Olympics

John Coughlin, figure skating champion from Kansas City, dead at 33

Olympic bronze medalist Gracie Gold (left) and former U.S. pairs champion John Coughlin discussed spin techniques with participants at the two-day Road to Gold Training Camp earlier this month at the Line Creek Ice Arena. Organized by Coughlin, the clinic offered participants the chance to learn championship-level practices and techniques.
Olympic bronze medalist Gracie Gold (left) and former U.S. pairs champion John Coughlin discussed spin techniques with participants at the two-day Road to Gold Training Camp earlier this month at the Line Creek Ice Arena. Organized by Coughlin, the clinic offered participants the chance to learn championship-level practices and techniques. Special to The Star

John Coughlin, a two-time U.S. pairs figure skating champion from Kansas City, died in an apparent suicide on Friday in his hometown. He was 33.

The death was announced in a Facebook post by his sister, Angela Laune.

“My wonderful, strong, amazingly compassionate brother John Coughlin took his own life earlier today,” Laune posted. “I have no words. I love you John. Always Always Brother Bear…”

On Thursday, Coughlin was suspended by the U.S. Center for SafeSport and U.S. Figure Skating. According to its website, SafeSport is the Olympic community’s initiative to recognize, reduce and respond to misconduct and abuse in Olympic sports. The organization defines such misconduct as “bullying, harassment, hazing, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual misconduct and abuse.”

Dalilah Sappenfield, Coughlin’s coach, said on her Facebook page that she had spoken to Coughlin earlier in the week and he was distraught over the events that led to the suspension.

“The John I knew was a big loving teddy bear with an infectious laugh,” Sappenfield wrote. “It was so very difficult for him and all those who loved him to see his name and reputation being dragged through the mud these past few weeks, without any due process. We spoke everyday just numb and shocked about how things were being misconstrued on social media. It was so very sad and tragic for me to see his life turned upside down in a matter of weeks, to the point where he felt alone, lost, and desperate that he no longer had it in him to fight.”

Coughlin was the U.S. pairs champion in 2011 with Caitlin Yankowskas and the 2012 champion with Caydee Denney.

Coughlin, the son of a 30-year Kansas City police veteran, got his start in the sport with the Kansas City Figure Skating Club. He attended Center High.

His 2011 championship came in January of that year in Greensboro, N.C. In the free skate portion of the competition, Coughlin and Yankowskas skated to Schubert’s “Ave Maria” — a tribute to Coughlin’s mother, Stacy, who had died the year before after battling a chronic respiratory illness.

Coughlin was retired from competitive figure skating, but he was instrumental in bringing the U.S. Figure Skating Championships to Kansas City in 2017.

“John was a big asset to us when we bid for and hosted in 2017,” said Kathy Nelson, president of the Kansas City Sports Commission. “Our staff is in shock right now.”



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