Rudy Galindo at the 2013 U.S. Championships
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In 30th season as a coach, Hall of Famer Rudy Galindo has settled into a life far from the fast lane

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SAN JOSE, Calif. – Rudy Galindo reached a milestone this season. It is his 30th as a figure skating coach, beginning when he was a 20-year-old working to help defray his own competitive skating expenses.

Galindo will reach another milestone next season. It will be the 25th anniversary of his utterly unexpected and emotionally compelling triumph in men’s singles at the 1996 U.S. Championships. And talk about the stars aligning: the 2021 nationals, like those of 1996, are in his hometown of San Jose.

Those career landmarks would seem reason enough for a party – or several.

Except one of the most charismatic skaters in U.S. history said he isn’t a party animal any more.

When his old pairs partner, 1992 Olympic singles champion Kristi Yamaguchi, calls to ask if he wants to join her at a San Jose Sharks hockey game on a Saturday night, he will reply, “I’m in bed by then.”

“My life is pretty dull,” Galindo said, with a laugh. “Friends ask me to go out, and I say no. They call me a hermit or a recluse.”

No wonder, given the usual daily schedule Galindo outlined. He is up at 4 a.m., coaching from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., then lunch, a nap and a visit to the gym, coaching from 3 to 6 p.m., dinner and another gym visit to work off the meal before a 9 p.m. lights out at his loft condo in downtown San Jose.

“What do I do for fun? Nothing,” he said during the break between his coaching sessions at the Solar4America arena.

“I tell Rudy he needs to enjoy his life,” said Laura Galindo-Black, his sister and one-time coach. “He has become such a homebody. Touring all those years, being an entertainer for thousands of people, it’s like the opposite now.”

Friends like fellow coach Jeff Crandell insist that Galindo still has a sense of humor that makes him a great companion.

I’m happy with steady work and a job I love so much. I just want to help take these kids to the next level.

But fun for the 50-year-old Galindo now is his work, mostly with lower-level or beginning skaters, including Yamaguchi’s daughter, Emma Hedican.

The relationship between Yamaguchi and Galindo went through a long period of strain when she quit pairs to concentrate on singles after winning senior national pairs titles with him in 1989 and 1990, a decision that likely kept him from competing at the 1992 Olympics. They moved past that history over the years when they saw each other on the professional circuit.

Their lives had been intertwined for so long, including almost two years when Galindo lived with the Yamaguchi family, that the bonds never broke irrevocably.

“We still are definitely family,” Yamaguchi said.

So, when Emma expressed interest in skating at age five, Yamaguchi turned to Galindo. He has coached her since 2011.

“It was knowing his technique and his passion for teaching,” Yamaguchi said. “It just made sense. Obviously, I trust him, too.”

Hedican, 14, who won bronze in the open juvenile class at the 2019 Central Pacific Regionals, has other sports interests, including club soccer, rather than the total commitment to skating needed to be among its elite. And because of distance, she trains with Galindo just twice a week.

Rudy Galindo and Polina Edumunds
Rudy Galindo and Polina Edumunds in the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. Championships (Courtesy Rudy Galindo)

“She loves her lesson with Rudy,” Yamaguchi said. “She has even said to me, ‘I wish I had the chance to have more lessons with him.’ That’s when she lights up on the ice. He makes it fun for them and is very positive.”

Galindo has experienced working with the top end, as well. He choreographed 2014 Olympian Polina Edmunds’ programs from 2015 through 2018. That included her heavenly winning short program to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” at the 2016 U.S. Championships, for which he won a nomination as Professional Skaters Association choreographer of year.

He also choreographed Alysa Liu’s programs as an intermediate in 2016 and a novice in 2017. When her novice free skate topped 100 points at the Pacific Coast Sectionals, Galindo was amazed.

“I thought, ‘She’s going somewhere,’” Galindo said.

Liu’s journey since has brought her to back-to-back senior national titles – the first made her the youngest U.S. senior champion ever. This week, it has taken her to Estonia for her first World Junior Championships, in which she is a title contender, with Russia’s Kamila Valieva the favorite.

