Reporting from Chicago
An 11th-place finish at the World Figure Skating Championships last March led two-time U.S. pair champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker to switch coaches, taking them from Dalilah Sappenfield's guidance in Colorado Springs, Colo., to Aliso Viejo to work with John Nicks.
That's Mr. Nicks to them ... and everyone else who knows the 80-year-old Englishman whose roster of world and Olympic medalists includes Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, Jenni Meno and Todd Sand and reigning Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen.
"There's only one person who calls him John, and that's Sarah Kawahara," McLaughlin said of the renowned figure skating choreographer. "Pretty much everyone calls him Mr. Nicks. Even people his own age. It's just a sense of respect that we all have for him. We have so much faith in him. We trust him. When he tells us to go do something we don't ask questions, we just go do it because somehow we know he has a big plan and he has a picture and he's guiding us.
"When I first heard 'John,' I was like, 'Who's that again?' "
McLaughlin, who will be 16 in two weeks, said the coaching change was difficult because she moved to Orange County without her family while she and Brubaker decided whether Nicks was the right coach for them. Her mother, father, sister and grandmother have since found a place in Laguna Niguel and have joined her, so she feels better about the whole situation.
"Slowly, every day has gotten a little bit more comfortable and a little easier," she said today at the U.S. Olympic media summit. "I still don't feel at home yet, but we just got a house. I really feel thankful that they're supporting me. I couldn't do it without them."