figure skating

Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier
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Haven Denney, Brandon Frazier mark another U.S. pair split

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Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, the 2017 U.S. pair champions, have announced the end of their partnership. The team was the 2013 world junior champions and grew up skating together: first on roller skates before making the transition to ice.

“Even though our competitive chapter as a pair is over, these memories we created together will last a lifetime,” Frazier posted in part on Facebook. “It was a privilege to be able to have the opportunity to skate with you [Denney] and learn life’s most important lessons through sport.”

Frazier plans to continue skating, while Denney said through U.S. Figure Skating that she wants to keep all of her options open:

“I support Brandon and his decision to continue competitive skating with another partner,” Denney said. “I want Brandon to be able to reach his goals and full potential and I will support him no matter what. I’m still trying to figure out what’s next for me. I want to keep all my options opened, whether it be competitive or professional skating. I want to thank all the coaches that have supported us throughout the years.”

Denney and Frazier had mixed results at nationals after winning in 2017. They finished fifth in 2018 but rebounded to capture the silver medal in 2019. And in January, ultimately the final U.S. Championships of their partnership, they finished fifth.

Three-time U.S. pair champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, who are also married, ended their on-ice partnership after withdrawing after the short program at the Four Continents Championships in February. While Alexa said at the time she plans to find another on-ice partner and continue skating, Chris will stay off competitive ice, the pair said.

MORE: Nathan Chen, skating coaches react to cancellation of world figure skating championships

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season 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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Chris Reed, three-time Olympic ice dancer for Japan, dies at 30

Chris Reed, Kana Muramoto
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Chris Reed, a three-time Olympic ice dancer for Japan, died of a sudden cardiac issue over the weekend at age 30, a Japanese Skating Federation spokesperson said.

“It deeply saddens me to tell you all my brother, my sweet, kind, charismatic, and loving big brother Chris, has passed away suddenly over the weekend,” was posted on younger sister Allison‘s social media. “Words just cannot describe how much this pains me. Chris was such a pure spirit. He filled any room he walked into with so much joy and laughter. He always knew how to make me smile. I love you bro.”

Reed was born in Michigan to a Japanese mother and American father. Reed and older sister Cathy competed in ice dance within the U.S. until 2006, when they won the national novice title.

Afterward, they decided they wanted to represent Japan. The Japanese federation obliged.

The Reeds earned seven Japanese titles. They competed in eight world championships and two Olympics with a best finish of 13th among those major events.

After his older sister retired in 2015, Reed partnered with Kana Muramoto, who had transitioned to ice dance after more than a decade in singles. They won three national titles and reached the PyeongChang Olympics, placing 15th in their final full season of competition together.

Reed retired in 2019.

“He always wanted to stay involved in the sport and to help to develop ice dance in Japan,” according to an International Skating Union press release. “He was busily preparing for his second career as a choreographer and ice dance coach with his sister Cathy in Japan.”

NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

Nathan Chen, skating coaches react to cancellation of world figure skating championships

Nathan Chen
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For two-time defending champion Nathan Chen, the cancellation of the World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal because of the coronavirus pandemic brought disappointment and relief.

“Given how quickly this virus has spread across the world, it’s definitely the right move for the populace as a whole,” Chen said in a Wednesday teleconference after a Quebec government minister had announced the cancellation.

“Even before this decision was made, I was concerned about people around me. I was worried about Raf [his coach, Rafael Arutunian] because he has been traveling a lot. Ultimately, I’m glad they are able to stay at home, to stay where they are, to sort of prevent the spread of this virus.”

His U.S. teammate Mariah Bell, like Chen coached by Arutunian and prepared to compete in a fourth straight worlds, echoed his feelings.

“I certainly understand there are bigger things than sport,” Bell said during the teleconference.

Danielle McCann, the province’s health minister, said Wednesday afternoon that in light of the rapidly spreading coronavirus, there was too much risk to allow the event scheduled for next week at the Bell Centre arena to take place.

