Getty Images

Nathan Chen, Yale student, swaps books for boots at Skate America

Leave a comment

Nathan Chen is nearly two months into a new, unique training situation — 3,000 miles from his coach while taking freshman classes at Yale. How has it been?

“Very difficult,” for Rafael Arutunian, his 61-year-old Southern California-based coach said. “I knew it would be difficult.”

Chen headlines this weekend’s Skate America, his first full competition since winning last season’s world title by the largest margin in history.

That came after the quadruple jump king placed 17th in the Olympic short program, then topped the free skate in PyeongChang (trying six quadruple jumps, landing five clean) for fifth place overall.

The U.S. champions in every discipline are in action at Skate America in Everett, Wash., to kick off the Grand Prix season.

Chen is the only Olympic or world medalist in the men’s field, making him a clear favorite even though Arutunian has only seen his star pupil in person for one weekend since he matriculated.

MORE: Skate America TV, stream schedule

“But I Skype, and he sends me some videos [of his training],” Arutunian said by phone Tuesday (the busy Chen has not done media interviews while focusing at Yale). “But I mean he decided to study, and I think we’ll figure out if something will not work well for him. Maybe he will change something, but for now we have what we have.

“You don’t feel like you can discuss longer than 10, five minutes, it’s difficult. We’ll see how he can handle that.”

Chen can ease into the season at Skate America and his second Grand Prix in France next month, both during breaks from classes.

He has almost another two months before he would face Olympic gold and silver medalists Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno of Japan, potentially at December’s Grand Prix Final in a preview of March’s world championships in Saitama, Japan.

Chen actually returned to competition two weeks ago at the Japan Open, a free skate-only event treated by many more as an exhibition. Arutunian was there as Chen fell three times in one program for the first time in his senior career.

“Japan Open, it’s kind of show, but when it comes to competition, it’s different,” Arutunian said, adding that Chen told him he was dealing with a cold for two weeks going into Japan, but that he’s not sick anymore.

NBC Sports analysts Tara Lipinski (1998 Olympic champion) and Johnny Weir (two-time Olympian) could not recall any recent skaters near Chen’s level who attempted the elite university-skating double with long-distance coaching.

“I did go to a college for about a week and said, I couldn’t do it all,” Weir said. “I just knew my limits.”

As longtime Olympic reporter Phil Hersh noted, Paul Wylie studied at Harvard from 1986-91 and competed in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics (with a silver in Albertville), taking two semesters off and spending three summers in school. Chen consulted with Wylie before moving to New Haven.

Weir’s college try was at the beginning of his senior international career, before he won three national titles and made it to the 2006 and 2010 Olympics.

“To be on the opposite coast from his usual training home, in school and carrying a full course load, it seems like a lot to me,” Weir said. “However, Nathan Chen showed last season and in seasons prior that his technical abilities keep him at such a high level that there is room for him to give a little wiggle and to have a season where he’s just adjusting to having school and skating together and learn his system.”

Lipinski was not too concerned about the falls in Japan, noting Chen’s bounce back in PyeongChang.

“When you’re at a level and you’re a skater like Nathan, Nathan knows technically what he needs to do,” she said. “He’s not learning a variety of new jumps. He has that under his belt. It’s more so having the comfort of your coach, having someone there helping you when it comes to a new program, helping you set out your plan for the next four years, building your confidence. It may affect him in that way, not having that extra support he’s used to, that he’s had for so long, that has worked so well for him.”

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE 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!

MORE: Gracie Gold details ‘mental health crisis,’ return to skating

Steve Penny, ex-USA Gymnastics president, arrested on charge of tampering with Larry Nassar evidence

AP
1 Comment

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Former USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny was arrested Wednesday after a Texas grand jury indicted him, alleging he tampered with evidence in the sexual assault investigation of now-imprisoned gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

In a statement issued late Wednesday night, the Walker County district attorney’s office in Huntsville, Texas, said Penny was arrested by a fugitive task force in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and awaits extradition to Texas.

The third-degree felony is punishable by two to 10 years in prison. It was unclear if Penny has an attorney. Messages left with USA Gymnastics weren’t immediately returned.

Penny resigned under pressure in March 2017.

The indictment alleges Penny ordered the removal of documents from the Karolyi Ranch relating to Nassar’s activities at the ranch, near Huntsville. It alleges Penny acted after learning that Texas Rangers and Walker County authorities were investigating the ranch, which was being managed by USA Gymnastics.

The indictment states the documents were delivered to Penny at the USA Gymnastics headquarters in Indianapolis, they have not been recovered and their whereabouts are unknown to authorities.

Penny was arrested arrested when a team of armed Marshalls arrived at a Tennessee vacation cabin while he was sitting with his wife and three children.

