Behind the scenes of figure skating

Tiffany Chin's love of skating continues

Tiffany Chin with her husband Steven Kan and son, Kyle.
Tiffany Chin with her husband Steven Kan and son, Kyle. (courtesy of Tiffany Chin)


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By Lois Elfman, special to
(03/06/2008) - "U.S. Nationals is kind of a reunion place for a lot of us," says Tiffany Chin, 1985 U.S. ladies champion, two-time world bronze medalist (1985 and '86) and 1984 Olympian. It gave her a chance to catch up with former teammates Dr. Debi Thomas and Scott Hamilton, as well as see her former student, Bebe Liang, earn her first world team berth.

"It was wonderful to be there."

Chin taught Liang for nearly a decade, including Liang's auspicious senior debut at the age of 12. They parted ways when Chin gave birth to her son, Kyle, four years ago. With Kyle now in school much of the day, Chin finds herself with a fairly full coaching schedule at the East West Ice Palace in Artesia, Calif. She was at the boards in Saint Paul for senior lady Laney Diggs and novice lady Song King.

"I know from personal experience that this is a journey towards excellence," says Chin, 40. "I would love to be that positive force who helps them through the bumps-the good times and the bad times.

"There are always little obstacles," she continues. "To them, they seem monumental. In retrospect they will seem rather small. Especially if you're taking my career or my colleagues' careers. We can all reflect on a time where we thought, 'Wow, this is huge!' You start reconsidering everything. I would like to be there and help give my skaters the advice I wish I had gotten."

Chin's career had some incredible highs: winning the world junior title in 1981, and making her first world team at just 15-years-old. It also had some disappointing lows: coping with a growth spurt, and battling injuries which eventually caused her to not pursue going to the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Instead, she turned pro in 1987.

She says she had a very satisfying pro career. Chin cut back on performing after marrying Steven Kan in 1997, and began to focus on coaching. It was such a gradual transition, she can't say when she actually stopped altogether, but does say she doesn't miss it.

During her performing days she also attended and graduated from UCLA. "College was a must, especially with the Asian background," she says. Her father has a Ph.D. and her mother a master's degree. "It was very important to go through that institutionalized stage. I know what other things have to offer me and it is of my own choice to coach skating. For any of us who choose to do this as an occupation, we do it because we absolutely love it."

Although she is a Southern California native, she says her time at UCLA gave her a fresh perspective on Los Angeles. "I discovered parts of the city I had never been to. My friends laughed at me," she says.

Kan works at Pulse Research Lab, which keeps them happily based on the Pacific Coast. Chin's parents live just an hour away and she sees them often. During her competitive days, the media often focused on Chin's mother, Marjorie, and cast her as an intense and somewhat over-the-top stage mother. Chin says people don't often bring it up to her, but if they do she is more than happy to respond.

"My mother is a very strong personality and an immigrant (from China), so I think a lot of things she said or things that were reported were so often taken out of context," Chin says. "She is the person who loves me, has always loved me and I have always known that. We have a very close relationship.

"The sport is very intense," she adds. "There are going to be a lot of emotions. Unfortunately, that makes great TV.... To this day I tell her, 'It's your strength that has given me my strength.'"

With that Chin heads back to the ice and helping her skaters enjoy all the aspects of their journeys through the sport.