Frank Carroll, who coached Michelle Kwan for 10 years before
being unceremoniously dumped by the gold medal favorite last
fall, isn't sure where he'll be when the women's figure skating
competition begins next Tuesday. If Tim Goebel of the U.S., whom
the 63-year-old Carroll coaches, finishes in the top four of the
men's competition (which starts today at 5:15 p.m.), qualifying
for the closing exhibition, Carroll will be right here in Salt
Lake. If Goebel falters, Carroll will go home to Palm Springs,
Calif., and begin to work on his taxes.
Carroll isn't even sure he'll watch as Kwan resumes her quest
for the gold medal that eluded her in Nagano--the gold medal
that eluded them both. Carroll, who has been at every Winter
Olympics save one since 1972, has never coached an Olympic
"Initially I said I wouldn't watch, because I didn't want people
coming up and asking my opinion," he said yesterday after
Goebel's practice. "Now, if I'm here, I think I'd probably go.
I'd hope to enjoy the event. I've felt emotionally strong so far
through this, but you're never exactly the same."
The hurt of his sudden dismissal has dissipated with time. He'd
been through worse. In 1980 his prize pupil, Linda Fratianne, a
two-time world champion, was robbed of the gold medal in Lake
Placid because of cold war judging politics and an arcane
scoring system that overvalued compulsory school figures. The
forgettable East German Anett Poetzch stood atop the podium that
year. "That was the one that almost made me quit skating,"
Carroll says. The ISU changed the scoring system shortly
Carroll has taken Danish, Japanese and Mexican skaters to the
Games, missing the big show only in 1984. Two of his former
pupils, Mark Cockerell and Tiffany Chin, were in Sarajevo that
year, having left him for other coaches after he'd had
disagreements with their parents. Asked if he found himself
rooting against them, Carroll says, "I never root against
anyone. It would be bad karma. I always felt their abilities
reflected on me, so why would I want them to fail? I hope to God
Michelle does win the gold. We're still friendly. It's hard for
people to understand that. I've moved on. Michelle's moved on.
After 10 years, maybe it was time for a change."
Kwan and Carroll went to two Olympics together: In 1994, when
the 13-year-old Kwan was the alternate awaiting the resolution
of Tonya Harding's lawsuit, and in 1998, when she was upset by
Tara Lipinski. "Michelle was wonderful there but a little
tentative," Carroll says. "Tara went out and skated her brains
out. I was disappointed but not angry."
Carroll and Kwan talked about what they would do differently
this time, about being more aggressive, embracing the spirit of
going for the gold. About interacting more with other athletes,
being less reclusive, enjoying the journey that is the Olympics.
Kwan, coached by her father now, has said she'll do all those
things. Carroll now suggests those things to Goebel.
Though Carroll and Kwan have gone their own ways, they are part
of each other's Olympics. Forever linked, they now travel
different roads. Carroll insists he won't be envious if Kwan
wins while he watches from afar. "I think most people would
consider me the coach most associated with her success," he
says. "Don't make me sound like an angry old man. I really do
think Michelle Kwan is the greatest skater in the world."
COLOR PHOTO: DAVE BLACK Together for 10 years, Carroll and Kwan, here in 2001, remain friendly.