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An Interview With World Figure Skating Champion Tim Wood

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Tim Wood - World Figure Skating Champion and Olympic Silver Medalist

Tim Wood - World Figure Skating Champion and Olympic Silver Medalist

Photo Courtesy Tim Wood
Tim Wood won the World Figure Skating Championships two times. He also won the silver medal in men's figure skating at the 1968 Winter Olympic Games which took place in Grenoble, France. In addition, he won the United States Men's figure skating title three times and was the 1969 North American Figure Skating Champion.

After leaving the figure skating world, Wood has used his talents in the world of business and finance, but has stayed connected to the sport. In September of 2012, he took the time to chat with About.com's Guide to Figure Skating, Jo Ann Schneider Farris.

Tell me a bit about your early skating days?

I began skating when I was three years old. My father was a surgeon in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, at Grace Hospital which, at the time, was near the Detroit Skating Club's old rink.

A friend of my father's named Martha Wells, had a daughter named Sally who was member of the Detroit Skating Club. She suggested to my father that he get his children involved in skating, so we joined the club.

The rink I skated in was the 7th Mile Rink, not the same rink that the Detroit Skating Club is based at now. It was a "barn like" arena and was so cold!

Was Ronnie Baker your coach throughout your entire amateur skating career?

Yes, Ronnie Baker was my first and only coach. I believe I started lessons with him when I was about five or six. He had a very "old-English" and strict teaching style, which was great for me at the time.

Ronnie Baker was part of a certain group of coaches, which included John Nicks and Hans Gerschwiler, who came to America to coach. I consider them the "movers and shakers" of our sport.

When I finished high school, I followed Mr. Baker when he moved his coaching base from Michigan to Cleveland. I attended John Carroll University in Cleveland. Then, when he was offered a position at the prestigious Broadmoor World Arena, I followed him there and attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

You are a national novice, junior, and senior men's champion, correct?

Some highlights of my competition record are as follows:
  • 1962: US National Novice Men's Champion
  • 1963: US National Junior Men Bronze Medalist
  • 1964: US National Junior Men's Champion
  • 1965: US National Senior Men Bronze Medalist
  • 1967: US National Senior Men Bronze Medalist
  • 1968, 1969, 1970: US National Men's Champion
  • 1968 World Figure Skating Silver Medalist
  • 1969 and 1970: World Figure Skating Champion
  • 1969: North American Champion
  • 1968: Olympic Figure Skating Silver Medalist

I also hold the all time highest score in figures for both men and women in figures at Olympics and at Worlds. I think that is a pretty nice piece of trivia!

In addition to having my test gold medal in figures and freestyle, I also passed the Gold Pair and Gold Dance tests.

I heard you should have won the 1968 Winter Olympics, but there was a clerical error with the scores. Can you tell me what happened?:

The Canadian judge wanted to put me in first, and it was his mark that would make the difference in whether I placed first or second. He put the wrong mark down by accident, and in those days, once the wrong mark was on paper, there was no way a mistake could be changed. I ended up with a silver medal in 1968 instead of gold due to that error.

Why did you leave the amateur ranks after 1970? Why did you not stay around for the 1972 Olympics?:

It was really a financial thing. My father had been paying for all my skating, but he was also paying for my brother, Richard, who was an international skier, and for my other two brothers, Kenneth and Robert, who were elite level sailors. Our well had just been wrung completely dry. In those days, figure skaters had no possibility of funding or scholarships, and there was just no more money left.

In addition, I was growing up. I was "butting heads," with Ronnie Baker, who had been my coach since I was a little kid. His strict, old-English, coaching style was no longer working for me. I felt I had moved past him. I needed more of a motivational coach. It was time to move on.

Tell me about your professional skating career?

On March 7, 1970, I announced that I became engaged to my high school sweetheart, Kathleen "Taffy" Miller, who I met at Bloomfield Hills/Andover High School. I also won the World Fiugure Skating Championships on that day and signed a contract with Ice Capades. I did that all in one day.

Taffy and I were married on August 1, 1970. She was not a skater, but we traveled together with Ice Capades. She served as an advanced publicist for the show and also designed costumes.

I toured with Ice Capades for two years. Then I did an Ice Follies Vegas for a year. After that, I toured with Holiday on Ice. In 1976, I produced, financed, and starred in the very first Knott's Berry Farm ice show. Knott's Berry Farm has had a yearly show every since.

Did you ever coach skating?

I am not teaching skating at this time, but I go to the ice rink at least a couple times a week and skate. (By the way, I'm in my sixties and I can still do all the double jumps including a double Axel...)

Every time I go skating, people at the rink ask me for help or suggestions. Sometimes I work with skaters on jumps.

I've also worked with Canadian and World figure skating champion Elvis Stojko and French and European figure skating champion Surya Bonaly; both were considered tremendous figure skaters.

Tell me about the sports resorts/centers/academies you are developing? Will there be ice rinks at every facility?

The Sports Resort will be the first of its kind in the United States as a master planned healthy living/lifestyle community, in a mixed use development, themed for sports, recreation, and family entertainment as a destination resort complete with sports venues housing 72 world and Olympic sports, cultural and performing arts, and academic facilities situated on approximately 1,500 acres, making it the largest sports project in North America. The Sports Resort anticipates a scholarship fund in arts, academics and athletics that will annually scholarship over 1,000 applicants.

Figure skating will be just one of several sports in the project. Skaters who will be part of the skating academies at my facilities will also be required to pass all their skating tests, including figure tests, pair tests, and ice dance tests. They will be required to have ballet training as I did. In addition to sports scholarships, there will be educational and arts scholarships.

I want to use my financial knowledge to help figure skating. Skating has become so expensive, that I am hoping my efforts will promote our sport.

What advice to you have for today's skaters and champions?

Young people need to be educated. Skating does educate in a way, but you must be smart. Wins in skating can give you a wonderful life. Olympic figure skating champions can become millionaires, but you must also have the knowledge on how to use the skills you gain from skating, that is, perseverance and commitment, and hard work, in whatever you do in life.

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