Grant Hochstein
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Grant Hochstein reaches figure skating’s highest level, first Worlds at age 25

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BOSTON (AP) — Grant Hochstein wakes up at 5 a.m. most days, not to work on his own skating but to teach the sport to others.

The 25-year-old American is accomplished enough to set a goal of qualifying for the next Olympics, but not famous enough to earn big endorsement deals to pay for all that goes into that. So he spends 12-hour days at the rink, alternating between coaching and being coached.

Just listening to Hochstein describe his typical schedule is exhausting.

“I usually teach 6:15-8, and then I skate 9-9:45,” he explained Monday. “Teach 9:45-10:30. Skate 10:45-11:30. Teach 11:30-12:15. Skate 12:30-1:15.”

And on and on it goes. But not this week, when Hochstein will be competing against the best skaters on the planet on national TV in front of a sold-out crowd at a big-name arena.

He’s the oldest American man to make his World Championships debut since 27-year-old Rudy Galindo two decades ago. Before this season, Hochstein had gone to senior Nationals six times, never finishing better than seventh — and that came in his first appearance way back in 2010. It had been five years since he’d received a spot in the sport’s elite Grand Prix series that takes place each fall.

So as this season started, he didn’t know how much longer he wanted to compete. The decision hinged partly on his results, but also on how soon he hoped to get going on life after skating.

Now that he’s had the most successful season of his career, Hochstein plans to stick with the sport for another two years to try to make the 2018 Olympic team. And he’s comfortable with that commitment because, in many ways, he’s already entered his post-skating world.

“I’m doing this because I enjoy it, not because I’m trying to hang onto something,” Hochstein said. “I see where my life is going, and I’m very, very happy about that.”

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He lives with his girlfriend, fellow skater Caroline Zhang, and their dog near a rink outside Los Angeles and contentedly jokes about their unglamorous lifestyle: “That’s how you know you’re getting very domestic, when you spend your weekends going to Sam’s Club and being excited about it.”

Zhang, 22, was the 2007 World junior champion but has not made it to senior Worlds; she missed this season because of hip surgery. Hochstein talks about getting married and having kids, and when they return from Worlds they plan to start budgeting to save up to buy a house. He wants to keep coaching after he retires.

“Skating is just a part of my life now, and I think it’s one of the reasons I’m doing better,” Hochstein said. “You go home, and I have my girlfriend; I have my dog. I have to go take out the garbage.”

He studied history at Wayne State back home in Detroit for four years and is 33 credits short of his diploma. College has been on hold since he moved to California in 2012 to work with coaches Peter Oppegard and Karen Kwan-Oppegard, but even if he never uses the degree, he wants to eventually figure out a way to complete it.

“My advice once he finished up high school,” said his mother, Joyce Eberling, “was knowing that one day he’d be a husband and a father, it was very important to have a degree.”

When this season began, Hochstein knew he had an outside chance at a spot in the Grand Prix series. He found out he got one early one morning while teaching lessons and called home to wake up Zhang and tell her. Hochstein wound up going to two Grand Prix events, twice finishing fourth to build confidence.

At the U.S. Championships in January, he came in a personal-best fourth, well behind third-place Nathan Chen but good enough to earn a spot at Four Continents, a major international competition in February. The men’s field at Nationals was thinned by injury, with two of the top three finishers from 2015 out, including defending champ Jason Brown. Brown petitioned for a spot on the Worlds team but did not receive one, and Hochstein was selected as the first alternate.

Hours later, Chen aggravated a hip injury during an exhibition, and when he required surgery, Hochstein took his place. It was bittersweet for Hochstein, who trains at the same rink as Chen.

On Wednesday, he’ll skate his short program at Boston’s TD Garden. He doesn’t have the multiple quadruple jumps to match the world’s best skaters, but at the national level, neither do many of the top Americans.

At a practice session Monday, Hochstein landed two quads and didn’t try any more — he’s learned not to push his body too far.

“He’s training more smartly,” his mother said.

That’s especially important with his rigorous teaching schedule. Sometimes he can’t help but be a little jealous of those skaters who simply go to the rink for their workouts then head home. Tuesdays are “heavenly” because he’s there for only six hours.

“When you are financially independent and you know that you need to work in order to pay for your training, you have to be very organized in your daily schedule,” Zhang wrote in an email. “You don’t have the luxury of doing additional sessions and adding in extra lessons if you have an off day because you already have lessons scheduled that you need to teach. You need to prioritize training while still being able to earn enough for your necessary expenses such as food, rent, and life expenses.”

As Hochstein put it: “When you have to work for it and really know what it’s like to earn it, it’s so much sweeter.”

MORE: U.S. men’s results at Worlds could impact 2018 Olympics

Coronavirus forces Olympic soccer and boxing qualifiers to move

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Olympic qualifying events in two sports were moved from the Chinese city of Wuhan on Wednesday because of an outbreak of a deadly viral illness.

A four-nation Asian qualifying group for the women’s soccer tournament was switched from the city at the center of the health scare to Nanjing.

The Asia-Oceania boxing qualifying tournament scheduled for Feb. 3-14 in Wuhan was cancelled. No new plans were announced.

The decisions followed Chinese health authorities telling people in Wuhan to avoid crowds and public gatherings.

The Asian Football Confederation said the round-robin group — featuring host China, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand — will be played on Feb. 3-9, retaining the same dates, in Nanjing.

More than 500 people have been infected and at least 17 killed since the outbreak emerged last month. The illness comes from a newly identified type of coronavirus.

Cases have also been reported in the United States, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. All involve people from Wuhan or who recently traveled there.

In the soccer qualifiers in China, two teams advance to a four-nation playoff round in March. That will decide which two teams from Asia join host Japan at the Tokyo Olympics.

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Russia trounces U.S. boys’ hockey team to wrap up Youth Olympic Games

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Russia routed the U.S. 4-0 in the boys’ hockey gold medal game Wednesday, the final day of the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The U.S. had more penalties (three) than shots (two) in the first period. Russia’s Matvei Michkov converted the first power play and added an even-strength goal later in the period. Another power-play goal in the second period ran the score to 3-0.

Michkov just turned 15 and is projected as a top pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.

The gold medal was Russia’s ninth of the Games, excluding events that featured mixed-nationality teams, and 27th overall medal. Both numbers were the best of the competition.

Switzerland finished second in the medal tally with nine golds and 22 total. Japan, the surprise winner in girls’ hockey, matched Switzerland with nine golds among its 17 medals.

The U.S. had two gold medals and 11 total. Kiernan Fagan took gold in the boys’ ski slopestyle and silver in ski big air. Dusty Henricksen won the boys’ snowboard slopestyle.

Fagan, who turned 18 during the Games, already has a couple of World Cup podiums and finished 12th in slopestyle in last year’s world championships. He also took silver in big air and slopestyle in last year’s world junior championships.

Henricksen, who’ll turn 17 next month, placed 17th in the World Cup big air event last month in Atlanta.

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