“I think she will give Kamila a run for her money,” Galindo said.

Galindo accompanied Liu at the 2017 sectionals but he rarely travels with skaters now. After 30 years as a competitor and a touring show skater, he prefers to stay home. And, since he is the secondary coach for most skaters with whom he works, Galindo sees no reason to have parents bear the travel expenses of two coaches.

Liu is to be one of the performers when the Skating Club of San Francisco honors Galindo at its annual fundraising gala April 4. So is Kate Wang, whose programs Galindo choreographed this season, when she finished fifth in juniors at the 2020 U.S. Championships.

“Rudy finds just as much joy working with a beginner as with a champion,” said Crandell, Wang’s primary coach.

Galindo calls himself a “full-service coach,” able to help with jumps, spins, footwork and choreography. He is like many such people near the base of the coaching pyramid, teaching the skills that skaters later bring to “big name” coaches who get the credit for medals those athletes win.

“Sure, I’d like to build a champion, but for most coaches, that’s once in a blue moon,” Galindo said. “I’m happy with steady work and a job I love so much. I just want to help take these kids to the next level.

“I know I’m a good coach. As the secondary coach, you don’t have to deal with all the problems, like when they get results that aren’t good. The blame goes to the head coach.”

It’s not surprising that Galindo prefers fewer problems in his life. Before turning 27, despite impressive early success as a skater, he had endured enough difficulties for several lifetimes.

He had been a singles skater for several seasons, winning the U.S. novice title, before embarking simultaneously on a pairs career in 1985 with Yamaguchi, who then was also a rising singles skater. No U.S. pair ever had two such technically accomplished individuals: each won a world junior title as well as a national title in singles; paired, they won the world junior title, two U.S. titles, twice finished fifth at the senior World Championships and did side-by-side triple flip jumps.

The end of their partnership sent him into a downward spiral that accelerated when she won the 1992 Olympic title (after the 1991 world title), justifying her choice to pursue just one skating discipline.

“It’s like in a marriage when you get a divorce and see the other person succeed,” Galindo said. “They move on and marry a millionaire, and you’re still in the trailer park.”

In his case, the trailer park reference was literal.

Depressed, short of money, dealing with coaches and a brother dying of complications related to AIDS, living with his mother in the trailer in East San Jose, still a closeted gay athlete, Galindo turned to amphetamines and alcohol as he continued his skating career in singles. After an encouraging fifth at the 1993 nationals, his results kept getting worse: seventh in 1994 and eighth in 1995, after which he stopped training for several months.

One day, while riding a bike to work [he could not afford a car], he saw a billboard advertising the 1996 U.S. Championships, coming to San Jose got the first time. Galindo realized he wanted to compete in his hometown, where he felt the crowds would cheer him merely for being on the ice.

“But I didn’t want just that,” he said. “I wanted to train really hard so they could cheer for more than me doing a waltz jump [Editor’s note: one-half revolution].”

For several years, he had carried some 20 pounds of extra weight on his 5-foot, 6-inch body, partly from added bulk and muscle he needed in pairs to lift and throw his partner securely. The weight was making his triple jumps very iffy propositions.

Necessity became the mother of Galindo’s weight-loss program. Riding a bike from the trailer to the rink to the gym to another rink where he coached and then back home added up to 12 miles a day, and it helped peel off the pounds.

“I was so fit,” he said.

His sister had relieved some of the financial pressure by coaching him for free and covering other expenses, jokingly calling herself, “The Bank of Laura.” Yet even with that stability and his much better conditioning, no one could have foreseen what would happen during the third week of January 1996 at the San Jose Arena.

He came to the competition without having done a significant competition since the previous season. Even at his best, Galindo long had thought judges were reluctant to give him better scores because he wore over-the-top costumes and tons of makeup, but he had never performed well enough in singles at senior nationals to raise serious questions about anti-gay bias.

In journalist Christine Brennan’s book, “Inside Edge,” published a few days before the 1996 nationals, Galindo had come out publicly as gay and openly discussed his image issues. He also admitted that his temperamental behavior around Yamaguchi after the December, 1989 death from AIDS-related cancer of their pairs coach, Jim Hulick, had contributed to the end of their partnership.

