Gregorian Chants

Columnist Vahe Gregorian offers musings about the sports scene in and around Kansas City

Skater Coughlin contending to be KC’s only 2014 Olympian

01/10/2014 4:04 PM

01/23/2014 10:58 AM

Even if you don’t care much for figure skating, there are ample reasons Kansas Citians might want to root Saturday for local product John Coughlin and pairs partner Caydee Denney to rally from fourth place to second and into a 2014 Olympic berth at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston.

Let’s start with the touching birthday letter Coughlin, 28, wrote last summer to his mother, Stacy, who died in 2010.

“I remembered the 5 a.m. drives to the rink and the time we backed out of the garage without putting the door up,” Coughlin, a two-time U.S. champion with two different partners, wrote via “I remembered pretending our stuffed bears could fly during the long road trips to competitions, and the traumatic incident when `Bop’ flew out the window and we had to go back a few exits to rescue him.

“I hope you look at where I am and feel like all of the sacrifices the family made for me were worth it Please watch over and keep safe the people I hold dearest. And please believe what you hear me whisper to you every day before our music plays: I love you and I miss you every day.”

So she has his back, in more ways than one: This week, Coughlin unveiled to media in Boston a St. Michael tattoo on his back in honor of his mother’s past prayers on behalf of her husband to the patron saint of police officers (among others).

Coughlin’s father, Mike, was a 30-year veteran of the Kansas City police when he retired in 2007, according to USA Today.

That’s why his son, who got his start in the sport with the Kansas City Figure Skating Club, wore a blue “Police KC/MO” T-shirt as he sat in the so-called “kiss-and-cry” with Denney waiting for their free-skate results in the 2012 U.S. championship that they won.

“I tell people that I'm still trying to be my dad when I grow up,” John Coughlin, who now trains in Colorado Springs, told reporters afterward. “I've never got past that. He’s an amazing guy and a strong individual and he's just so brave to do what he does every day.”

Attempts to reach Coughlin and his father by telephone on Friday were unsuccessful, but there’s a lot more story to tell. And we’ll do it soon if they make the improbable-but-not-impossible leap to qualify for Sochi.

Meanwhile, here’s another reason to wish him well:

As it stands now, at least until I type this and get blasted with connections we’re not thinking of, Kansas City has no true local thread to the upcoming Olympics.

Shoot, because of injuries, we don’t even have claim to the fun-but-flimsy strand to Lindsey Vonn, who “attended” “University of Missouri High School,” a Mizzou online program.

As chronicled in a 2002-03 MU High School bulletin: “She attended a local high school for her freshman year but quickly realized that her training and competition schedule mandated a more flexible education.

‘We race non-stop throughout the winter, so I do most of my schoolwork between training camps in the summer,’ (Vonn said).”

So the only link at all for the moment is defenseman Henrik Ødegaard of the Missouri Mavericks, who will represent Norway.

“It is an incredible honor for an athlete to compete for his country,” coach Scott Hillman said in a news release, “and now Henrik will have a huge support system of fans right here in Kansas City cheering for him ”

And apparently no one else locally unless Coughlin comes back.


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