“When he went to Tennessee on a vacation with his family, Mr. Penny had no knowledge there had been an indictment in Texas,” his lawyers said in a statement. “Mr. Penny is confident that when all the facts are known it will be shown that he did nothing criminal.”

Nassar was charged in June with sexually assaulting six minors in Walker County. A former sports medicine trainer, Debra Van Horn, was also indicted on one count of second-degree sexual assault of a child. Prosecutors said Van Horn was charged as “acting as a party” with Nassar.

In Michigan, Nassar was sentenced earlier this year to decades in prison, after hundreds of women and girls accused him of molesting them with his hands under the guise of medical treatment. They said the abuse went as far back as the 1990s while he worked at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

Nassar was a former team doctor for both the women’s program at USA Gymnastics as well as Michigan State University athletics.

In Texas, a number of gymnasts who had trained at the Karolyi Ranch have said Nassar sexually assaulted them there. Walker County prosecutors have said there is no corroborated evidence of wrongdoing by world-renowned gymnastics coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi, and the couple has denied wrongdoing.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Biles leads 6-woman team for world championships

Mary Bono resigns as USA Gymnastics president, addresses Nike tweet

AP Images
5 Comments

Mary Bono resigned as USA Gymnastics interim CEO and president Monday, four days after being appointed to the role.

“It is with profound regret, coupled with a deep love for the sport of gymnastics and respect for those who aspire to be great gymnasts, that I today tendered my resignation as the interim CEO of USA Gymnastics,” Bono said in a statement, first reported by CNN. “My withdrawal comes in the wake of personal attacks that, left undefended, would have made my leading USAG a liability for the organization.”

USA Gymnastics later confirmed, saying, “despite her commitment to the sport of gymnastics and helping the organization move forward, we believe this is in the best interest of the organization.”

Bono, who replaced Kerry Perry, who resigned in September, received criticism for a September photo of herself drawing over a Nike logo on a golf shoe tweeted from her account shortly after Nike debuted its advertising campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Notably, Olympic all-around champion Simone Biles tweeted, “*mouth drop* don’t worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter usa gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything.” Nike is one of Biles’ sponsors.

Biles is among the more than 200 women who have come forward over the last two years claiming they were sexually abused by former team doctor Larry Nassar under the guise of treatment. Biles was critical of Perry for not being vocal enough in support of the survivors.

Bono deleted her tweet about five hours later, saying she regretted the post and respects “everyone’s views & fundamental right to express them.”

“With respect to Mr. Kaepernick, he nationally exercised his first amendment right to kneel,” the 57-year-old Bono said in Tuesday’s statement. “I exercised mine: to mark over my own golf shoes, the logo of the company sponsoring him for ‘believing in something even if it means sacrificing everything’ — while at a tournament for families who have lost a member of the armed services (including my brother-in-law, a Navy SEAL) who literally ‘sacrificed everything.’ It was an emotional reaction to the sponsor’s use of that phrase that caused me to tweet, and I regret that at the time I didn’t better clarify my feelings. That one tweet has now been made the litmus test of my reputation over almost two decades of public service. I remain as dedicated as ever to the sport of gymnastics and its devotees. I hope USAG will do all it can to support them.”

Bono, a former Republican congresswoman and youth gymnast, also received backlash from the gymnastics community for working with Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, which advised USA Gymnastics when gymnasts reported Nassar sexual abuse, according to the Indianapolis Star.

“My teammates & I reported Nassar’s abuse to USAG in 2015,” was tweeted from Olympic champion Aly Raisman‘s account on Monday. “We now know USOC & lawyers at Faegre Baker Daniels (Mary Bono’s firm) were also told then, yet Nassar continued to abuse children for 13 months!? Why hire someone associated with the firm that helped cover up our abuse?”

Bono said she “proudly” stood behind her body of work at Faegre Baker Daniels, “and appreciated how much the law firm supported my devoting considerable time to the cause of addiction prevention, treatment and recovery,” according to the statement.

“My regret is that I would have brought to the organization, the angst and anger of my own story: a young aspiring gymnast who witnessed first-hand the assaulting behavior of a coach; watched peers who acquiesced in it move ahead while those who didn’t were left behind, and myself stayed silent — perhaps the norm then, but very troubling to me to this day,” Bono said in her statement. “I would have brought a fire in the belly to ensure that no one as taken with gymnastics as I was at that age, should have to choose between abuse and ambition, or between properly speaking out and promoting personal success.”

Bono spent 15 years as a U.S. Representative from Southern California from 1998-2013. She won her first term in a special election running as a Republican to fill the vacancy left by the death of her husband, former pop star and lawmaker Sonny Bono.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Biles leads 6-woman team for world championships