“Kristi didn’t deserve that,” Galindo told Brennan. “Now I look back – what a jerk.”

His singles coach after Hulick, Rick Inglesi, died of AIDS-related causes in 1995. His brother, George, died of AIDS-related causes in 1994. Their father, Jess, had died of a heart attack in 1993.

It seemed all that extra baggage would crush Galindo at the 1996 championships. Just the opposite happened.

“That was his greatest achievement, doing it on his own terms,” Galindo-Black said. “He was finally skating free and happy.”

Yet the short program seemed to reinforce his old fears about proper credit from the judges. Todd Eldredge and Scott Davis, the 1-2 overall finishers in 1995, beat Galindo in the short program, Eldredge deservedly, Davis questionably. The crowd lustily booed Galindo’s scores.

For the free skate, to music from “Swan Lake,” Galindo, then 26, had chosen a costume that could not have been more conservative: all black but for thin lines of white piping at the neck and cuff. That would add to the elegance of what he did on the ice, a flawless 4 1/2 minutes with eight clean triple jumps in a building that roared with every landing and stood as one to applaud with 15 seconds left in his performance.

It was the most electric moment in the 35 U.S. Championships I have covered.

When Galindo pulls images from his memory bank about what he felt after the skate, he thinks of the trailer park and the bicycle and the look of delight on his sister’s face as he came off the ice.

“I was hoping it would be good enough to give me one of the three world team spots,” Galindo said. “Winning was far from my mind.”

Two of the nine judges gave him perfect 6.0s for presentation. Two inexplicably placed him behind Eldredge. But seven chose Galindo, making him, at that point, both the oldest men’s U.S. champion since 1932 and the first openly gay national champion.

Two months later, Galindo won a bronze medal at worlds as Eldredge took gold. It suddenly seemed as if Galindo would get to an Olympics after all – with the money to make a journey to the 1998 Winter Games easier after getting a spot on the lucrative Champions on Ice tour, in an era (soon after the Nancy/Tonya incident) when promoters and TV networks were throwing money at figure skaters.

As he began preparing for the 1997 season, a friend noted the financial risk he was taking at a time when Galindo’s longevity as a hot commodity was uncertain. Another gig with Champions on Ice might not come if he did not have another great season. He turned pro in September 1996.

“I have no regrets about the decision,” he says now. “I’m happy with the way things turned out.”

That includes his health. Galindo revealed in 2000 he was HIV positive. Twenty years later, he needs checkups only every six months and takes one pill a day to keep the virus in check.

“My doctor told me I’m probably going to die of something else,” he said.

Galindo also fell into what he admitted was alcoholism. He said he gave up alcohol when doctors told him the amount of wine he was drinking at home every day was a factor in his stomach ulcer.

“Clean and sober for eight years,” he said.

His left hip has squeaked audibly when he squats since double hip replacement surgery in 2003.

“You’re like the cat with nine lives. How many do you think you have used up?” I asked Galindo.

“Four,” he answered, with a big chuckle.

Galindo skated with Champions from 1996 until that tour dissolved after its 2007 run. His program to three Village People songs – including gay anthems “Macho Man” and “YMCA” – became an iconic showstopper.

He did it for the last time at the Caesar’s Palace “Salute to the Golden Age of American Skating” in 2010. Galindo has not performed in public since.

“During the years we toured on Champions on Ice, I watched in awe as he brought the house down night after night,” Nancy Kerrigan said in introducing Galindo at the Caesar’s show.

Kristi Yamaguchi and Rudy Galindo
Kristi Yamaguchi and her daughter, Emma Hedican, after she won bronze in Open Juvenile class at Central Pacific Regionals last October. (Courtesy Rudy Galindo)

He had lived near Laura in Reno, Nevada, for most of the years when he was touring or competing in pro events. There was no permanent rink in Reno, so he and Laura did some coaching in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., until the commute – 90 minutes each way – became untenable.

