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Nathan Chen commits to Yale this fall

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NEW YORK — Nathan Chen had until May 1 to determine if it was possible to continue figure skating while attending Yale this fall. His decision?

“I’ve committed,” to the Ivy League school, Chen said at the Figure Skating in Harlem gala in Manhattan on Tuesday night.

The 18-year-old world champion plans to move to New Haven, Conn., after U.S. Figure Skating’s preseason Champs Camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., typically in mid-to-late August. Classes start Aug. 29.

Chen spoke after attending Bulldog Days, a freshman orientation, in New Haven last week. Asked if he was recognized by other prospective students, Chen joked that he took about 400 or 500 photos. He also consolidated his belief that he can make this work.

“Trying to figure out a long-term academic progression,” he said. “Trying to figure out how to plan around [Beijing] ’22. I still have a lot of questions that I want answered, but I think that’ll come as time progresses.

“I want to have a test run, just to see how practice is going to work with school because I know there’s a rink about 30 minutes out from campus. I need to know what my course schedule will look like, like how many courses will be in the morning, afternoon and evening and when I can plan skating around that.

“Mostly right now it’s to make sure I’m willing to commit to Yale, they’re willing to commit with me, and that seems to be the case.”

Chen said he’s already brought up his ideal competition scenario for the fall — competing at Skate America in October and Grand Prix France in November. The Grand Prix Final in Vancouver in December starts on the last two days of classes before a weeklong break ahead of final exams. The world championships take place during spring break.

He would have to miss classes to compete at the U.S. Championships in January in Detroit.

“[Yale] said, typically, it should be OK,” said Chen, who is currently touring with Stars on Ice. “Those are some of the questions that I have that need to be answered.”

He has the option of taking up to two full semesters off before the 2022 Winter Games.

Chen would not be the first figure skater to attend Yale, but 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes did so after retiring from competition. Chen said he will probably have the same freshman adviser that Hughes had.

“This first year is to decide, see how much I can handle them both [school and skating], then go from there,” he said.

Chen does not plan to seek a second coach close to Yale to supplement his Southern California-based coach, Rafael Arutyunyan.

“I’ll try to get back [to California] as much as I can, slash bring Raf [to New Haven] as much as I can, but I think most of it will have to be done pretty remotely,” he said. “I’ll just stick with Raf and check in with him at the end of every week.

“I’ve spent 13 years of my life on the ice, so I already know the fundamentals of skating. Raf has educated me well to take the reins myself. We’ll try it. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, we’ll try to figure out something else.”

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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.

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