PORTLAND, Ore. Tim Goebel went from ''The Quad King'' to one of the world's best all-around skaters under Frank Carroll, winning an Olympic bronze medal and two silvers at the world championships.
One day this fall, though, Carroll sat his prized student down and said it was time Goebel found himself a new coach.
''We're fine with each other as people,'' Carroll said Tuesday. ''But I think it got to the point where it was difficult to work together. It was probably not the best environment for him, and we decided to call it a day.
''I said, 'I think maybe you'd respond better at this point to someone other than me.'''
Though Carroll said they'd discussed such a move in the past, it still came as a surprise to Goebel. No one likes to hear he's not wanted, no matter how good the intentions are.
But a few short weeks later, Goebel is seeing the wisdom of Carroll's decision. And a move that was painful at first has, so far, turned out better than he could have hoped.
''I really believe that everything happens for a reason,'' Goebel said Tuesday after practice at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. ''You don't always like things at the time and you don't always know it, but I really feel like I'm in a really good, positive training atmosphere, and I'm really happy where I'm at training-wise.
''I really feel like in a very short period of time I've been able to overcome an injury and make some improvements,'' he added. ''So it's been a really, really good start.''
Goebel was gifted with springs for legs, the first U.S. man to land a quadruple jump and the first in the world to do three quads in one program. But it wasn't until he began working with Carroll in the summer of 2000 that he became a true skater, developing an artistry and presence on the ice he'd never had before.
The results showed in competition. He was the surprise bronze medalist at the Salt Lake City Olympics, then followed it up with back-to-back silvers at the world championships. Just 22 in Salt Lake City, a gold medal in 2006 seemed well within his grasp.
But Goebel hasn't skated a full season since then, plagued by a series of injuries. He didn't even make the world team last year, withdrawing from nationals after the short programs because of a series of injuries caused by problems with his boots.
''It was like being in a misaligned car,'' he said. ''Where the blade met the boot in the front and in the heel were not level. So my foot was torqued in the boot. No matter what I did I was having injuries because I was having to overwork certain things, compensate in different ways.
''I didn't even start therapy after nationals last year for a month because there were too many things (hurting),'' he said. ''They said don't even bother, there are too many things that have to settle down.''
The physical pain was bad enough, but the injuries wore on Goebel's psyche, as well. When he finally got back on the ice, he discovered that his quadruple jumps a move as easy for him as a triple loop is for other skaters were no longer automatic. As he continued to struggle, his confidence dropped.
Carroll sent Goebel to Audrey Weisiger in August, hoping computer technology she was using would help. It did, with Goebel able to see in vivid detail exactly what he was doing wrong. He returned to California with renewed confidence and skill, and opened the season with a victory at an invitational.
But Carroll still felt something was wrong.
''I thought maybe at that point he just needed another change,'' Carroll said. ''It wasn't like, 'Oh, I hate you. Get out of my face.' It was based on intelligence rather than emotion.''
Both agreed that Weisiger would be the best person for Goebel to work with, so Carroll gave her a call. Weisiger quickly agreed, and Goebel moved his training base across the country to Fairfax, Va.
But just as the last few years haven't been easy, neither was the transition. At the NHK Trophy, his last competition with Carroll, Goebel took a bad fall when he stepped onto the ice with his skate guards on during the exhibition.
''Somebody sent me a photograph of him upside down, in the air,'' Weisiger said. ''I destroyed it because it was sickening. He's fortunate his neck wasn't broken.''
Aside from being a little sore, Goebel didn't think it was any big deal. He flew home, then went on to Paris the next week for another competition. But when he arrived in France, he discovered he couldn't turn his neck.
''I couldn't turn my head either way for about a week to a week-and-a-half,'' he said. ''By the time I got back to L.A., with all the traveling and sitting on the plane and moving bags around, I had seven dislocated vertebrae, three dislocated ribs and my shoulder was dislocated.''
The injuries were a result of the fall in Japan, and Goebel would spend the next 3 1/2 weeks in physical therapy and sessions with a chiropractor. But once he got back on the ice, everything quickly fell into place.
''I feel his artistry and charisma on the ice is truly developing,'' Weisiger said. ''He's beautiful to watch, and I don't think that really would have been a description of Tim Goebel a few years ago.''
Because Goebel hasn't skated much in the last few years, no one really expects much from him this week. But he and Weisiger feel differently.
''I'd like to see him put out two good performances, I want him to get back on the world team,'' Weisiger said. ''I'd like him to show people that not only is he back, he's better.''
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