He moved back to the Bay Area in 2010, first to Oakland, then to San Jose when he found much more coaching work there. It brought Galindo back to the arena, managed now by a subsidiary of the San Jose Sharks, where he had trained for 1996. It had two ice sheets then and has four ice sheets now, with another two on the way.

“I’ve known Rudy since he was a little boy, and we love having him here as a coach,” said Candy Goodson, skating director at Solar4America. “He is super dependable, and the quality of his work is wonderful.”

Galindo also has no ego-driven need to remind people of his accomplishments, which include a 2013 induction into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame. His reward, as his sister said, is having a little kid he coaches give him a hug and say, “Thank you.”

“I’ll be coaching until I die,” he said. “I will be here in a walker.”

As if to foreshadow such a moment, Galindo has been coaching the past couple weeks while sitting behind the boards because he is on crutches after badly bruising a knee in a misstep.

Why not just sit out for a while?

“What else would I do?” he said. “I just want to coach.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

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As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Novak Djokovic rolls at French Open; top women escape

Novak Djokovic
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Novak Djokovic began what could be a march to his 18th Grand Slam title, sweeping Swede Mikael Ymer 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 in the French Open first round on Tuesday.

The top seed Djokovic lost just seven points in the first set. He gets Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis in the second round in a half of the draw that includes no other man with French Open semifinal experience.

Djokovic had plenty going for him into Roland Garros, seeking to repeat his 2016 run to the title. The chilly weather is similar to four years ago.

As is Djokovic’s form. His only loss in 2020 was when he was defaulted at the U.S. Open for hitting a ball in anger that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Djokovic got a break with the draw when No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem was put in No. 2 Rafael Nadal‘s half. The Serbian also won his clay-court tune-up event in Rome, where he received warnings in back-to-back matches for breaking a racket and uttering an obscenity.

“I don’t think that [the linesperson incident] will have any significant negative impact on how I feel on the tennis court,” Djokovic said before Roland Garros. “I mean, I won the tournament in Rome just a week later after what happened in New York.

“I really want to be my best version as a player, as a human being on the court, and win a tennis match. Because of the care that I have for that, I sometimes express my emotions in good way or maybe less good way.”

If Djokovic can lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires two Sundays from now, he will move within two of Roger Federer‘s career Slams record. Also notable: He would keep Nadal from tying Federer’s record and head into the Australian Open in January, his signature Slam, with a chance to match Nadal at 19.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Earlier Tuesday, No. 2 Karolina Pliskova and No. 4 Sofia Kenin each needed three sets to reach the second round.

The Czech Pliskova rallied past Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif 6-7 (9), 6-2, 6-4. Pliskova, the highest-ranked player without a major title, next gets 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

“Let’s not talk about my level [of play],” Pliskova said. “I think there is big room for improvement.”

Kenin, the American who won the Australian Open in February, outlasted Russian Liudmila Samsonova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

“It doesn’t matter how you win — ugly, pretty, doesn’t matter,” Kenin said on Tennis Channel.

She gets Romanian Ana Bogdan in the second round. Only one other seed — No. 14 Elena Rybakina — is left in Kenin’s section en route to a possible quarterfinal.

American Jen Brady, who made a breakthrough run to the U.S. Open semifinals, was beaten by Danish qualifier Clara Tauson  6-4, 3-6, 9-7.

Sam Querrey nearly made it eight American men into the second round, serving for the match in the third set. But he succumbed to 13th-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, 6-3. It’s still the best first-round showing for U.S. men since nine advanced in 1996.

The second round begins Wednesday, highlighted by Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.

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Alysa Liu grows on the ice and adds inches, too

Liu and Scali in San Francisco
Courtesy Massimo Scali
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Word on the street is Alysa Liu has grown.

The two-time reigning U.S. figure skating champion said that’s true… to a degree. The two inches of height she added between last season and her 15th birthday in August don’t change Liu’s perspective.

“I just went from really short to very short,” Liu said, wryly, via telephone after a training session last week in San Francisco. “I’m up to 5-0. I like the five-foot number, but it’s still short.”

Anyway, the more important measure will be how much Liu has grown as a skater since her successful 2019-20 debut in international junior competition.

