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Jeremy Abbott retires from figure skating

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Jeremy Abbott, a four-time U.S. champion and two-time Olympian, has ended his competitive figure skating career.

The 32-year-old Abbott will not come out of a two-year break from competition in a bid to make a third straight Olympic team next year.

“It took a lot of time. It took a lot of conversations with a lot of people. It took a lot of tears and a lot of red wine, to be honest,” Abbott said on the Ice Talk podcast, adding that he will continue to perform in ice shows. “Most of my reasoning for wanting to come back was very superficial. The goals that I was kind of setting for myself, I could still accomplish as a professional. So it was silly for me to come back. My goals weren’t substantial enough, and they weren’t necessary for me to accomplish what I want to accomplish as a skater moving forward.”

Abbott excelled at the U.S. Championships, matching Olympic champions Scott Hamilton and Brian Boitano with four crowns. He beat Evan Lysacek in 2009 and 2010, seasons where Lysacek won world and Olympic gold medals.

Abbott struggled at the Olympics. He was ninth in Vancouver and 12th in Sochi after entering both Winter Games as the national champion. He grabbed a bronze medal in the first Olympic team event in Sochi, but only after erring on all three jumping passes and crashing into the boards.

Abbott originally planned to retire after the 2014 Olympic season, but a career-best-tying fifth-place finish at the 2014 World Championships motivated him to skate on.

He also finished fifth in his last three competitions — Skate America, NHK Trophy and the U.S. Championships (two weeks after his father’s death) in the 2014-15 season — and did not make that world team.

Making the 2018 Olympic team would have been a tall ask.

Even in his heyday, Abbott did not have the technical firepower to compete with current U.S. teen phenoms Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, who can land six and three quadruple jumps in their respective free skates.

The U.S. Olympic team of three men will be chosen after nationals in January. Past U.S. champions Adam Rippon and Jason Brown are also in contention.

“After watching nationals this year, it became very clear I’m not going to win a fifth title, and second is even reaching for the stars,” Abbott said. “But we have three spots … and I really felt like I could be a contender for a third spot for a third Olympic team.”

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THANK YOU!!! I have so much that I want to say. I've written and rewritten this a hundred times, but nothing I say seems to articulate how I truly feel. I competed for 25 years and I honestly never thought in a million that I would have gotten to do ANY of what I actually did! It has been BEYOND a joy and a privilege to represent @usfigureskating and @teamusa for 8 international seasons at 3 Grand Prix Finals, 4 Four Continents, 5 World Championships, and 2 Olympic Games! But more than anything it was my pleasure and complete honor to share my love, my dedication, my journey, and every ounce of my heart and emotion with all of you!!! You all are the reason I love what I do more than anything, you all are the reason I was able to get up at the Olympics when I wasn't sure if I could continue, and you all are the reason I will continue to perform until I can no longer stand! Skating has been the love of my life since I was two years old and I can't believe I got to share it all with you! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart! I will miss competing more than you know, BUT I'm not going anywhere!!! I will be on the ice and a part of this sport for a loooooooong time to come! ❤️❤️❤️

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Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

MORE: Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

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