Todd Eldredge: Catching Up With The Enigmatic Champion

Vicki S. Luy
“I am enjoying coaching and skating in shows. Both are a lot of fun.”

It has been nine years since Todd Eldredge took his final bow on the competitive skating circuit and closed out a career that spanned almost two decades.

He kick-started his golden run by winning the 1985 U.S. novice title. Two years later he was crowned junior champion, and in 1988 claimed the World junior title in Brisbane, Australia.

In 1990, at age 18, Eldredge won the first of six senior titles and the following year he won his first medal at a World Championship (bronze).

The crowning moment of his career came six years later when he claimed the World title in Edmonton, Canada.

That is all water under the bridge for this enigmatic champion, who now spends his days coaching young skaters at the Germain Arena in Estero, Fla. alongside his former coach Richard Callaghan.

“I have been teaching a lot, mainly little kids,” Eldredge said. “Richard and I also recently started working with Daniel Raad. He was a pairs skater last year with Haven Denney, but he will be skating singles this year. We will see how it goes. Hopefully he will do well enough to make it to nationals.”

When asked if he ever thought coaching would be in his future following his retirement from the amateur ranks, the three-time Olympian was reflective. “Did I think I would ever coach full-time? Probably not. When I skated I did different seminars over the years working with kids and at that time I thought, well, who knows, maybe one day. But as I got older I thought it would be kind of nice to work with a lot of skaters.

“Richard had been my coach since I was 10 and we had talked about working together for a long time. At one point I just thought, what the heck, why not.

“I enjoy teaching. It reminds me a little bit of what it was like when I was first learning to skate. As I am teaching the kids the basic stuff, I am almost learning myself again. I remember last year when one of my students landed an Axel for the first time. Just seeing the expression on her face and how happy she was. It was really cool. It is very rewarding in that respect and a lot of fun.”

Performing on the U.S. Stars on Ice 25th anniversary tour was a highlight for Eldredge. “It was a great cast with Katia (Gordeeva), David (Pelletier) and Jamie (Salé) and so many others. It was my ninth year skating with the tour. There was a lot of great music this year, which I think made it even more fun. And because it was the anniversary tour it was all the more special.”

Eldredge, who celebrated his 40th birthday in late August, laughed when reminded that 15 years have passed since he stood atop the World podium. “It is pretty wild to think it has been that long. I can’t believe it has been that long,” he said.

“It is funny that you would bring that up. I have kids that I teach that were not born when I competed. They ask me what I did as a skater, because they have never seen me skate. I am like, ‘Well, I won the World Championship,’ and they are like, ‘Wow, that is really cool, when was that?’

“When I tell them it was 1996, they are like, ‘Wow! That was 10 years before I was born.’ It is really funny.”

The five-time Skate America champion said retiring from the sport after the 2002 Olympic Winter Games was the right move. “When you are the oldest guy competing at an event and there are all these young whippersnappers out there, then it is time,” Eldredge said with good humor. “I just knew that there were a lot of other things I wanted to do, skating with Stars on Ice being one of them.

“The body parts don’t work the same as they used to, so it has been nice not to have to get out there and try quads and beat myself up with a lot of the new stuff skaters today have to work on.”

When Eldredge is not at the rink, the most likely place to find him is on a golf course. In late September he competed in a tournament sponsored by the Golf Channel. “It was an amateur tour and I went to Palm Springs to compete in the national championships,” he explained. “I had never done it before. It was a lot of fun.”

Eldredge admitted he is a fan of the new judging system. “I think it is working out okay. Obviously with everything being new they are working out bugs, making things as fair as possible to have a level playing field.

“The one thing that I really like about the new system is that if you make a mistake in the short program, and you are in sixth or seventh place but just a couple of points behind, you still have a shot at getting a medal,” he added. “Back in my day, if you were not in the top five after the short you were pretty much out of the running. I really like that aspect.”

However, he found the timing of the rule changes this year a little frustrating. “With the younger ones, we got them ready early in the year and then in the middle of summer the ISU changed the rules,” he said. “We had to go back and redo their programs all over again.”

Eldredge took a moment when asked to name his current favorites. “I like Jeremy Abbott and Adam Rippon and I really like Daisuke Takahashi. He has a lot of attack in his knees and a really nice flow to his skating,” Eldredge said.

“I would like to see Mirai (Nagasu) get the flair and spark back that she had when she won nationals a few years ago. It would be fun to see her up there challenging for the podium spots.

“I have always loved ice dance. Charlie (White) and Meryl (Davis), Maia and Alex Shibutani and Tessa (Virtue) and Scott (Moir) are all great,” he said. “That North America would dominate an ice dance podium would never have been heard of back in my day.

“In pairs I like the Germans, but I can’t really pick one team and say that they are my favorite.”

Looking back on his competitive career, there are two moments that Eldredge will never forget. “Standing on the podium listening to the national anthem at Worlds in 1996. That was one of the top moments in my career,” he said.

“Another great moment for me was at the 2002 Olympics. I was out of contention for a medal, but after I finished my long program, seeing the audience standing on their feet, knowing it was the last time I was going to compete as an amateur — I remember just taking an extra couple of seconds to soak it all in because that was the end.

"I wanted to cherish that moment and share it with all of the fans that supported me over the thousand years I had skated."

Originally published in December 2011