When the United States figure skating program was wiped out by a plane crash prior to the 1961 World Championships, the Americans turned to Carlo Fassi, an Italian who competed in two Olympic Winter Games, to help rebuild.
As a skater, Fassi competed in the St. Moritz 1948 Olympic Winter Games and Oslo 1952 Winter Olympic Games, but was not a medal contender. He won a bronze medal at the 1953 World Championships and was the 1953 and 1954 European champion.
Fassi passed up joining the Ice Capades to begin his coaching career in Italy. He was summoned to the United States a few years later. The American delegation traveling to the 1961 World Championships in Prague died in a plane crash in Belgium.
Needing to replenish a cadre of skaters and coaches, U.S. figure skating officials asked Fassi to come to the United States. He moved with his family and established a base in Colorado Springs.
It would take a few years to get started, but Fassi and his wife, Christa, who often coached with him, soon had the U.S. program on the path to success. Peggy Fleming won gold at the Grenoble 1968 Winter Olympic Games. Dorothy Hamill won gold at the Innsbruck 1976 Winter Olympic Games. Skaters from across the globe traveled to work with Fassi, including 1976 gold medalist John Curry and 1980 gold medalist Robin Cousins of Great Britain. Fassi became an American citizen.
Fassi died of a heart attack while attending the 1997 World Championships. He was 67.
“A lot of people know how to cut diamonds, but very few know how to polish them,” Cousins said. “Carlo made you feel you were the best diamond you could be, whether you were a novice or Olympic champion. He could make you feel the performance you were about to do with him was the best performance you could do in the world.”