Chin ready to call the action in San Jose

Two-time world bronze medalist looking forward to first trip to nationals as technical specialist

Tiffany Chin will serve as a technical specialist at the 2012 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, Calif.
Tiffany Chin will serve as a technical specialist at the 2012 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, Calif. (courtesy of Tiffany Chin)


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By Lois Elfman, special to
(01/19/2012) - By the time the 2012 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships are over, Tiffany Chin will have experienced nationals from every angle. The 1985 U.S. ladies champion, two-time world bronze medalist and 1984 Olympian has already experienced the event as a skater and a coach, and she is about to add "official" to the list.

"I'm super excited about that," said Chin, 44, who became a technical specialist in 2006 at the urging of longtime U.S. judge and official Gale Tanger.

Chin received national status in 2007, but this is her first call to action at the U.S. championships. She has previously called regional, sectional and nonqualifying competitions.

Her first U.S. championships as a skater came in 1980; her first nationals' coaching trip was with student Bebe Liang in 1999.

Chin expected this "first" would be a little less intense than her very first trip to nationals 32 years ago.

"As a skater, you have the thrill and excitement of the performance or the down of the performance," she recalled. "You feel the weight of the judging panel.

"Ice skating in America is such a big thing," she added. "It has this wonderful tradition. The best in the country come to compete. As a kid, I really felt it was like a mini-Olympics. It was a big, big deal. It was walking into a tremendous history.

"As a coach, I can see from the other side, what it's like to motivate a skater -- how difficult it is or the challenges of maneuvering an athlete to and through competitions."

Unlike some coaches who have said they are more nervous on the other side of the boards than they were as skaters, Chin said she feels calmer because she knows the lay of the land.

"When I walk in, I know this is about the other person, and I'm helping them," she said. "I know it's not about me."

When Chin first became a technical specialist, she thought everyone would understand how committed she was to doing an excellent job. Then, at a competition, she overheard someone say something negative about her, but she kept her composure and kept on walking.

"Please, go ask your [technical] controller," she advised skaters and coaches frustrated with the calls. "Get the information, the criteria, why we do what we do. It's never personal. We always want to do the best for the skater. On various criteria, it's very specific. It's interesting being on the other side."

She said she has enjoyed getting to know the judges and referees on a more personal level as well as her fellow technical specialists, all of whom are volunteers.

"I think a volunteering group attracts a certain type of person who really wants to give back to the community," she said. "I'm really happy to be a part of that group."

Chin declined to specify which events she'd be calling in San Jose, but did say she would be working at the novice, junior and senior levels. She also wouldn't speculate on who might earn podium spots in senior but did say she expected some great skating.

"We have really amazing talent in the men's department," she said. "I think that's going to be really exciting to see. In the ladies, it's kind of open. We'll see."

Her son, Kyle, who turns 8 next month, likes to skate recreationally with his mother at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, Calif., but Tiffany doesn't offer any technical critique.

"He skates around and tells me about his day," Chin said. "He just wants to skate around and around."

In addition to her work as a technical specialist, Chin is looking forward to reconnecting with old friends at this U.S. championships.

"It's wonderful to see this community of people come together," she said.