Peter Burrows, Olympic figure skating coach, dies at 75

Peter Burrows, a coach to dozens of figure Peter Burrows, a coach to dozens of figure skating Olympians and U.S. national medalists, died April 9, 2014. He was 75. Photo Credit: Handout

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Peter Burrows, a coach to dozens of figure skating Olympians and U.S. national medalists, including Dorothy Hamill before her 1976 gold-medal performance, died April 9. He was 75.

An Albertson resident and former director of the figure skating school at Iceland arena in New Hyde Park, Burrows died in Port Washington of complications from diabetes, his wife, Katherine Burrows, said.

Hamill, in her 2007 autobiography, "A Skating Life," described searching for a coach after a falling out with her previous coach, Carlo Fassi, weeks before the Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Hamill found Burrows and went to train with him on Long Island.

"He was strict, demanding, and a perfectionist. He was exactly what I needed. He knew my personality and didn't put up with childish behavior," she said.

Katherine Burrows said coaching Hamill was a "watershed moment, that put him in the pantheon of coaches in the country."

She said his passion remained coaching, something he did up until the day he was admitted to the hospital in mid-March.

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"He just loved his role as a role model and a motivator," said Katherine Burrows, who performed as a ballerina as Katherine Healy. "It was something that stayed with [his students] for the rest of their lives, to push themselves, stay with themselves and keep going," she said.

Peter Burrows was born in Manchester, England, on July 27, 1938. He was a British figure skating champion at various levels and was slated to compete in the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, Calif., but withdrew because of an injury.

He emigrated to the United States in 1966 and taught at the South Mountain Arena in New Jersey. He operated the figure skating school at Iceland in New Hyde Park for 19 years, up until June 2011. He was the executive director of the figure skating school at Sport-O-Rama in Monsey until his death.

Besides Hamill, Burrows coached Elaine Zayak to her 1981 world championship and 1982 U.S. national championship, along with other prominent figure skaters, including Michael Chack, Rocky Marval, Calla Urbanski, Kyoko Ina, Jason Dungjen, Charlene von Saher and Tamar Katz.

A 1982 story in Sports Illustrated magazine on Zayak described Burrows as a grounding force for an exuberant skater.

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"If it weren't for Peter Burrows, Zayak might still be bounding around more or less aimlessly across the ice, a victim of her own exuberance. Burrows is to figure skating what Joe Paterno is to college football, with maybe the slightest touch of Woody Hayes thrown in," the article said. "He's a transplanted Briton, a big, imposing guy, a purist, work-'em-hard, get-it-right coach."

Katherine Burrows said her husband came across as "tough. He was imposing. People could find him intimidating or scary, but he wasn't on the inside."

Katherine and Peter were married for 17 years. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Claudine Clark, 46, in October. His former wife, Judy, died in 1997. There are no services planned at this time.

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