Mariah Bell goes to the Olympics with her fairy godmother — Adam Rippon


In summer 2019, figure skater Mariah Bell drove to a Dunkin’ Donuts, ordered two strawberry frosted pastries and made a career-altering decision.

She called Adam Rippon.

“She said, ‘I’m a mess,'” Rippon recalled. “And I was like, what does that mean?”

Come help me, she said. Bell was coming off a bronze medal at the previous national championships, and her best world championships finish (ninth).

But she was struggling come the 2019-20 preseason. Particularly on this day at the U.S. Figure Skating preseason Champs Camp to assess skaters.

Her coach, Rafael Arutunian, said she was disorganized. Arutunian, who doesn’t like to have to repeat himself, suggested she call Rippon, his former student who retired after reaching the Olympics in 2018.

“He could hold your hand,” Bell remembered Arutunian telling her.

They’ve been inseparable ever since.

Rippon helped choreograph Bell’s short program every season in this Olympic cycle — to music from Britney Spears, Celine Dion and Lady Gaga. “Anything that was on my Spotify most listened to list was up for grabs,” he joked.

But since that strawberry frosted epiphany, Bell also leaned on Rippon as a “secondary coach.” Or “fairy godmother,” as he says. Together, Arutunian and Rippon helped Bell reach her two primary goals: winning her first national title last month and making her first Olympic team.

At 25, she became the oldest U.S. women’s figure skating champion since 1927. Next month, she will become the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s singles skater since 1928.

“Our goal is to go there and for her to show that being 25 is amazing,” Rippon said. “That you can be 25, and you can be in the best shape of your life.”

Rippon began training under the gruff Arutunian in Southern California in 2012. Bell joined the group, which included Nathan Chen, in 2016. Bell met Rippon years earlier, getting a picture with him at a skating show. Though Rippon and Bell shared ice for a year and a half leading up to the 2018 Olympics, they only casually knew each other.

In 2018, Rippon made his first (and last) Olympic team at age 28. He became the oldest U.S. Olympic rookie singles skater since 1936.

That same year, Bell entered nationals with an outside chance at the Olympic team (“slim,” she said) and finished fifth, earning an alternate spot.

“I wasn’t heartbroken,” she said, knowing her real opportunity was coming in four years. “I remember watching the Games from home and just being like, I want to be there so bad.”

She watched as Rippon became a national celebrity with his team event bronze medal and engaging candor.

He had arguably the busiest post-Olympic whirlwind of any athlete, beating Tonya Harding to win “Dancing with the Stars” and writing a memoir titled, “Beautiful on the Outside.”

Amid the hoopla, Bell took her shot and asked Rippon if he had time for another new venture: choreographing her short program for the 2018-19 season (also at Arutunian’s suggestion).

“I wasn’t really doing a lot of things with skating,” he said. “And it was a great way for me to still be connected.”

Over the next three years, Bell experienced highs (getting engaged, then having the free skate of her life a month later at 2020 Nationals) and lows (missing the world championships team in 2021, then having that engagement broken off last summer).

She considers herself lucky for her coaching arrangement through all that. When Bell asked Rippon to help her, in that call outside a Dunkin’, it was a Friday.

“Sure I wouldn’t mind, as long as Rafael is on the same page,” Rippon remembered telling her. “So I called Rafael, and he was like, oh my god, please come in.”

By Monday Rippon was at the rink. In a typical week, he’s there two or three days (but more often in this Olympic year).

“His schedule really doesn’t allow him to work with many other people,” Bell told NBC Sports’ On Her Turf. “But he’s also like, I don’t really want to coach. I just want to help you, which I’m so fortunate for.”

Arutunian focuses on the technical work, including jumps. There are ancillary benefits.

“The reason that this works out so well is that Rafael is our guiding light. He is our team captain,” Rippon said. “He’s also coaching me on how to be a good coach.”

Rippon, known for his work ethic to make the 2018 Olympics over younger skaters, helps with her training plan and conditioning.

