coached by the same coach?

“They never try,” shrugged Zoueva. “Maybe they should try.”

What Zoueva has tried to do herself the last four-plus years is explain how it works, coaching the two best teams in the world. Sunday night she shuffled between the two, first watching Virtue/Moir skate their short dance, sitting in the Kiss and Cry with them before walking back across the far end of the rink to a warm-up room where Davis/White were prepping for their own skate.

VIDEO: Reigning world champs sit in second

“Marina does an incredible job,” Davis said at the short dance press conference. “If you want to delve into it, the two teams have very different styles and approaches and strengths. She’s an incredible coach. She knows a lot about life in general and she brings that to the ice with her. When those complexities arise between the two teams she does a wonderful job implementing necessary solutions.”

“I just do my job,” said Zoueva, simplifying the situation. “I have two talented – extremely talented –  teams and I just do my job properly. It’s not hard.”

Other prominent coaches have faced similar situations in figure skating. At the Sochi Games, former Olympic medalist Brian Orser was on the boards for two medal contenders: Yuzuru Hanyu (who won the gold) and Javier Fernandez (who finished fourth).

VIDEO: Sochi’s twizzles sizzle on ice

But no one at these Games has faced what Zoueva will on Monday.

“I always so much enjoy for the team that wins and am very sorry – sometimes cry – for the team that lost,” Zoueva explained. “For me they are individuals, I keep in my heart both of them.”

Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
Getty
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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
Ironman
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona men’s pro race, Saturday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Both entered Kailua-Kona, where the races were now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men. Chelsea Sodaro won the women’s race, ending a 20-year American victory drought.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

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