Rings and rinks: U.S.A. hockey, Zavozin and Goebel

Behind the scenes at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver

Tim Goebel attends the 2008 Skating with the Stars Benefit Gala at the Wollman Rink in New York City.
Tim Goebel attends the 2008 Skating with the Stars Benefit Gala at the Wollman Rink in New York City. (Getty Images)


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By Linda Przygodski, Amy Rosewater and Lynn Rutherford
(02/22/2010) -'s team on the ground in Vancouver, Linda Przygodski, Amy Rosewater and Lynn Rutherford, pen all the tidbits from the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Vancouver volunteer nearly costs Lysacek gold
Frank Carroll: "Evan really got his skates nicked. Because he was here so long, he took his skates off and some woman took them, and said: "I'll hold them." She took them and banged the blades together. This was after the short program, and they had a huge, big burr and dent in the left [skate]. Thank God we have Mike Cunningham, so Mike took them and fixed them as best he could with the stones -- but what if he couldn't fix them? That could have cost him winning the Olympic championship.

"Coaches, we're not allowed to walk through here with the skaters. We're not allowed to come back here. And, I'm thinking, OK, I'm not allowed to take my kids skates and hold them but some woman can bang the blades together and ruin his chances of winning the Olympic championship?"

Reporter: Was she Russian?

On to the third period
Charlie White and Scott Moir are both avid hockey fans and engaged in some friendly banter after the United States defeated Canada, 5-3, in the men's Olympic hockey game earlier in the day. Both actually were watching the game before they took the ice for their own competition, the original dance.

"Are we really going to talk about that?'' Moir told reporters when asked about his beloved Canadians losing to the Americans.

In the ice dance competition, the Canadians have the early lead. Moir and his partner, Tessa Virtue, are in first place entering the free dance Monday. White and his partner, Meryl Davis, are in second.

Perhaps the judges wanted to give the Canadians the edge out of pity because the hockey team lost. When asked, White didn't take the bait but let out a laugh.

The couples train together in Canton, Mich., a suburb of Detroit. Even their coaches have divided allegiances. Igor Shpilband, is a Russian native who became a U.S. citizen in 2000. Marina Zoueva also is of Russian origin but later became a Canadian citizen.

Somehow, they all seem to get along OK.

Except when it comes to hockey.

Moir stopped watching the game shortly before the final buzzer. White, meanwhile, said he watched until the end.

The Olympic hockey competition won't end until next Sunday. But the ice dancing competition concludes Monday. Maybe on the ice in the Pacific Coliseum there will be a shootout.

"Oh man,'' White said. "I would love a shootout.''

Manley on Rochette
Elizabeth Manley can't help but feel for Joannie Rochette.

Rochette, whose mother died of a heart attack while in Vancouver, is Canada's top medal hope in the women's figure skating competition.

Manley, meanwhile, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, is in Vancouver as a television analyst for Canada's CTV. Manley put her own coaching career on hold in 2007 after her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Manley was at her mother's side every day in the hospital until the day she died in July 2008.

Although some people were surprised that Rochette came to her scheduled practice on Sunday, just hours after learning of her mother's death, Manley could understand and relate.

"In the last 24 hours I've been trying to figure everything out,'' said Manley, who was watching the women practice in the Pacific Coliseum this morning. "I lost my mom and I kept wondering, 'Could I have done it?' On one side, I have to say, 'No way,' but then there's another side that says, 'Well, maybe I could.'

"The day after my mom died I had to go to Winnipeg for a five-day seminar,'' Manley added. "I had promised to do it and I wanted to keep that promise. I channeled my energy into something that was stable in my life, and that was skating. For Joannie, this where she is most comfortable. Maybe this is what she needs.

"I still can't believe that I did that seminar. But the Olympics is a whole other thing.''

Manley struggled with the loss of her mother, gained about 30 pounds and had to take blood-pressure medication.

"I gave up,'' Manley said. "If I can tell Joannie anything it's this: 'Don't give up.' ''

Manley hasn't spoken to Rochette since news broke that Rochette's mother had died. Nor does Manley want to talk to her. At least not until Rochette wants to.

But the short program on Tuesday no doubt will be challenging, both for Rochette on the ice and for Manley in the TV booth. "It's going to be so emotional,'' Manley said. "And I've got to call it.''

Right on ice, this time
Maxim Zavozin always dreamed of competing in the Olympics. He just never knew which country he would be representing. A Russian native and son of competitive skaters, he later moved to the United States.

He trained with Morgan Matthews they claimed the world junior title. In December 2005 he became an American citizen, and the next month, he and Matthews placed fourth at nationals, just missing a trip to Torino. For the past two years, he has been training with Nina Hoffmann of Hungary. They won the last two national titles and placed 10th at the European Championships but they weren't sure if they would be able to compete in these Games because he still hadn't been granted Hungarian citizenship.

