Ice Network

Steuer joins Zimmerman to train Denney, Frazier

German coach invites Savchenko, Massot to follow him to South Florida
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Ingo Steuer (left) is bringing his world-class expertise to John Zimmerman's training center in Coral Springs, Florida. -Klaus-Reinhold Kany

Germany's loss is Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier's gain.

Ingo Steuer, who coached Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy to five world titles, has relocated from his hometown in Chemnitz to the Florida Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs, the training site of the 2013 world junior pairs champions.

Steuer is at 2014 Skate America in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, this week, instructing Denney and Frazier alongside their primary coach, John Zimmerman.

"It's great having two different minds and styles of teaching -- you get a better understanding all around," Frazier said. "The balance is coming together great. Plus, with two phenomenal coaches, you're really motivated to do everything to the best of your abilities for them."

Finances played a large role in the move. Savchenko and her new partner, Frenchman Bruno Massot, could not afford to pay Steuer, and Germany's interior ministry would not permit the country's skating federation to support him with public funds, due to his long-ago association with the Stasi.

Steuer trained Savchenko and Massot in Coral Springs this summer. When that arrangement ended, and since he does not have any other full-time students in Chemnitz, Steuer decided to remain in Florida permanently and join Zimmerman's team, which also includes former U.S. champion and 2010 Olympian Jeremy Barrett. 

Steuer, who said he has obtained a permit to work in the U.S. through 2017, also teaches a large group of young skaters ranging in age from 7 to 17.

"It has been a lot of fun," Steuer said. "I like to see how motivated they are when I teach them something. The skaters want to learn and listen to my words. This is what I was sometimes missing in the last few months."

Zimmerman says he and Steuer had long discussed collaborating.

"Ingo has been coming to our rink for the past three years in the springtime with Aliona and Robin, and we developed a nice relationship," he said. "We talked about working together, and this is a good opportunity now, with the changes in his life. ... To be able to gain his knowledge and friendship has helped not just the skaters but the coaching team as well."

The feud between coach (Steuer) and team (Savchenko and Massot) has played out publicly. It culminated earlier this month with Massot signing a contract with the German skating federation, confirming his plans to become a German citizen and compete with Savchenko for Germany.

"I was disappointed when I heard about Bruno's contract, because it was done without my knowledge," Steuer said Thursday. "I am also disappointed with the German federation. As soon as they got the chance to get rid of me, they took it."

Massot tried to downplay the conflict, releasing a statement in French on his Facebook page.

"The French federation wanted to support us only after Aliona's release from Germany, but the German federation is willing to support us even before France releases me," he wrote. "Therefore, I will skate for Germany. We absolutely need financial support from somebody."

(Didier Gailhaguet, the president of the French skating federation, had previously announced that France would not release Massot to compete for Germany for two years.)

For his part, Steuer seemed willing to reconcile with Savchenko and Massot.

"I did not burn my bridges to Germany, and especially to Chemnitz," he said. "I wrote Aliona and Bruno that I am still willing to work with them. If they want to come to Florida, they may come. As they have no money at the moment, I offered to [wait for payment] until after they have done some shows." 

Meanwhile, the coaching team in Coral Springs has another project. 

"Korea wants a pair at the (Pyeongchang) Olympic Games in 2018," Steuer said. "The problem is they have no boys for pair skating. They sent me several girls for a test, and they are trying out with boys from several other countries, including Italy and Germany."