Frank Carroll, renowned figure skating coach, dies at 85

Frank Carroll, renowned figure skating coach, dies at 85

Longtime figure skating coach Frank Carroll, who over the course of a 60-year career helped guide six Olympic medalists at 10 Winter Games, including Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek, died Sunday. He was 85.

U.S. Figure Skating, with whom Carroll worked closely for decades, announced his death. It said Carroll died Sunday “after a battle with cancer.”

“Frank was everything I could have hoped for in a coach and more,” Kwan said in a post on social media. “He was never short on words, always providing feedback with a mix of directness, love and unwavering support.”

With a sharp wit and even sharper sense of humor, Carroll was instrumental in the success of American standouts such as Kwan, Lysacek and Linda Fratianne, using Ice Castle in Lake Arrowhead and Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo as his training rinks. He retired from coaching in August 2018, not long after his 80th birthday, and moved to Palm Springs.

“Frank’s sense of humor was a gift, especially on those tough lesson days when things just wouldn’t click,” said Kwan, who won the silver medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics and bronze at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. “His parting words, ‘I’ve done my duty for God and my country,” followed by a dramatic exit as he skated away, never failed to make us all laugh.”

Michelle Kwan and her coach, Frank Carroll, react as her scores are announced after her routine in the women’s finals at the World Figure Skating Championships on March 23, 1996, in Edmonton. Kwan won the gold medal. (AP Photo/Denis Paquin, File)

Carroll, the younger of two children, was born on July 11, 1938, to a shop teacher father and city clerk mother.

He was inspired by two-time Olympic champion Dick Button to learn to skate on the frozen ponds near his hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts, and later attended Holy Cross, where he graduated in 1960 with a degree in sociology.

Yet it was on the ice where Carroll showed such a brilliant ability to absorb, and pass along, his vast knowledge. Much of it was gleaned from his own first coach, Maribel Vinson-Owen, the two-time world medalist and 1932 Olympic bronze medalist.

“She taught me great discipline, about being on time, always showing up, never backing out, not saying, ‘Oh, I don’t feel well today,’” Carroll recalled later in life. “You go to the rink and you never complain about the ice.”

Carroll won a junior bronze medal at the U.S. championships before turning professional and skating with Ice Follies, a popular touring show at the time that featured elaborate productions. Carroll also dabbled in acting before getting into coaching, despite having been accepted into the law school at the University of San Francisco.

His first big stars were Mark Cockerell, the 1976 world junior champion, and Fratianne, who would win world senior titles in 1977 and ’79. But it was Kwan, the daughter of Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong, who launched Carroll to stardom in his own right. She would win five world championships along with silver and bronze medals at the Winter Olympics.

“I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been one of the lucky ones to work with him,” she said.

Carroll also coached Tim Goebel, Gracie Gold and Denis Ten to Olympic medals.

Evan Lysacek puts his hand on the shoulder of his coach, Frank Carroll, as they wait for his scores in the men’s free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Jan. 17, 2010, in Spokane, Wash. (AP Photo/Jonathan Ferrey, Pool, File)

For all his decades of success, Carroll’s lone Olympic champion was Lysacek, who came back from a disappointing fourth-place finish at the 2006 Turin Games to win gold in Vancouver. Lysacek stood second to Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko, the reigning gold medalist, after the short program before vaulting into first place with a near-perfect free skate.

Lysacek honored his coach afterward with the Order of Ikkos medal from the U.S. Olympic Committee, which is designed to be a symbol of excellence in coaching as represented by an athlete’s achievement as an Olympic medalist.

“He made me believe that I could skate perfectly in the Olympics,” Lysacek said after the 2010 Games. “When I first heard the results, he was the first person I thought about. … He owns just as much or more of my Olympic gold medal as I do.”

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Carroll was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1996 and the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2007.

Funeral arrangements were not available, but donations can be made in Carroll’s honor to the Memorial Fund. It was created after the 1961 crash of a flight from New York to Brussels, Belgium, that killed the entire U.S. figure skating team on its way to the world championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Many of Carroll’s friends and coaches were aboard the plane.

Frank Carroll, coach of figure skater Gracie Gold, keeps an eye on the skater as she practices at the Skate America figure skating competition Oct. 23, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps, File)