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Gambill began coaching Chen after the 2013 U.S. Championships when she got a call from one of her former coaches, Gilley Nichol- son, who said he wouldn’t be able to travel with her, and asked Gambill if she would take over as her coach. Nicholson and Sherri Krahne-Tomas coached Chen for six years. “Of course, I said yes,” Gambill said. “He’s


still a part of the picture when she goes up to Northern California. He works with her. He’s al- ways her biggest supporter and biggest fan.” On the night of the free skate, Gambill said she thought to herself, “Just let her skate and whatever happens, happens, but I just want her to skate well for herself because I know it’s in her. She was very capable of doing it. I knew if she could go out and do her job, that she was going to give everyone a run for their money.” Gambill admits that it was hard to sleep that


night after Chen’s victory. “I was really excited,” Gambill said. “I was


getting texts from all over, many from people I didn’t realize were even watching and hadn’t heard from for so long; they were so happy. It’s a great feeling, hard to describe. I’m still smiling.” — Troy Schwindt


community, including a group from Friends of Figure Skating, who all sported “Pfan Club” but- tons throughout the weekend. “It’s been amazing to have that support,”


Phan said. “It’s felt nice and warm and welcoming and I really appreciate that from all the fans.” — Mimi McKinnis


Berton, Brubaker find their calling — together


Just a few years ago, Stefania Berton and


Rockne Brubaker were in the midst of their re- spective competitive pairs careers, with Berton representing Italy, and Brubaker, a two-time U.S. champion. Today, they are married, living in Chicago


and coaches of the 2017 U.S. champion pairs team of Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier. It’s a career that they didn’t necessarily envision while competing, but it’s one they’ve come to embrace. Brubaker thought he would stay involved in


the sport in some fashion, but not necessarily as a head coach. Toward the end of his career, though, he felt he wanted to try coaching.


“I spent a lot of time studying my coaches,


how they coached me,” Brubaker said. “And I was so grateful to work with people like Mr. (John) Nicks, Marina Zoueva, Todd (Sand) and Jenni (Meno) and Dalilah (Sappenfield). Tey really helped to prepare me with all those experienc- es. So between our competitive experiences and learning from them, it’s given us the foundation we have now.” Berton, with former partner Ondrej Ho-


tarek, won several international medals, including the 2013 bronze medal at the European Champi- onships. “Honestly, if I would have stayed in Italy, I


Blast from the past When 31-year-old Dennis Phan took the ice


in Kansas City, it had been seven years since his last U.S. Championships appearance. After taking a year off to travel at the conclusion of the 2010 championships and failing to advance past the Pa- cific Coast Sectional in his first comeback attempt in 2012, Phan decided to make another run at the national stage in 2017 — this time, on his own terms.


“Last year I was talking to Doug Mattis


about how to move past the negativity that I felt when I looked back at my skating career,” Phan said. “He gave me two choices — work through it emotionally or come back, skate for myself and go for a do-over. Now I’m competing for the love and joy of it again. I decided that I’d try to make it to the championships, but if I didn’t, at least I enjoyed performing one more time.” When he arrived in Kansas City, Phan was greeted by overwhelming love from the skating


SKATING 29


would have removed myself from the sport,” Ber- ton said. “I wouldn’t have coached. I didn’t think I had a place there. But coming to the U.S. and hav- ing the opportunity to work with Rockne; he’s not only my husband but I’m honored to work with him every day. Not only do we coach together, we direct the rink we coach at and codirect another rink. I’m blessed to have someone so inspiring and hard-working by my side. I want to thank this country for giving me the opportunity to find my- self, because the more I do it, the more I like it.” — Troy Schwindt


Zhang makes successful return


Good job, Caroline Zhang! After undergoing major hip surgery and


months of rehabilitation, the 23-year-old from Anaheim, California, accomplished her goal of returning to the U.S. Championships in Kansas City.


But not only did she return after missing the 2016 U.S. Championships, she shone brightly, turning in two virtually clean programs and fin- ishing fifth overall. “It’s great just being back out there,” Zhang,


the 2009 U.S. bronze medalist, told icenetwork. “It’s something I’ve worked for this whole year. I completed the goals I set to come back.” Zhang had struggled with excruciating pain


in recent seasons, placing 19th in the U.S. in 2014 and 17th the following year. “My hip hurt, and it started impacting my


everyday life,” she said. “I couldn’t do cardio lead- ing into 2014. I couldn’t do off-ice training at all.” Zhang’s comeback is even more impressive when one considers what her life looks like today. In addition to her training, she coaches, attends Cerritos College and is engaged to two-time U.S. pewter medalist and 2016 Worlds competitor Grant Hochstein. “I have to make the time in my day, earn the


money to afford to skate and train,” she said. Her coach, Peter Oppegard, said his long-


time pupil appreciates skating more now than ever before. “It’s all coming from a different place now, a place inside of her that’s very strong,” Oppegard said. “She really appreciates her ice time and is protective of it. She wants to be a better skater when she gets off the ice than when she got on. She is very disciplined, very motivated.” — Troy Schwindt


JAY ADEFF/U.S. FIGURE SKATING


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