Ice Network

30 biggest stories in skating of the icenetwork era

Counting down headlines that grabbed most attention over last 11 years
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The level of fame Yuzuru Hanyu attained, Yuna Kim's 2010 Olympic performances and the rise of the U.S. ice dance program were some of the biggest stories of the icenetwork era. -icenetwork

During the month of June, we will count down the 30 biggest stories in figure skating since the launch of icenetwork 11 years ago, as determined by our editorial staff.

30. Chan's coaching carousel

Since the death in 2006 of the only coach he'd ever known, Osborne Colson, until his retirement in 2018, Patrick Chan worked with, in order, Shin Amano, Don Laws, Christy Krall, Kathy Johnson, Marina Zoueva and, finally, a team including former Canadian pairs skater Elizabeth Putnam, not to mention a host of other consultants and secondary (and tertiary) coaches. The three-time world champion always seemed to be searching for someone who could correct the flaws in his skating -- most notably, his often unreliable triple axel. That pursuit led him all over the U.S. and Canada but never to a permanent solution, leading some to wonder how much more he would have accomplished if he'd ever settled down with the same coach for more than a few seasons.

Related articles:

Laws ran, not walked, away from coaching Chan
World champ Chan announces coaching change
Johnson resigns as Chan's coach after four years
With Zoueva by his side, Chan ready for challenge
Chan relocating training base to Vancouver area

29. ISU allows lyrics in figure skating programs

When the International Skating Union okayed the use of lyrics in figure skating programs in 2014, it didn't automatically usher the sport into the modern age -- you still see your fair share of Carmens and Swan Lakes -- but it did broaden the musical catalog available to skaters, coaches and choreographers. When done in the right way, programs with vocals have brought a new dimension to the sport and widened its appeal, attracting a younger generation of fans. It has even resulted in some skaters going viral, as in the case of Jimmy Ma, who became an internet sensation for his performance of his "Turn Down for What" short program (watch here) at the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Related article:

28. Montreal's Gadbois Centre becomes ice dance capital of the world

For years, if you were serious about ice dance, you probably trained at one of three places in Michigan: Canton (with, first, Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband, and then with just Zoueva herself), Novi (with Shpilband) or Bloomfield Hills (with Pasquale Camerlengo and Anjelika Krylova). That didn't seem likely to change when, in 2010, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon opened their skating school at Gadbois Centre in Montreal. But with the arrival of fellow coach Romain Haguenauer from Lyon, France, in 2014 and the rapid ascension of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who went from 13th at worlds in 2014 to first a year later, the balance of power started to shift. With Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's announcement of their comeback to the sport in February 2016 also came the news that the 2010 Olympic champions would train in Montreal. And with those two aforementioned teams battling it out for world supremacy over the next two years -- and with two of the top American teams, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, and Madison Chock and Evan Bates, also calling Gadbois Centre home -- it was sealed: Montreal was the new ice dance capital of the world.

Related articles:

Ice dance school thriving under Dubreuil, Lauzon
'D-H-L' coaching trio deliver ice dance excellence

27. 2015 Trophée Eric Bompard cancelled after Paris terror attacks

It is a consequence -- albeit a trivial one -- that the horrific events that occur in today's world affect the games we play. Such was the case Nov. 13, 2015, when 130 people died and hundreds more were injured after a series of coordinated terror attacks outside a soccer stadium, inside a concert theater and at cafés and restaurants in Paris. Six hours south of the French capital, in Bordeaux, the first day of competition at Trophée Eric Bompard had just wrapped up. With the country in a national state of emergency, the French government the next day cancelled the rest of the competition. It was the first time in the history of the Grand Prix Series that an event was called off before it was completed.

Related articles:

Trophée Bompard canceled after terror attacks
Le Cru du Jour: 'We're not going to let sadness win'
The Inside Edge: Recalling 'eerie' day at Bompard

26. Evan Lysacek wins 2008 U.S. title in tiebreaker over Johnny Weir

In the latter half of the 2000s, the biggest thing going in American skating was the rivalry between Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir. Their contrasting styles and personalities always made for great theater, and never was that more the case than at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The two skaters went toe to toe, and when the dust settled after the free skate -- one in which both skaters made mistakes -- their scores sat at an identical 244.77. Lysacek took home the gold on account of his winning the free skate by a 1.35-point margin, after which Weir remarked, "I have three (U.S. titles); he can have two."

Related article: Lysacek wins national title in a tiebreaker

25. Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva end professional relationship

No two people were more responsible for the emergence of North American ice dance than Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva, who, as a coaching team, took three different couples to the Olympic podium: Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto to silver in 2006; and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and Meryl Davis and Charlie White to gold and silver, respectively, in 2010. But their professional partnership came to an abrupt end June 3, 2012, when their home rink, the Arctic Edge Ice Arena in Canton, Michigan, announced Shpilband had been relieved of his duties as ice dance director. In the days that followed, there was a lot of "he said, she said," and some believe the real reason for Shpilband's firing has never been truly revealed, but what was done was done. Shpilband wound up taking his services to the nearby Novi Ice Arena, where he remains to this day, while Zoueva remained in Canton.

