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Borscht belts: Ten overcomes run of misadventures

World silver medalist makes no excuses; Gambill fulfills Olympic dream
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Denis Ten has faced plenty of unexpected adversity this season, but he is here in Sochi to put his best boot forward. -Getty Images

Last season, Denis Ten -- ebullient, talkative and charming -- lit up London, Ontario, with his joyous performances to music from The Artist. His silver medal at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships put Kazakhstan on the figure skating map. A skating star was born.

Fast forward about 11 months. A subdued Ten, still charming but far more restrained, stepped off the practice ice Tuesday afternoon after a so-so session. The gear on his feet told part of the story of his season: two different Graf boots, the right one old and the left one new. The rest of the story is written in a complicated series of injuries Ten will only reluctantly acknowledge.

"I've had injuries of the foot, back, brain," Ten, 20, said, including that last body part as a joke. "I'm here. I'm dealing with it. We all have challenges."

The first puncture in Ten's armor came in October when he was forced to withdraw from 2013 Skate America due to injury.

"I had a ligament infection under the skin, and it went up to my jaw," he said. "I had to have a tooth extracted."

The infection cleared up and he returned to training, placing fourth at Cup of China. But his troubles were far from over.

"I did hurt my ankle before Cup of China," he said. "The ligaments had weakened. They weren't strong enough and I stretched them."

According to Ten's coach, Frank Carroll, Kazakhstan's skating federation likes its champion to compete as much as possible. So, off Ten went to the Winter University Games in Italy in December. There, he broke a boot and had to withdraw after the short program draw. He was off the ice until Christmas Day.

"Now I am wearing two different boots; one is made of leather and one of something else," he said.

Ten isn't giving in to his injuries. He competes in Sochi after a pain-killing injection. His big goal is to skate well for the audience and show off Lori Nichol's choreography, including his rambunctiously elegant free skate to Shostakovich's "The Lady and the Hooligan."

"I had a hard time deciding on new music after The Artist," he said. "It's definitely a challenging program."

And, at the Olympics, you never know what will happen. After all, Ten was just 12th at the 2013 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, held right before worlds. This season, he was fourth.

-Lynn Rutherford

Gambill fulfills Olympic destiny

Tammy Gambill grew up in Sacramento and would spend summers in Squaw Valley, Calif., for skating. Every time she and her family made the trip to the site of the 1960 Winter Games, she would see the Olympic rings and tell her parents, "This is what I want to do."

Now Gambill can check off that accomplishment: She has made it to the Olympics.

The longtime coach who has developed several American skaters, most notably Ricky Dornbush, is in Sochi as the coach of Australia's Brendan Kerry, who will compete in the men's short program Thursday. 

"It has been beyond exciting," said Gambill, who was at the men's practice sessions Tuesday afternoon. "I like to say I got to walk the walk."

Gambill, wearing her Australia team jacket at practice, did get to walk the walk, as she was invited to walk in the Opening Ceremony in Sochi. Her family was watching on TV back home in California and said they were able to spot her in the parade of athletes.

For Gambill, the Olympic stage was set from birth. Her first name is actually Tamara, and Gambill said her parents told her she was named after a Russian Olympic shotputter. Gambill does not have any Russian heritage and said she does not know much more about the Russian Olympian who shares her first name, but Gambill always knew the Olympics were part of her lineage.

Gambill is getting the full Olympic experience here, staying in the Olympic Village.

"It is so incredible," Gambill said. "I haven't had any issues at all; the people here couldn't be any nicer, and it has just been fantastic. We even took a trip up to the mountain village, and the train ride up there and the atmosphere was just amazing."

Gambill took time out to do a little Olympic shopping and picked up some souvenirs for her two adult children but said she did not purchase anything for her skaters.

"They have to get [to the Olympics] and get their own things," she said with a laugh.

Gambill has been going nonstop this season, and she thanked Justin Dillon for helping her juggle their skaters' global travels. It doesn't stop after Sochi, either. One of her skaters, Amy Lin, who placed sixth in junior ladies at the 2014 U.S. Championships, was recently invited to compete at the Challenge Cup in The Hague, and another, Karen Chen, will represent Team USA at the world junior championships March 10-16 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Chen, who withdrew after the short program in Boston because of a foot injury, is recovering nicely, Gambill said.

"I just got a text from her yesterday, and she is doing well and is ready to go," Gambill said.

-Amy Rosewater

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