As is the case for all skaters, especially those in North America, such skating growth risks being temporarily stunted by restrictions on training and lack of competition caused by the coronavirus pandemic. And physical growth, even if it is only two inches, can also be problematic.

In Liu’s case, issues related to the pandemic have complicated her sudden shift to a new coaching team in late June, when she announced a split from Laura Lipetsky, who had coached her since age 5. Cancellation of the Junior Grand Prix series is giving Liu more travel-free time to adapt to the new situation, although, ironically, travel restrictions are keeping her from having the two-country, three-coach arrangement work the way it was planned.

“I don’t think it affects the long-term plan that much,” Liu said. “I still have my school schedule [where she will finish her high school education before the 2021-22 season, her first as an international senior]. I’m training hard. I’m getting stronger.

“I wasn’t surprised the Junior Grand Prix was cancelled. I’m a little sad I can’t go, but I get to stay home and train, so it’s all good. I do like competing a lot, and I guess I’ll miss that feeling, but because of corona[virus], there is nothing I can do, so I just accepted it.”

As of now, Liu can’t go to Toronto to work face-to-face with coach Lee Barkell, the newest member of the team, and choreographer Lori Nichol, with whom the skater began collaborating last season.

Massimo Scali, the three-time Italian Olympic ice dancer based in the Bay Area who began helping Lipetsky with Liu a month before the 2020 U.S. Championships, now is her in-person coach. Barkell and Nichol contribute via several FaceTime or Zoom sessions each week. Once entry restrictions from the U.S. to Canada are eased, Liu intends to visit regularly while continuing to live with her family in the Bay Area.

Of course, little has gone as might have been planned for Liu over the last two seasons.

In January 2019, at 13, she stunningly became the youngest ever to win a U.S. singles title. In January 2020, at 14, she became the youngest to win two. In the process, Liu became the first U.S. woman to land two triple Axels in a free skate and the first to land a quadruple jump, the former at 2019 nationals, the latter at her 2019 Junior Grand Prix debut.

She won both her 2019 Junior Grand Prix series events. She finished a close second to Russia’s Kamila Valieva at the 2019 Junior Grand Prix Final and a distant third to Valieva at the 2020 World Junior Championships. That made her the first U.S. woman to win a Junior Grand Prix Final medal since 2012 and just the second to win a world junior medal during that period.

Taking over as primary coach of a skate with such a resume carries a burden, especially for a coach like Scali whose entire knowledge base and coaching experience is based in ice dance.

Scali and Liu
Scali and Liu at the Yerba Buena Ice Skating and Bowling Center in San Francisco. Courtesy Massimo Scali

“There is a little pressure on me, for sure,” Scali said. “She is an extremely talented skater and an amazing human being. But I know that I have a terrific team behind me, working really well together. My pressure is doing the best for Alysa to improve where she has to improve.”

Barkell is dealing with a different set of challenges: working remotely with a skater he barely knows.

“It was a bit difficult in the beginning, verbally explaining exercises, technique, corrections, etc., instead of being able to show Alysa,” Barkell said in a text message. “But we have figured out ways to make this work. Alysa is very coachable and has been very receptive to new ideas.

“We [myself, Massimo and Lori] are focusing on development of speed and power in her overall skating and continued development and consistency in all of her jumps. We all realize some of these changes will not happen overnight.”

There is a rule of thumb that says figure skaters need between 18 months and two years to get fully comfortable working with new coaches. For Liu, that time frame dovetails nicely with the next Olympic season.

Liu plans to give her first progress report by recording this week her new short and long programs, by choreographed by Nichol, for judging in U.S. Figure Skating’s international selection pool (ISP) points challenge competition. The performances are to go online Oct. 6.

The short uses music from Nino Rota’s score for the Fellini movie, “La Strada.” The long draws from “The Storm,” a work by the Hungarian composer/pianist Balázs Havasi that Nichol had choreographed for Carolina Kostner in the 2018-19 season, when an injury kept Kostner from competing with that program.

Liu’s jump layouts this season include a triple Axel in the short program with two triple Axels and a quadruple Lutz in the long. She may wait until later competitive events to include them. She plans to skate at the USFS Championship Series competitions in Spokane, Wash., November 10-15 and Henderson, Nevada Nov. 24-28.

