Catching up with Tim Goebel

Timothy Goebel
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Tim Goebel, the “Quad King,” is still keen on figure skating, knowledgeable and opinionated.

It’s been 12 years since he thrilled the home crowd in Salt Lake City, throwing three quadruple jumps in his free skate en route to a bronze medal.

Goebel graduated from Columbia University after he retired in 2006, worked for Nielsen, the ratings company, and is now back in New York City keeping busy on and off the ice.

OlympicTalk recently caught up with Goebel to reflect on his career and the current state of figure skating.

OlympicTalk: What are you doing now?

Goebel: I’m working for an ad agency called MEC, doing consumer analysis. I moved back to New York City in August.

I’m still coaching a little bit, still trying to stay involved in skating. I definitely want to give back to the sport however I can. It did so much to enrich my life. I’m trying to pass that along to the next generation.

OlympicTalk: What did you think of the men’s competition in Sochi?

Goebel: I think with the new format, the team event coming first, I think everyone was at a disadvantage with not having a day off between the short and the long programs. As the performances showed, especially with the men, that’s really critical. No matter how well prepared the athletes are, you need the mental recovery of the day off in between, especially when so many of the top people did the team event first.

I like the idea of the team event, but I think the way it was executed [coming before the individual events] was not necessarily the best for the athletes.

OlympicTalk: Who was your favorite skater to compete against?

Goebel: [Aleksey] Yagudin and [Yevgeny] Plushenko. Really, for the year before Salt Lake City and then into the Olympic year, we were always pretty much grouped right at the top. It was exciting because we pushed each other to be better.

It’s been 12 years since Salt Lake City and people are just now starting to do at the Olympics what we did in 2002. It took a long time for the next generation to implement the quads into the new judging system.

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OlympicTalk: What impresses you the most about Plushenko?

Goebel: The most amazing thing about him is he has been near the top of the sport for so long. It’s really remarkable that he was able to come back and train and compete at 31. There’s no way I could see myself physically be able to train like that. No one from our group would even consider it. Me and Yagudin, there was no way we were coming back.

To be doing the really hard technical stuff for that long is kind of a miracle. I can’t believe he can still do that.

OlympicTalk: Did you ever have thoughts about coming back after you retired in 2006?

Goebel: None at all. When I retired, I knew going into 2006 it was going to be my last competitive season, whatever happened. As much as I really loved competing and loved skating, I knew it was time to go on and do something else. I had always wanted to go back to school. I didn’t want to delay that any longer. I wanted to go and have a normal life, so to speak, after skating.

OlympicTalk: What changes would you like to see in the sport between now and the next Olympics?

Goebel: The biggest thing is the transparency in the judging. I think the anonymous judging — good, bad or indifferent — there’s a perception that there’s something happening behind the scenes. I think transparency is paramount if people are not going to constantly question the results.

Even in Sochi, with the Russian girl [Adelina Sotnikova] winning. Immediately, it was a scandal because it was in Russia, and she hadn’t had the best international season.

Jeremy Abbott reconsiders retirement

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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