“I basically treated her like I was Cesar Millan, and she was a troubled dog that needed direction,” he said. “I was super tough on her and made her do a million more things than she was used to doing in practice.”

One of Rippon’s most powerful decisions was to step back. Bell began the season with a Lady Gaga short program choreographed by Rippon, then made a new one with renowned choreographer Shae-Lynn Bourne.

Bourne, a Canadian who won six world medals in ice dance, has a 32-bullet Wikipedia list of skaters whom she has choreographed for, including Chen and two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

“If I have to sit down and really decide who’s a better choreographer, me or Shae-Lynn Bourne, obviously I’m going to go with Shae-Lynn (expletive) Bourne,” Rippon said. “So in this Olympic year, it was really important to me. I told Mariah, listen, I’m still a coach on this team. But I am imploring you that Shae-Lynn needs to do both of your programs.”

All of Bell’s decisions paid off earlier this month. Rippon, who made his Olympic team in his ninth senior U.S. Championships appearance, was rinkside in Nashville for her crowning moment in her ninth senior nationals.

“I pulled her aside, and I said, ‘This is the hardest competition you’ll ever do in your entire life. And you did it, you finished it,'” Rippon said. “‘And not only did you finish it, you were strong, and you were brave.'”

On Her Turf editor Alex Azzi contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Eliud Kipchoge breaks marathon world record in Berlin

Eliud Kipchoge Berlin Marathon

Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke his own world record in winning the Berlin Marathon, clocking 2:01:09 to lower the previous record time of 2:01:39 he set in the German capital in 2018.

Kipchoge, 37 and a two-time Olympic champion, earned his 15th win in 17 career marathons to bolster his claim as the greatest runner in history over 26.2 miles.

His pacing was not ideal. Kipchoge slowed in the final miles, running 61:18 for the second half after going out in an unprecedented 59:51 for the first 13.1 miles. He still won by 4:49 over Kenyan Mark Korir.

“I was planning to go through it [the halfway mark] 60:50, 60:40,” Kipchoge said. “My legs were running actually very fast. I thought, let me just try to run two hours flat, but all in all, I am happy with the performance.

“We went too fast [in the first half]. It takes energy from the muscles. … There’s still more in my legs [to possibly lower the record again].”

MORE: Berlin Marathon Results

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa won the women’s race in 2:15:37, the third-fastest time in history for somebody who ran one prior marathon in 2:34:01. Only Brigid Kosgei (2:14:14 in Chicago in 2019) and Paula Radcliffe (2:15:25 in London in 2003) have gone faster.

American record holder Keira D’Amato, who entered as the top seed, was sixth in 2:21:48. D’Amato, who went nearly a decade between competitive races after college, owns the American record of 2:19:12 and now also the 10th-best time in U.S. history.

“Today wasn’t my best day ever, but it was the best I could do today,” she said in a text message, according to Race Results Weekly, adding that she briefly stopped and walked late in the race.

The last eight instances the men’s marathon world record has been broken, it has come on the pancake-flat roads of Berlin. It began in 2003, when Kenyan Paul Tergat became the first man to break 2:05.

The world record was 2:02:57 — set by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014 — until Kipchoge broke it for the first time four years ago.

The following year, Kipchoge became the first person to cover 26.2 miles in under two hours, clocking 1:59:40 in a non-record-eligible showcase rather than a race.

Kipchoge’s focus going forward is trying to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles in Paris in 2024. He also wants to win all six annual World Marathon Majors. He’s checked off four of them, only missing Boston (run in April) and New York City (run every November).

Kipchoge grew up on a farm in Kapsabet in Kenya’s Rift Valley, often hauling by bike several gallons of the family’s milk to sell at the local market. Raised by a nursery school teacher, he ran more than three miles to and from school. He saved for five months to get his first pair of running shoes.

At 18, he upset legends Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele to win the 2003 World 5000m title on the track. He won Olympic 5000m medals (bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008), then moved to the marathon after failing to make the 2012 Olympic team on the track.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup

The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final