“I just want to do good programs for whatever competitions are available,” Liu said. “It will take me a long time to get everything perfect. But I have been working hard on skating skills, and hopefully people can see a difference.”

Barkell handles nearly all the jump instruction, although Scali said is learning enough from watching the remote sessions to be aware of what Liu is supposed to do. Nichol is primary choreographer, with the concept, the music cuts and the steps coming from her.

Scali, who has done choreography for ice dancers, makes occasional choreographic suggestions. But his focus is the areas of skating covered by component scores (PCS).

Liu’s PCS was 6.31 points lower than Valieva’s in the world junior free skate. And Liu’s aggregate PCS for the two programs at 2020 nationals was 9.35 points behind that of runner-up Mariah Bell, but a whopping 18.66 margin over Bell in technical scores – most from jumps – made Liu an easy winner.

Scali and Liu
Scali and Liu at the Yerba Buena Ice Skating and Bowling Center in San Francisco. Courtesy Massimo Scali

“We want Alysa to go out on the ice and look like a mature, different skater,” Scali said. “We are working on details – expression, speed, gliding, posture – to polish the programs so that they give an image of an Alysa who is more empowered and more mature and really ready for senior level competition.”

Brian Boitano, the 1988 Olympic champion, skates twice a week at the San Francisco rink where Liu has been training for the last seven weeks. He gives her tips on jumps and moves like spread eagles.

Boitano proctored Liu’s clean run-throughs last week that did not include the Axels or a quad. “It was great,” Boitano said of the long program.

“We don’t know yet [about the big jumps],” Scali said. “Her training was so affected by this pandemic, and this ISP competition is so early in the season considering all she went through.”

Liu has been training in San Francisco because of issues with ice time availability at her home rink in Oakland, in a different county with different pandemic rules than San Francisco.

When no rinks at all near her were open after coming back from junior worlds, Liu and her father, Arthur, an attorney, went to Wilmington, Del., from early March through mid-May, living in an AirBnb property. She trained in Wilmington on her own except for spotting from a coach with jumps done on a pull harness.

She found herself going stir crazy at times in Delaware, especially missing her four younger siblings, who stayed in California. There is only so much anime on Netflix one can watch.

Once she and her father returned west, it became a case of being careful what you wish for. The siblings, like the home-schooled Liu, now are doing remote learning at home. So far, the Wi-Fi is holding up.

“It’s very chaotic,” she said, laughing. “They are all so crazy it’s kind of ridiculous. I get home every day, and there’s always a racket in the house. My sister Julia is always falling. My sister Selina is always FaceTiming her friends. And the boys [Joshua and Justin] are always fighting.”

Since she has been training in San Francisco, Liu takes the BART train back and forth, sometimes by herself, sometimes with Scali, who lives in Berkeley.

When they began working together on a full-time basis, it was briefly at her usual rink (the Oakland Ice Center), where Lipetsky still teaches. Lipetsky was away at the time, so there were no potentially uncomfortable encounters.

In the June 22 USFS release announcing the coaching change, Liu acknowledged and thanked Lipetsky for the coach’s role in the skater’s success.

“We’ve worked so closely together, and she has helped me get to where I am today,” Liu said.

In a June 22 text message to me, Lipetsky wrote:

“I have really enjoyed working with Alysa for her entire skating career. Massimo Scali and her father informed me that I would no longer be working with her. To not add to her distraction and allow her the opportunity to focus on being the best she can be, I prefer not to comment any further.”

In a text message to me a few days later, Arthur Liu said neither he nor Alysa wanted to talk about the reasons why she left Lipetsky.

“We need to move on and focus on her training,” he wrote.

Scali said they plan to return to the Oakland Ice Center as soon as they can get the ice time Alysa needs there. He does not expect any issues if they are in the rink at the same time as Lipetsky, who, Scali said, had asked him last December to work with the skater on skating skills and components.

“It’s all good,” Scali said. “Alysa is serene and happy about the decision she made, so there will be no problems.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating

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