More than a decade before Olympics bronze medalist Adam Rippon showed his wizardry on the ice in Pyeongchang, he spent his teenage years living and training in the Philadelphia suburbs with coach Yelena Sergeeva.
For seven years of his youth, Rippon was Sergeeva’s star student.
“He really right away showed exceptional talent in his movements, ability to move, his personality and his ability to work hard,” Sergeeva said.
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Sergeeva, who is Russian, started coaching Rippon at rinks in the Philadelphia suburbs when he was 10. It was a commitment not only from Rippon but from his family. Originally from Clarks Summit, a suburb of Scranton, Rippon’s mother, Kelly, would drive him two hours each way, every other day, to the Philadelphia area to train with Sergeeva.
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"I'd like to be in the Olympics and everything, but I think I should take it one step at a time," Rippon said at the time.
By 13, he was headed to the junior nationals.
"Really from the start we realized that he had a special ability,” Kelly Rippon said in 2002.
Rippon would go on to live with his coach for three and a half years – until he was 17 – all in an effort to chase his dream.
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Even being in the Philadelphia area, rather than the Scranton area, Rippon and Sergeeva struggled to find quality ice time, going from rink to rink just to find a place to skate.
It would take him until he was 28 to make his first Olympic team. He made the most of the opportunity, skating a stunning free skate to help Team USA earn team bronze in figure skating.
Sergeeva watched every moment with pride for her former student.
"I was watching, I was very happy," she said. “I always knew he was an Olympian, always knew his talent could be a (champion)."
Rippon’s championship way stays with him off the ice. He sent flowers to thank Sergeeva a few weeks back, she said.
He gets another chance at gold when men’s individual figure skating begins Thursday night ET.