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Adam Rippon stays tied to figure skating in retirement

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NEW YORK – Adam Rippon, an Olympic figure skating team event bronze medalist, became a mainstream star in PyeongChang. Building on that brand, Rippon launched a YouTube channel and penned a book, “Beautiful on the Outside.”

NBCSports.com/figure-skating caught up with Rippon after he participated in the “Love All: An Open Conversation” panel at the 2019 U.S. Open. This Q&A has been lightly edited for clarity.

Q: You’re living in Las Vegas now. Will you attend Skate America, the first Grand Prix event of the season?

Rippon: I won’t. I’m so upset. I am excited because my book comes out Oct. 15, so I’ll be on the beginning of my book tour during Skate America.

Q. How did you come up with the title?

Rippon: “Beautiful on the Outside” is something I jokingly said to one of my team leaders at the Olympics. I love it because it’s completely ridiculous. A play on “beautiful on the inside is what matters.”

I think the deeper meaning is that there are so many times in our life where we’re so ashamed, afraid or embarrassed about what’s going on or who we think people might think that we are that we put up this front. We want people just to think that we’re beautiful on the outside – don’t look on the inside. There were times in my life where I felt like, “Hey, don’t look. I’m not going to tell you anything about me. Everything’s perfect.” That’s what it means for me. But I did want something that was funny.

Q. How close are you to figure skating these days?

Rippon: Figure skating is something that I do as a passion. It’s something that I’ll always love. It’s something to keep using my brain in that artistic way.

I’m lucky to do so many other things, but, because of that, I don’t have a lot of time to skate. I can’t really commit to helping a lot of people. But this year I did a free skate for Mae-Berenice [Meite] from France. I did Mariah Bell’s short program. For right now, I’m really doing programs for my friends who I’ve known for a while and who I know will work really hard. I’m really grateful they’ve trusted me.

Q. Do you offer input on what Bell or Meite will wear?

Rippon: When I was skating, I wanted to be in charge of that. They’ll ask my opinion. I really want them to take charge of their own thing. I can tell them what I think would be nice or suggest it, but I want them really to be in charge of their own destiny in that sense.

MORE: Figure skating Grand Prix series: Eight matchups to watch

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Vincent Zhou to attend Brown University, details new skating situation

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World bronze medalist Vincent Zhou will attend Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island in the fall. He’ll train in Boston, though.

He plans to live on campus, he told NBCSports.com/figure-skating, and his mother will also make the cross-country move to help him commute to practice. He could train on campus at Brown, he said, but all their ice time is taken up by hockey, and his options were limited to midnight sessions.

“My mom will be coming to help with transportation because making the hour-plus commute to training and back can and will be dangerous under fatigue and mental load,” he said.

Zhou chose Brown for its “flexible, self-directed undergrad curriculum, beautiful campus and great surroundings, and relatively short proximity to a viable training location.” He’s interested in a variety of courses, including business, economics, public policy, philosophy and psychology.

He will complete the fall semester, then take gap years or semesters until after the 2022 Olympics.

“I can return home after the fall semester ends to get some good, proper training in before the more important second half of the season starts,” Zhou said. “Subsequently, I will be able to put full focus and effort into achieving my dream of becoming 2022 Olympic champion.”

Zhou expects to get on the ice about 10 hours per week to practice, a significant reduction.

Another change will be the addition of new coach, Mie Hamada from Japan. She also coaches top Japanese skaters Satoko Miyahara and Rika Kihira.

“The search for the right coach leads almost every high-ranking skater on a national or international search — see literally every skater competing at this level,” he said of his search for the right coach. “In pursuit of a common goal, I and others seek the best guidance and support, which of course isn’t always conveniently within arm’s reach. That’s why we all have searched and moved far and wide.”

He hasn’t been specific, but Zhou still plans to work with his other coaches, too. But while at Brown, he will primarily train alone.

“I have great self-awareness, so I trust that I can figure out some things alone,” he said. “However, my coaches, including coach Hamada, will be visiting me for short periods of time when their travels and schedules permit.”

There are other models of success for skaters who train and attend Ivy League schools – two-time world champion Nathan Chen, for example.

But Zhou and Chen’s situations are different, Zhou said, because Zhou wasn’t able to select his own international competitions like Chen could as the world’s top skater. Zhou was instead assigned back-to-back Grand Prix events, in China (Nov. 8-10) and Moscow (Nov. 15-17), but he doesn’t see it as an issue.