Related articles: 

Shpilband searches for new rink in Michigan
Shpilband moving to Novi, bringing Chock and Bates

24. A Spaniard becomes one of the defining skaters of his generation

Spain is not exactly known as a skating power. As of 2013, there were a grand total of 14 indoor rinks in a country with a population of nearly 47 million. Never mind a proper training environment or elite coaching -- just having access to an indoor sheet of ice is something few Spaniards can claim. Given that, the chances that a man from Spain would become a figure skating world champion twice over and win a medal at the Olympic Winter Games are infinitesimal -- but Javier Fernández defied those odds. Hand-picked by Nikoli Morozov to come to the United States to train before finding his way to Brian Orser at the Cricket Club in Toronto, Fernández turned his raw talent into refined brilliance -- and he did it with duende, a Spanish word that roughly translates to passion and an indomitable spirit.

Related articles: 

Fernández gives Spain first world figure skating title
Fernández wins second world title with 'duende'
Fernández' path to success unlikely as they come

23. 2011 World Championships postponed, moved after tsunami hits Japan

At 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, a 9.1 magnitude earthquake -- the fourth most powerful ever recorded -- occurred approximately 45 miles off the coast of northern Japan. The earthquake resulted in a tsunami, and when the massive waves hit land, the consequences were catastrophic: more than 15,000 deaths, billions of dollars in property damage, nuclear meltdowns. The 2011 World Figure Skating Championships were supposed to begin March 21 in Tokyo, about four hours south of Sendai, one of the hardest hit cities, but in the wake of the tragedy, the International Skating Union announced that the event would either be postponed or cancelled altogether. The ISU scrambled to find a new home for worlds, eventually settling on Moscow. The competition took place April 25-May 1 -- more than a month after it was originally scheduled to go off.

Related articles: 

Still no decision on 2011 World Championships
Davis, White: 'Skating takes backseat to tragedy'
Russia awarded 2011 World Championships

22. Ashley Wagner breaks United States' ladies medal drought at worlds

From 2007 to 2015, the United States sent 22 women to worlds -- and not one of them came back with a medal. That nine-year-long streak of futility came to an end April 2, 2016, though not in the way many would have predicted going into the night. Gracie Gold sat in first place after the short program at the 2016 World Championships in Boston, while Ashley Wagner found herself in fourth. Gold fell on the opening combination in her Firebird routine and later doubled a lutz, thus opening the door for Wagner, who gladly walked right through it with, considering the circumstances, maybe the best performance of her career. Buoyed by the energy of the home crowd in TD Garden, Wagner laid down the second-best free skate of the event to pull up to second place overall and win the silver medal.

Related articles: 

World-record free launches Medvedeva to gold
Wagner seizes moment after Gold falters in Boston
Wagner: 'I am the athlete that I want to be right now'

21. Arutunian becomes leading singles coach in U.S.

There was a period of time, in the late 2000s and early 2010s, when you didn't hear much about Rafael Arutunian. The man who had formerly coached Michelle Kwan, Jeffrey Buttle, Sasha Cohen and Mao Asada was without any elite students for several years. That began to change in December 2011 when a young prodigy named Nathan Chen started to train full time with Arutunian at the Ice Castle Training Center in Lake Arrowhead, California. The following year, Adam Rippon joined Arutunian's coaching team -- which also includes his wife, Vera Arutunian, and Nadia Kanaeva -- and the year after that Ashley Wagner joined the party. Soon, three of the best singles skaters in the U.S. were all training under the same roof -- and Arutunian was back on the map. Skaters now are coming from all over the world to work with the Georgia-born coach, who added two new clients this offseason: Japan's Marin Honda and South Korea's Eunsoo Lim.

Related articles: 

Arutunian making up for lost time with Wagner
Fresh faces: Arutunian set to welcome new pupils

20. Kostner's late-career renaissance

Throughout the first half of her career, Carolina Kostner was known as a suprememly talented skater who always wilted under the pressure. She bottomed out at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, where she finished 16th overall, including a dismal 19th-place showing in the free skate. At 23, it looked like she might be finished -- but the best was yet to come. Returning to coach Michael Huth, whom she left after the 2008-09 season, Kostner underwent a career revival in the years that followed. She medaled at worlds for four years in a row -- a run that included a world title in 2012 -- and captured the bronze medal at the 2014 Sochi Games. In the 2017-18 season, she proved she still had plenty left in the tank when, at the ripe age of 31, she took the bronze at Europeans, giving her 11 career medals from that competition, the most of any singles skater in history.

