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Nathan Chen prepared to capture third national title

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Nathan Chen called into his media teleconference from the rink last week, still on his winter break between his freshman semesters at Yale University.

The signal wasn’t great inside, he said, and it momentarily spared him from answering a direct question about his GPA his first semester as a college student.

Back on the call, the reigning world champion admitted, “I’m not gonna say the exact number, but there are some A’s and B’s sprinkled in.

“Really no complaints. I got pretty good grades. I’m pretty happy with that.”

His skating report card from the fall reads equally as impressively. Chen won the title at Skate America to open the season, followed by a come-from-behind win at Grand Prix France. To cap it all off, he won a second-consecutive Grand Prix Final title.

All this while the 2018 Olympic team event bronze medalist is across the country from his longtime coach Rafael Arutunian and trying out telecoaching for the first time.

Back in California between semesters, Chen said Raf has asked him to stay full-time.

“Since the past two weeks that I’ve been here, literally every day he’s been like, ‘you gotta come back! You gotta come back! There’s so much that you can learn at the rink. I respect what your decision is at Yale but it’s been so great having you here.’ He really wishes that I could stay here full time but at the same time, I already started this path and I don’t really want to pull out just yet.”

As for his second semester in college, Chen is signed up for about 10 courses and will have about two weeks at the beginning of term to add and drop courses. He’ll be in classes – he’s not exactly sure which, though – for a week before attempting to notch his third-straight U.S. national title.

“I selected a bunch of courses, probably selected like 10 different courses. I’ll go in and the first week I will see which courses I like, which courses I don’t like.”

Competing during the spring semester might be harder. February’s Four Continents Championships, this year to be held in Anaheim, Calif., aren’t during a scheduled academic break. Conveniently, world championships are scheduled during Yale’s spring break.

“I’m not sure yet [if he’ll compete there if named to the team],” he said. “That’s still TBD. I would love to since it’s in California, and it’s a great event. We’ll see.”

But for now, competing well in Detroit is the next step.

“I have to skate as well as I can and regardless of the external things,” he said when asked if coming in as the reigning world champion or as the favorite affects him. “Just focus on all the things that I can do right now in training to make sure that I do the best I can in competition.”

The men’s short program is Jan. 26 followed by the free skate on Jan. 27.

MORE: Adam Rippon’s new year’s resolutions

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships 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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Five-time world champion figure skater to develop U.S. pairs training center

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Robin Szolkowy, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist and five-time world champion figure skater, plans to come to the United States in the spring to develop a pairs training center. He will join coaches Jenni Meno and Todd Sand in Los Angeles.

Meno and Sand were three-time national champions and currently coach 2018 Olympic team bronze medalists Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim.

In September, the Knierims moved to Oberstdorf, Germany to under with Szolkowy’s former partner, Aliona Savchenko. She won an Olympic gold medal with Bruno Massot in 2018, her fifth Olympic appearance.

The Knierims split with Savchenko later in the fall and moved to California.

“There’s certain things that we learned [in Germany] that we’re going to continue to incorporate on a daily basis,” Scimeca Knierim said of the split in a recent media teleconference ahead of the national championships later this month.

“It’s quite simple. It just didn’t work out. Chris and I knew when we decided to part ways that there would be no regrets leaving there because we took everything we could. We just felt like if we had stayed, there would’ve been more of a downward slope in some terms of things than others. We kind of felt like we needed to save ourselves in the moment which is why we made the switch [to Jenni and Todd] so quickly.”

Scimeca Knierim seemed surprised by the news that her coaching team was growing:

According to a German report, Szolkowy chose Los Angeles after visiting several pairs hot spots in the U.S. and discussions with U.S. Figure Skating. The new school has plans to include both U.S. and international teams. The report also suggested this could be a long-term arrangement, through the Winter Olympics in 2022 and beyond.

This won’t be Szolkowy’s first venture as a coach. He joined the coaching team behind Russian pair Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who won silver at the 2018 World Championships and two European titles.

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I am thrilled to announce that I will be coaching soon at the newly built, state of the art Great Park Ice Rinks in Irvine, California, USA. After evaluating several opportunities within the U.S., in cooperation with USFSA, I will be moving to Irvine to partner with Jenni Meno Sand, Todd Sand and Christine Binder who are currently focused on the training and final preparations of their pair teams for the U.S. Championships at this fantastic 4-rink facility including two-time US National Champions Alexa and Chris Knierim. As we all will work together we are forming a team to establish an international pairs program. Needless to say that Romy and I are excited about the new opportunities which this project brings to justmove. More information to come … 😉⛸💪🏽🍀 #newchallenges #movingwest #teamwork #irvine #greatparkice #california #usa #family #lovewhatyoudo #justmovegmbh @justmove.withe.szolkowys

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MORE: Gracie Gold withdraws from national championships

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships 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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Former national champion pairs skater under ‘interim restriction’ by SafeSport

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Two-time national figure skating pairs champion John Coughlin‘s name appeared on the U.S. Center for SafeSport list on Dec. 17. The news was first reported by USA Today.

The website shows Coughlin listed as “Interim Measure – Restriction.” SafeSport, an independent non-profit program focused on ending abuse in sports, defines that in their glossary as:

The eligibility of the Covered Individual (Responding Party) to participate has been restricted pending final resolution of the matter.

U.S. Figure Skating made the following statement on Wednesday:

The U.S. Center for SafeSport has published an undisclosed “interim measure – restriction” in a matter involving John Coughlin. The Center has not prohibited or limited Coughlin from taking part in any activity under the Center’s jurisdiction. As the undisclosed matter remains under the Center’s jurisdiction, all inquiries should be directed to the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

Coughlin, who also coaches, commentates, is chair of the International Skating Union’s Athlete Commission and a part of various U.S. Figure Skating committees, has resigned as a brand manager from John Wilson Blades in the time since the report surfaced. He won pairs titles in 2011 and 2012.

Coughlin told USA Today on Monday he unable to speak freely about the allegations, but noted that “the SafeSport notice of allegation itself stated that an allegation in no way constitutes a finding by SafeSport or that there is any merit to the allegation.”

SafeSport can investigate allegations before making a ruling, but does not usually give details of the finding until the conclusion of the case, the USA Today report pointed out.

A SafeSport spokesman told USA Today that interim measures can be used for several reasons, but often are implemented before a matter is finalized.