Frank Carroll, familiar figure skating face, back again

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SOCHI, Russia – There was only one time that legendary figure skating coach Frank Carroll considered quitting the sport altogether – way back in 1980.

“After Linda Fratianne lost the Olympic Games in 1980, I thought, ‘I don’t want any part in this sport anymore,’” the 75-year-old Carroll told NBCOlympics.com Sunday. “The next year I had the junior world champion and I remember the president of U.S. Figure Skating saying, ‘Oh, I thought you were going to quit.’ I guess quitting didn’t work out and I’m glad it didn’t.”

Figure skating is glad, too. From Fratianne to Michelle Kwan to Evan Lysacek and now Gracie Gold (with others in between), Carroll has seen skating through generation after generation from the boards, a stoic face and unfettered fatherly presence on the side of the ice.

“He is the most extraordinary coach of our generation,” said Scott Brown, a figure skating coach that works alongside Carroll training Gold. “Everything that he does I want to emulate. I’m fortunate with Gracie that I get to spend all this time with him. He’s the athlete’s coach and the coach’s coach. We can all just aspire to be half as great as him. He is the real deal.”

And he has been for over 30 years, which makes Carroll’s legacy that much more powerful. Friday night he won another Olympic medal, this time as the coach for Denis Ten, who trains with Carroll and Gold in Los Angeles. The Kazakhstan native won a bronze in the men’s singles event after Gold had helped the U.S. to third place in the new team event earlier in the week.

But the fact that Carroll is sticking around for the final few days of these Olympics – the ladies singles event – was not a situation foreseen just six months ago. He and Gold began working together only in September.

“One of the things that I’m known for – god, it sounds like I’m incredibly proud of myself! – is being able to package a skater,” Carroll said, a slight grin on his face. “With Gracie, she was taught extremely well, but I think she had troubles with how to go about competing on an emotional level – putting it all together. I think I have an eye for how to put things together. I basically took a talented girl with good skating skills and tried to make her into a package.”

He’s helping to do the same with Polina Edmunds, the third member of the U.S. ladies team along with Gold and Ashley Wagner, consulting with her coach David Glynn, himself a former Carroll student.

“He’s such a great role model for every young coach,” said Glynn, who trains Edmunds in San Jose. “He’s so willing to offer advice and help; his integrity is wonderful. He wants to help not only the skaters, but the parents and the whole skating community.”

RELATED: Edmunds not skipping out on homework while in Sochi

Helped he has for years and years. Why then, for a man at his age, does Carroll continue to do the work that he does?

“What’s that song from ‘Follies’? ‘I’m Still Here’?” Carroll said, laughing. “It’s sort of like a game to me. It’s like pieces of a puzzle: ‘Can I put this together? Can I get this person to be a real achiever?’ I play games with myself all the time.”

In those short five months, Carroll has helped piece together the 18-year-old Gold, who is considered an outside shot to win a medal in Sochi come Wednesday and Thursday.

Come those nights, Carroll says he will get a little nervous, but not like he used to.

“It’s not electricity anymore, but a little bit of nervousness,” Carroll said. “I’m very used to it all. That intense anxiety has really worn off a lot. I realized what will be will be. By the time Evan won his gold, I wasn’t expecting anything … It was, for me, if the cards worked out right, he was going to win. And he did!”

Yet that was four years ago, when Carroll was already past 70 and – aside from Lysacek – without an American prospect for Sochi. Though Carroll still expected to be here.

“Of course!” He said, smiling. “And if I don’t quit, I expect to be back at the next one, too. I sound like ‘Ol’ Man River’ who just keeps going on. It’s a fun profession to be in and I don’t have any immediate plans to retire.”

Carroll jokes that it’s greed that keeps him on the boards, but it’s obvious he just can’t quit. And hasn’t thought about it since 1980.

RELATED: Gracie faces pressure of living up to her name

“You’re a lifer in skating,” said Brown, who with Carroll and Gold once a month. “If you’re addicted, this is what you’re doing. You go throw the ups and downs, but the ups are so great and they feel so good and make you always wanting more. I think he feels that.”

Carroll’s skaters have felt a variety of things over the years. Frank has become a fixture every four years on TV sets across the U.S. In 1998, an emotional Kwan leaned into his shoulder tight as her scores came in just a touch low, giving Tara Lipinski the window she needed to win. But Frank’s face remained unchanged.

It was Gracie Gold who was having trouble keeping her emotions in check before she came to Frank, working with longtime coach Aleksander Ouriyashev in Chicago. But with Carroll, there are no outbursts, only continuously improving skating skills and know-how.

Noah Lyles clips Trayvon Bromell in personal best at New Balance Indoor Grand Prix

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Noah Lyles got his 2023 off to a personal-best start, beating Trayvon Bromell in a photo finish in the 60m at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on Boston on Saturday.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, ran 6.51 seconds. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, also ran 6.51. Lyles prevailed by two thousandths of a second.

“I’ve been waiting on this for a long time,” Lyles, whose personal best was 6.55, told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Lyles is running the 60m to better his start as he bids to add the 100m to his 200m slate come the outdoor season that starts in the spring.

Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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