Related articles: 

At long last, Kostner coronated as world champ
Kostner's bronze touches hearts of skating fans

19. Tara and Johnny become pop culture icons

When NBC added Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir to its on-air team for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, the network was trying to reinvigorate its figure skating broadcast, which had grown stale over the years. What resulted was a full-blown pop culture phenomenon. With their instant chemistry, penchant for speaking off the cuff and often outrageous fashion choices, Tara and Johnny became must-watch TV; in a lot of ways, their commentary was a bigger story than anything that happened on the ice in Sochi. Since that experience, the pair has attained celebrity status and forged a successful career as an iconic announcing duo, having also worked at such events as the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards and the Kentucky Derby.

Related articles: 

Broadcast dream team reunites at Skate America

18. Jason Brown's Riverdance free skate becomes an internet sensation

Jason Brown came into the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships as a darkhorse candidate to make the U.S. Olympic team; he left the event an internet sensation. On the afternoon of Sunday, Jan. 12, at Boston's TD Garden, the ebullient skater gave a performance of his Riverdance free skate that was so electrifying, so original, so utterly joyful that even those outside the skating world couldn't help but take notice. The routine quickly went viral, with the original YouTube clip surpassing 4 million views, and Brown earned his trip to Sochi with a performance that's regarded as one of the greatest in the history of the sport.

Related articles: 

Jason the dream: Boston, Sochi and beyond
Brown's presence enriched skating world in 2013-14

Related video: Jason Brown's 2014 U.S. Championships Free Skate

17. Rochette wins Olympic bronze following the death of her mother

Being the reigning world silver medalist and getting to skate on home ice made Joannie Rochette one of the medal favorites going into the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. Her world, though, was turned upside down when on Sunday, Feb. 22 -- just two days before the ladies short program -- her mother, Therese, died of a heart attack. There was immediate speculation that Rochette may withdraw from the competition, but when she showed up to practice just a few hours after learning the news of her mom's passing, it was clear she was going to soldier on. Not only did she compete, she put together two beautifully skated, emotionally charged programs on her way to winning the bronze medal and becoming a national hero in Canada.

Related articles: 

Rochette's mother dies of heart attack in Vancouver
With heavy heart, Rochette takes the practice ice
Canada's Rochette hangs on for the bronze medal

16. Kim ends professional relationship with Orser

There are so many layers to the very public breakup of skater Yuna Kim and coach Brian Orser, it's hard to know where to begin. What we know is this: On Aug. 2, 2010, Kim's mother, Mee-hee Park, told Orser he was no longer coaching her daughter. Orser's management company, IMG, confirmed the news in a press release it sent out Aug. 24. What we don't fully understand is the "why." Kim and her camp claimed the relationship had been going downhill for months; the press release from IMG said the decision was "sudden and unexpected." The mud-slinging did not end there: Kim accused Orser of lying about the reason for the split, after which the coach revealed Kim's 2010-11 free skate music to the French news service AFP without the skater's permission. Kim wound up leaving Toronto and settling in the Los Angeles area, while Orser turned his attention to his current stable of skaters, which, at the time, included Javier Fernández and Adam Rippon.

Related articles: 

Kim ends professional relationship with Orser

15. Chen goes where no man has gone before

It seemed inevitable that, given his career trajectory, Nathan Chen would one day be a skating star. After all, he won two U.S. novice titles and a pair of U.S. junior crowns before the age of 15. What many could not have predicted was that he would help revolutionize the sport with his jumping ability. His made his first big splash in January 2016, when he became the first man to land four quads at the U.S. championships. A year later, he upped that total to five in winning his first national title. Then, at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, Chen earned full credit for landing six quads in his free skate, a feat he repeated five weeks later en route to capturing his first world championship.

Related articles: 

Remarkable Chen jumps past field en route to gold
Chen earns redemption with historic free skate
Chen lands six quads to clinch first world title

14. The redemption of Mirai Nagasu

From bursting onto the scene as a 13-year-old at the 2007 U.S. Championships to making the 2010 Olympic team and becoming a media darling in Vancouver to having to deal with the bitter disappointment of being left off the 2014 Olympic team to suffering an equipment malfunction during the short program at the 2016 U.S. Championships, Mirai Nagasu has had no shortage of drama in her skating career. But with the help of coach Tom Zakrajsek, she rededicated herself to the sport, and her hard work paid off this past season, when she placed second at the U.S. championships to earn her second Olympic berth. In PyeongChang, she landed a historic triple axel in the free skate of the team event to help the United States clinch the bronze medal. 

Related articles: 

'Comeback kid' Nagasu perseveres to reach dream
Triple axel launches Nagasu into history books