Nathan Chen is surprised, grateful and posing questions about figure skating’s restart

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Nathan Chen was slightly surprised to learn figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go on as scheduled this autumn, albeit with localized fields.

“I actually thought that we would be doing some virtual competitions,” he said by phone Tuesday evening. “But that being said, I’m thrilled that we’re actually getting the opportunity to compete again.”

Chen, a two-time world champion undefeated since enrolling at Yale in 2018, hopes to vie for his fourth straight Skate America title in October, tying a record shared by Todd EldredgeMichelle Kwan and Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

“Given that everything is right, I would love to be there,” in Las Vegas from Oct. 23-25, Chen said. “But if things start to get a little bit shakier, I’ll have a little bit more questions.”

Chen already has quite a few questions.

“Obviously, how it’s going to look like,” he said. “What are the logistics of the competition? Will it continue to be held in Vegas? Or will the location be changed? Audience is also a question. Will there be an audience? What are the exact specificities with the judging system? How are the skaters going to be judged? Will it be all on site? Those are some questions and also, of course, who am I going to be competing against? Those are all questions that I would like answered, but time will tell and I’m not super concerned about those right now.”

The International Skating Union said relevant details will be shared as soon as possible by an ISU Council-appointed group along with organizers of the six Grand Prix events. The annual Grand Prix stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan leading up to December’s Grand Prix Final, which is in Beijing this season.

ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start, rather than the usual two, in the six-event series before the Final. Skaters will compete at the Grand Prix that makes the most sense geographically.

Chen left New Haven for his Southern California base in March, when the season-ending world championships were canceled one week before they were to start.

He couldn’t find a rink for training for two months, his longest time off ice since recovering from January 2016 hip surgery.

But, as restrictions eased, Chen and coach Rafael Arutunian began getting ice time. He trained consistently the last two months, focusing on individual elements and conditioning while not knowing if or when he would compete this autumn.

“It was kind of difficult to determine when do we start really deciding programs and when to start really training for a competition mindset,” he said.

Chen’s pre-pandemic plan was to move back to New Haven for his junior year and then take a break in the 2021-22 academic year to focus on the Olympics. But now, he’s leaning toward staying in California this fall, perhaps taking some non-core online classes. Most of Yale’s classes are expected to be held remotely.

“I’m going to take time off, I believe, because I just think that given the situation it’s going to be not really worth it to try to still attend while doing all this. I can just focus a little more on skating,” Chen said, noting he has two weeks to make a final decision. “I want to be able to return to school as a student rather than an online student.”

Chen also wants to compete this autumn in front of spectators, but he knows that’s not assured. He considered what it might be like while watching the NBA’s resumption with virtual fans and fake crowd noise.

“Having the audience to back you up during a program is huge, especially in the long program where you’re kind of gassed halfway through,” he said. “Hearing the crowd stand behind you is a big deal. You definitely feed off the energy that the crowd gives you.”

He is at peace with the abrupt end to last season, knowing that, at 21, he has many years of skating ahead. Chen is also understanding that Skate America might be his only top-level competition before January’s national championships.

“Given a normal season, absolutely, that’s not enough,” he said. “But considering the circumstances, I think this is the most that we can get. Honestly, I think we’re all totally on board with that. Literally, any competition that we’re given I think is a great opportunity.”

MORE: Carolina Kostner working her way back to skating

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Germany goes 1-2 at bobsled worlds; Kaillie Humphries breaks medals record

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Kim Kalicki and Lisa Buckwitz gave Germany a one-two in the world bobsled championships two-woman event, while American Kaillie Humphries earned bronze to break the career medals record.

Kalicki, who was fourth at last year’s Olympics and leads this season’s World Cup standings, edged Buckwitz by five hundredths of a second combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Humphries, with push athlete Kaysha Love, was 51 hundredths behind.

Olympic champion Laura Nolte was in third place after two runs but crashed in the third run.

Humphries, 37 and a three-time Olympic champion between two-woman and monobob, earned her eighth world championships medal in the two-woman event. That broke her tie for the record of seven with retired German Sandra Kiriasis. Humphries is also the most decorated woman in world championships monobob, taking gold and silver in the two times it has been contested.

Humphries rolled her ankle after the first day of last week’s monobob, plus took months off training in the offseason while also doing two rounds of IVF.

“I chose to continue the IVF journey through the season which included a Lupron Depot shot the day before this race began,” she posted after her monobob silver last weekend. “My weight and body fluctuating all year with hormones, it was a battle to find my normal while competing again. I’m happy with this result, I came into it wanting a podium and we achieved it as a team.”

Love, who was seventh with Humphries in the Olympic two-woman event, began her transition to become a driver after the Games.

Worlds finish Sunday with the final two runs of the four-man event.

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Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.