Alabama skater John Zimmerman IV is heading to the Olympics as a coach

Alabama skater John Zimmerman IV is heading to the Olympics as a coach
Homewood native and Hall-of-Fame figure skater John Zimmerman IV stands between Morgan Ciprès and Vanessa James, the skating pair he coaches. (Susan D. Russell / International Figure Skating)

John Zimmerman IV is decades removed from being an aspiring figure skater living in Homewood.

But the journey that took him to three United States pairs championships and a recent induction to the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame is never far from his mind.

“All day every day, man,” said Zimmerman, now a coach, when asked how often he thinks about his days of glory. “Everything I say and teach the skaters reminds me of what I’ve done and reminds me to learn more to become better myself each day to do better for the skaters that I teach.”

These days, the French pairs team of Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès is benefiting from Zimmerman’s skating experience. He is coaching them as they get set to head to Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The coach and his charges were in Russia last week for the European Championships, where they led after the short program but finished fourth, missing the podium by one one-hundreth of a point.

“This doesn’t qualify us for Olympics. That’s already been done,” he said in a Facebook direct message. “It’s the one competition below World Championships. We must beat the pesky Russians!!! Lol.”

Those “pesky Russians” ended up with all three of the top spots.

The former competitor, who concluded his skating career on a professional tour, said he is as excited today as he was vying for medals.

“It’s like being a parent, I think,” he said. “You are very excited to see people you care about attain the highest results they can.

“(I’m) very enthusiastic, but also it’s very normal,” Zimmerman continued. “Vanessa has been there (to the Olympics) twice already, once with another partner and then with Morgan.”

While competing under the interlocking rings is not uncommon for either skater, contending for an Olympic medal is.

“They are way more excited to be contenders for a medal,” the coach said. “If we skate well at this event, we will be in a great position to have that shot.”

A bridge in Homewood is named for the hometown boy who won international fame as a figure skater. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr. / Alabama NewsCenter)

Zimmerman’s career has spanned the years the way the bridge named for him spans Shades Creek, which separates Samford University and Lakeshore Drive from Homewood High School and University Park.

With skating partner Kyoko Ina, Zimmerman was the 2002 World bronze medalist and a three-time U.S. National champion. He and Ina competed at the 2002 Olympics, placing fifth.

Like so many athletes, his focus as a skater was on himself. Now as a coach, his view is broader.

“After I competed, I toured for 10 years and that, too, was about ‘me,’” he said. “I’m just happy I did it as well as I could for myself and took it as far as I could. I’m very satisfied with what I accomplished and to be inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame last week at the National Championships was the icing on the cake.”

Zimmerman has been married for 14 years to Italian-American skater Silvia Fontana. Their daughters Sofia and Eva are 5 and 4, respectively, and their son John is 17 months old.

“I really feel a complete devotion to my family,” Zimmerman continued. “Working hard as a husband and father alongside my beautiful wife, Sílvia, we are dedicated to our amazing children – Sofia, Eva and Jack – and students whom we teach in Wesley Chapel, Florida.”

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