“I will likely do a senior B [lower-level event] before my Grand Prix, and maybe a summer international soon,” he said. “Back-to-back Grand Prixs are more than I could have asked for, since separate ones would not mix well with academic catch-up and jetlag. It’s like combining errands into one trip.”

He hasn’t spoken to Chen about his schedule and ability to balance and knows “ultimately, it will be up to me to figure it out.” Zhou will be in the same boat as Karen Chen, who plans to attend Cornell in the fall.

“Under challenge is when the best rewards come out, so I’m looking forward to the growth and opportunity that is sure to come out of it all,” Zhou said. “This season will be about self-discovery.”

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Figure skating Grand Prix series: Eight matchups to watch

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Now that the Grand Prix figure skating assignments have been announced, a look at eight of the most exciting head-to-heads this fall …

Men
Skate America – Nathan Chen vs. Jason Brown
Two of the U.S. men are showcased at the Grand Prix opener in October. What makes this so special? The last time these two competed at the same Grand Prix, in France last November, Brown actually led Chen after the short program. In the end, though, Chen rallied to keep his undefeated season intact.

Also notable in the field: South Korea’s Cha Jun-Hwan, who trains with Brown in Toronto.

Internationaux de France – Nathan Chen vs. Shoma Uno
Chen and Uno have shared world podiums, most recently in 2018 when Chen took gold and Uno the silver. Uno’s coaching change should only spice things up; however, he has not announced where he will train.

Also notable in the field: world junior champion Tomoki Hiwatashi makes his senior Grand Prix debut. He was fourth at the U.S. Championships in January.

Rostelecom Cup – Shoma Uno vs. Vincent Zhou
After competing in France, Uno gets a week to rest before facing another top American in Vincent Zhou. Zhou had a breakthrough end of last season, claiming his first, top-level senior international medals — bronze at Four Continents and worlds.

MORE: Nathan Chen learns from chaos of balancing Yale, skating

Women
Skate America – Anna Shcherbakova, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, and Yelizabet Tursynbaeva
All are known for jumps: Shcherbakova, the 15-year-old Russian champion, for a quadruple Lutz, Tuktamysheva, the 2015 World champion, for her triple Axel and the Kazakh Tursynbaeva for a quad Salchow in taking silver at worlds.

Also notable in the field: 2017 U.S. champion Karen Chen returns to competition for the first time since the PyeongChang Olympics; 2018 U.S. champion Bradie Tennell, Chen’s Olympic teammate.

NHK Trophy – Rika Kihira vs. Alina Zagitova
Kihira, who swept her Grand Prix starts last fall, will likely show off her triple Axel on home ice, but Olympic and world champion Zagitova is also beloved in Japan.

Also notable in the field: Russian Sofia Samodurova, who defeated Zagitova at January’s European Championships.

MORE: Bradie Tennell on self-doubt, lessons learned in 2019

Pairs
NHK Trophy – Sui Wenjing and Han Cong vs. Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres
We have to wait a while for it, but China’s Sui and Han facing off against France’s James and Cipres should be a real treat.

Sui and Han own two world titles, including from March despite a series of injuries that kept them out most of the season. James and Cipres had been undefeated last season before a short program error at worlds, where they finished fifth.

Also notable in the field: The two U.S. pairs, Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea and Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim, should be pretty evenly matched. It could be a preview of January’s nationals.

Ice dance
Skate America – Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue vs. Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin
The Americans earned world champs bronze ahead of the Russians by a slim 1.88 points in March. Similar to last season, Hubbell and Donohue will get their Grand Prix starts out of the way in the first two weeks and likely become the first qualifiers for December’s Grand Prix Final.

Also notable in the field: Spain’s Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz train in Montreal alongside Hubbell and Donohue and a number of other teams that will be at Skate America.

MORE: Hubbell, Donohue already eyeing 2020 World Championships

Internationaux de France – Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron vs. Madison Chock and Evan Bates
Four-time world champions Papadakis and Cizeron will face stiff competition from training mates Chock and Bates. Chock and Bates had an abbreviated season last year, as Chock was away from competition for nearly 10 months after ankle surgery. Nevertheless, they won Four Continents and placed sixth at worlds.

Also notable in the field: European bronze medalists Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri from Italy, who earned bronze at their first Grand Prix Final last season.

MORE: Chen, Zagitova among top takeaways from last season

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