After stressful games, the USA team figure skaters are ready to compete again
(LR) Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy Leduc compete in the pair skating short program at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on February 18, 2022 in Beijing.
Ashley-Cain Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, the two-time reigning U.S. champions who placed eighth at last month’s Games, also had a training challenge: Cain-Gribble sprained his right ankle while landing in a triple twist during a pre practice session at the Olympic free skate. Back in Euless, Texas, Cain-Gribble took a week off to attend rehab and physical therapy.
“They were in very good physical shape before the Olympics and it hasn’t deteriorated,” said Peter Cain, Ashley’s father and the duo’s head coach. “All that training, all that conditioning that they had done, it stayed with them, so taking that week off just to recuperate and replenish the brain, so to speak, it ended up being beneficial. We didn’t I haven’t seen any slowdown; they’ve put some really good programs in place.
The absence of Russian and Chinese pairs put Cain-Gribble and LeDuc – along with 2021 American champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, who finished sixth at the Games – in medal position in Montpellier. None of the top five at the Olympics, including champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, will compete.
“The plan in the back of our heads was the possibility of (putting it high enough) getting three world championship spots, that was a carrot they were hanging on themselves,” Cain said. “When we found out the Russians weren’t going and the two Chinese teams were missing, there was a moment of excitement. They said, “Well, this is an opportunity,” and then they went back to training. They train as if everyone is there.
This is Cain-Gribble and LeDuc’s third trip to the world championships, which provides a level of comfort and familiarity. However, it has not been easy.
“The turnaround from the Olympics to the world championships is tough,” said LeDuc, 31. “Call it the Olympic hangover. Reintegrating mind and body is really tough, but that doesn’t make us any less excited for the world championships.
“You don’t want to be overconfident or think something is going to be given to you,” Peter Cain added. “This season has been a great season for them, they have improved in every competition except the long program at the Olympics. They want to show everyone that steady rise. It’s the old story – if you go out and skate clean, things happen.
Team USA’s top ice dancing couples – Olympic bronze medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, and Madison Chock and Evan Bates, who placed fourth at the Games – are favorites for medals in Montpellier.
Last week, the skaters told reporters that training together at the Montreal Ice Academy, where they share the ice with many other top pairs, has eased the transition from the Olympics to the world championships.
“There was an emotional release and disappointment going into training again for the world championships,” said Chock, 29. “What’s great is that we’re in the same training boat with all our teammates and competitors, so we can share the experiences together, the emotions. We all know we feel the same. This makes training easier and allows us to find a rhythm.
There was also what the skaters called a “detoxification” process.
“It’s well documented that there is emotional and physical disappointment after the Games, we certainly felt that,” said Bates, 33. “We just took time off the ice, away from social media.”
Although she contributed to Team USA’s second-place finish in the team event, Karen Chen left the Games a little disappointed with her performance in the women’s competition, particularly with issues on her triple loop, usually l one of its strongest elements.
The U.S. silver medalist’s longtime coach, Tammy Gambill, used the weeks between the Olympics and world championships to solve the jumping problem.
“Every day in training (at the Olympics) was a nice little warm-up jump for her, no big deal, but in competition, for some reason, it went awry every time. “, said Gambill. “It had to be a bit of a mental thing, every time she got into it. So we reworked and moved the loop to different places with a slightly different technique, so it wouldn’t be the same as at the Olympics.
Chen, who finished a career-high fourth at the world championships last season, spent a week after the Olympics visiting family in Michigan. When she returned to her practice rink in Colorado Springs, she resumed full training.
“We rebuilt,” Gambill said. “Adjusting, running the programs, maintaining stamina. You must have a little disappointment after each competition, a little depression, then you get up. Karen’s stamina is good, she never lost the stamina part. So there were a lot of reviews.