She cited the number of foreign visitors, the fact it would take place indoors, the thousands of people involved and the declaration of a pandemic by the World Health Organization as reasons for the decision.

“As an athlete, we put a lot of time and effort into this, so it’s a little disappointing,” Chen said. “But there’s always worlds next year, and we will prepare for that.”

In fact, the International Skating Union said in a statement it would discuss the possibility of having the 2020 worlds later this year but that it could not occur before October. The ISU did not say if Canada would be the only country under consideration.

“We will do our due diligence to see if that is possible,” Skate Canada chief executive Debra Armstrong said Wednesday evening. “We appreciate that the ISU also is looking into it.”

Armstrong added she has had “very preliminary conversations” with management of the Bell Centre.

“They have provided us possible opportunities to consider,” she said, “but a lot more is involved than just, ‘Can we get the rink again?’”

A rescheduled World Championships would presumably have to end at least a couple weeks before the seven-week Grand Prix season, scheduled to begin Oct. 23-25 at Skate America in Las Vegas. The six “regular season” events run one week after another, with a one-week break before the Dec. 10-13 Grand Prix Final in Beijing.

Arutunian said that even if the 2020 worlds were held this autumn, he would not alter training plans designed to have his skaters peak at the more significant pre-Olympic worlds March 22-28, 2021 in Stockholm.

If U.S. Figure Skating’s Olympic team selection process remains the same as it has been recently, results of the 2021 worlds would factor heavily in the two-year “body of work” considered for selection. The 2021 worlds would be one of three “Tier 1” events in those selection criteria, along with next season’s U.S. Championships and Grand Prix Final.

The results of the 2021 worlds will also significantly impact countries’ quota spots in each discipline at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China.

“Yes, it would be a world title, but you cannot be prepared to be your best in October and then prepared again to be in your best shape in March,” Arutunian said.

It might lead athletes to intensify summer training, which could take its toll by the end of the next winter.

“An (autumn) worlds would not be ideal,” Chen said. “We would all be ready for it and do the best we can, but it will be a very strange situation.

“I think we would take summer pretty normal because we wouldn’t want to burn ourselves out early in the season. Worlds would almost be a progression step into the next season.”

Montreal-based Marie-France Dubreuil, who has a hand in coaching 13 ice dance teams that would have competed at worlds, said via text she thought it would be “a little unlikely” to have two world championships within a few months of each other in a pre-Olympic season.

“It’s interesting,” Brian Orser, who coaches two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and 2014 U.S. Olympian Jason Brown of the U.S. in Toronto, said in a text message about the prospect of another worlds in autumn.

Asked if it would mean training harder in the summer, Orser replied, “Possibly. But we do what we must.”

Lee Barkell, who coaches reigning world bronze medalist Vincent Zhou of the United States in Toronto, felt most skaters and coaches will “move forward and begin preparations for next year’s competitive season and [the Olympic season].”

“It would be difficult to wait that long to reschedule / relocate,” Barkell continued in a text message. “I think we need to be mindful of the athletes’ health and workload to ensure they are at their full potential for the 2021 World Championships.”

In a statement, the Russian Figure Skating Federation said it would “soon consider and discuss with the coaches of the Russian national team further plans for training athletes in connection with the current situation.”

Asked via email what the Russian skating federation thought about the possibility of an autumn worlds, spokesperson Olga Ermolina said, “It’s hard now to talk about plans definitively.”

This was the 16th time in the event’s 124-year history a figure skating world championships has been cancelled but only the second not caused by a World War. The 1961 championships in Prague were cancelled after a plane carrying the U.S. team and coaches and officials on their way to the event crashed in Belgium, killing all 72 people on board.

Now the event has been cancelled because of a deadly virus. Once again, sport has been subsumed by an awful reality.

“I’m disappointed not to have the opportunity to compete at worlds,” Brown said in a text message. “At the same time, I recognize this situation is way bigger than me or figure skating, and I’m 100% in support of doing everything we can to protect each other and our communities.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

MORE: Final women’s Alpine World Cup races canceled, spoiling Mikaela Shiffrin’s planned return

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season 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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