A week after Europeans, however, he became Hungarian. He raced to the courthouse to complete the official swearing-in process and had a passport expedited so he could compete in Vancouver. He and Hoffmann performed a Hungarian folk dance in the original dance segment tonight. Sporting a goatee and black boots, Zavozin played the Hungarian role well.

"I'm Russian, Hungarian and American,'' he said. "I'm a world citizen.''

More importantly, he finally is experiencing the Olympics.

"I've had a lot of setbacks in getting here,'' said Zavozin, who mainly trains in Moscow. "But competing in the Olympics is definitely the most exciting thing I've had so far in the sport. The goal here is to have fun and to finish as close to the top 10 as we can.''

Hoffman and Zavozin are in 14th entering the free dance on Monday.

Whistling dixie
Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates, the American bronze medalists, are enjoying their first trip to the Olympics.

"It's really amazing'' Bates said. "I sat down at the cafeteria table with Shaun White and was just staring at him.''

Bates eventually got the nerve to chat with the two-time Olympic snowboarding champion. Bates got his photo with White and said the Flying Tomato even ordered tickets for the ice dancing competition.

"I don't know if they came, but they actually ordered tickets for the compulsory dance on Friday,'' Bates said. "We were like, 'If you're going to come watch ice dance, please don't come to compulsory dance.' I don't know. They're probably not going to come back. It's flattering to see people interested.''

Orser, Goebel on men's decision
Elvis Stojko, along with almost everyone in Russia -- including, evidently, former premier Vladimir Putin, who has called for an investigation -- isn't happy that Evan Lysacek defeated Evgeni Plushenko in the men's event, despite Lysacek's lack of a quad.

In a column for Yahoo! Sports called "The Night they Killed Figure Skating," Stojko called the decision "ridiculous."

"There are junior skaters who could have done that program," Stojko wrote.

Another two-time Canadian Olympic silver medalist, Brian Orser, disagrees.

"I think the right winner was picked," Orser said. "I'm a big fan of advancing the sport technically; I was one of the first skaters to do triple Axels. I'm very proud of that.

"But there are 13 elements, and the quad is one of them. There are 12 others. Evan won on his technical elements score, and because of his grades of execution."

In a bit of a surprise, U.S. Quad King Tim Goebel -- who executed three quads in his bronze-medal free skate at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games -- also disagrees with Stojko.

Goebel, too, believes the current judging system does not properly award risk takers; but as he wrote in a Yahoo! post -- which we're excerpting here with his permission -- there was a lot more to the result than a single quad.

"Elvis is correct in saying that Evan's jumps weren't close to the technical ability of Evgeni; they far exceeded his," Goebel wrote. "Plushenko gave a gritty performance, and is a phenomenal competitor, but the jump quality was lacking. He barely hung on to his solo triple Axel, and although Evan had a slight break in his Axel combo, it was better.

"Lysacek did a beautiful triple Lutz-triple toe; Plushenko barely squeaked by on his solo Lutz, and did a scratchy triple Lutz-double toe. Grade of execution counts for a lot, as it well should, and in every case Evan's execution was stronger."

With the two skaters' program components score tied at 82 points, small differences in the technical score brought Lysacek gold. Goebel called Plushenko and his coach, Alexei Mishin, for failing to adjust the program to maximize points.

"Plushenko has one of the best triple Axels in the business. He could easily do it in the bonus [second half of the program], but he elected not to. He front-loaded his program, and Evan spread his difficulty throughout. I appreciate how difficult that is; in the Salt Lake City Olympics, the second quad Salchow in my long was around the three-minute mark. It requires a lot of training to make the big tricks happen late in a program, and Evan did so with ease."

Goebel -- who plans to qualify as an international technical specialist -- ended his post with a constructive suggestion.

"I would like to see a dialogue open between the ISU and former athletes who have performed multiple quads in competition. Elvis, myself, and many of our peers have invaluable competition experience for understanding the difficulty in executing these jumps . . . I am confident that we could come up with a point spread that would encourage and reward athletes to attempt more difficult elements, and do so without turning the sport into a jump contest."

Tweets of the day
I'm very homesick today. Maybe I just miss my vacuum? That's probably it.

Thanks for sticking up for me @PerezHilton!!!! You're the man!!!!

Sometimes I wish I were friends with the friends of "Friends". I mean none of them work, yet inexplicably have money & nice Apts in NYC!

Congrats to the US hockey team! What an AMAZING game!! Deepest condolences go out to Joannie Rochette.

Decided Tom Petty's "Last Dance w/Mary Jane" is too depressing 2b today's theme song, so D.Summers here we go! "Last Dance...toniiiight!"

Last competition tonight! So excited for the free dance.. only a few more hours now!