Coach Brian Orser brings 3 potential gold medalists to Pyeongchang Games
Brian Orser, figure skating coach extraordinaire, took a break from his first class: adults ranging from middle age into their 80s.
“Actually, it's my favorite thing I do,” the two-time Olympic silver medalist said with a laugh.
Orser will be taking a lengthy break from teaching those folks in Toronto.
He has some business to attend to in South Korea: the Pyeongchang Games, where he will have three gold medal threats in his charge.
His resume as a coach is as sterling as it was as a competitor in the 1980s. Eight years ago, in Vancouver, he guided Yuna Kim to the women's title. The image of Orser behind the end boards, twisting and turning to Kim's every move, is as indelible as the South Korean's own brilliant performances.
Then, at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, he worked with Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, who like Kim won his country's first gold medal in his discipline.
Hanyu will be back again, though he has been battling a serious ankle injury.
Orser could help another skater break through at the games: Spain's Javier Fernandez, a six-time European champion and two-time world winner whose country never has medaled in figure skating.
And just to make sure he stays busy, Orser also will work with Canadian champ Gabrielle Daleman.
How does he manage it?
“I think the secret is we have to treat everybody as individuals,” Orser said. “Different personalities and different cultures. We do have a plan for everybody on paper and we try to follow that best as we can.
“They walk into the rink and there is an energy we have to gauge, and then based on the plan, maybe get the energy level up. Sometimes we can't ... we're not doing it cookie-cutter style.”
Orser hardly is alone as he works with both world-class and lower-level skaters.
“No one can do this without a great support team,” he said, mentioning in particular Tracy Wilson, an Olympic and world medalist when she competed. “There's so much that goes into it, on the ice and off the ice.”
On the ice is where the spotlight shines, of course. This is, as Orser explains, “a really delicate time.”
An Olympic season is different from others in the sport. Not only is the timing of events skewed — U.S. nationals were held three weeks early in 2018 — but the pressure ratchets up throughout the end of the calendar for one year and the beginning of a new one.