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As a boy growing up in Worcester, Massachusetts, Frank Carroll learned to skate outdoors on a pond, but his true love of figure skating came from watching newsreels of famous figure skaters at the movie theater.

“To me, figure skating is a divine sport,” he told me years later, after he had become one of the most popular and decorated coaches in figure skating history. “It’s a sport created by the gods. It’s frictionless, there are beautiful, flowing costumes designed by a costume designer, there’s musical interpretation, there’s emotion, it’s about athleticism and tremendous physical power. It makes people cry, it makes people cheer, it gets the emotion out of people.”

Known as a brilliant teacher and tactician with a quick wit and a wonderful sense of humor, Carroll was often surrounded by journalists during figure skating’s heyday in the 1980s and 1990s. As Kwan rose to the top of the sport, her appearances at press conferences were legendary, with Carroll sitting by her side, listening intently, interjecting here and there and occasionally raising a sarcastic eyebrow.

Carroll, who coached Michelle Kwan, Evan Lysacek, Timothy Goebel and Linda Fratianne, among other Olympic, world and national champions, died Sunday in Palm Springs, California, after a battle with cancer. He was 85.

During the crucial 1998 Winter Olympic season, Carroll said he tried to think of ways to be a better coach for Kwan.

“What did you think of?” asked a reporter.

“A lobotomy,” Carroll giggled.

“For her or for you?”

“The two of us,” he said. “We’re booking at the group rate.”

One time, as he stood at the boards at a competition and sent Kwan onto the ice, he held up the book he had been reading that week and shook it to make sure she saw it.

It was “Undaunted Courage.”

“For over 10 years, Frank was by my side – training me and teaching me to be the best skater and person I could be,” Kwan, now the U.S. ambassador to Belize, said in a text message Sunday afternoon. “He imparted to me a wealth of knowledge and history of the sport he loved so much. Off the ice and over the years, he became much more than just a coach. I know he changed the lives of thousands of skaters for the better and I am grateful to be one of them and would not be here without his guidance. I love and miss Frank very much.”

Kwan concluded her illustrious career with nine national titles, five world championships and two Olympic medals, and was a graceful and dominant force during what was then the most competitive period in the sport’s history.

In the 1950s, Carroll trained at various Boston rinks with the respected coach Maribel Vinson Owen. After graduating from Holy Cross with a degree in education, he joined the touring show Ice Follies in 1960 for $250 a week. Owen soon told him to quit skating. She wanted him to go to law school.

But in 1961, Owen and the entire US figure skating team, including her two daughters, were killed in a plane crash on the way to the World Championships. A total of 34 figure skaters, coaches, judges, officials and family members died in the crash near Brussels.

Carroll never studied law. After four and a half years on the ice show, he became an actor in Los Angeles, where he acted in “terrible B-movies,” as he said, and gave figure skating lessons in the afternoons.

His part-time hobby soon became his life’s work. For decades, he traveled the world to assist his figure skaters on the ice and sit with them while they waited for their scores on “Kiss and Cry.” Carroll retired in 2018.

In addition to Kwan, Lysacek, Goebel and Fratianne, Carroll also coached Tiffany Chin, Christopher Bowman, Nicole Bobek and Gracie Gold, among others. He is an inductee into both the U.S. and World Figure Skating Halls of Fame.

During most of the time Kwan worked with Carroll, Lori Nichol, Carroll’s partner, was her choreographer.

“Frank was a rare and wonderful combination of high intelligence, discipline, courage and kindness,” Nichol wrote. “A gentleman, both hilarious and sophisticated, whose voice I hear in my head every day, both on and off the ice.”

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