Todd Sand was always the strongest guy on the ice.
As an elite pair figure skater, he was muscular enough to gently lift his partner into the sky or launch him through the air to fly and wriggle until gravity claimed him. But his true strength goes beyond the physical gifts that helped the Burbank native become a three-time Olympian, four-time U.S. Champion, and two-time world medalist, first with Natasha Kuchiki and then with his partner. turned wife Jenni Meno.
Sand’s power always came from her generous spirit and the joy that illuminated her association with Meno. The public adored him and Meno during their competitive careers and when they toured as professionals. His students felt it when he became a coach and became part of the elite figure skating group that is producing champions at Great Park Ice in Irvine.
He lifted their spirits with a smile or a word of encouragement, made a shy skater feel powerful, reassured lost souls that they had found a home with him and Meno. His strength is not measured by the pounds he lifted. It is measured in the many lives he has touched.
“There’s no such thing as the perfect person or the perfect coach, but he’s very close,” said Brandon Frazier, who won the world tag team championship last year with Alexa Knierim under Meno and Sand. “It is a perfect combination of joy, support and positivity. He knows how to push an athlete and make him stronger, but he makes sure that he feels comfortable while he pushes him to the limit”.
Sand has given a lot of her strength to others. Now, she needs that strength to stay alive.
sand, 59, suffered a severe heart attack on the morning of March 2 while coaching Sonia Baram and Daniel Tioumentsev at the junior world championships in Calgary, Canada. She has remained there, in an intensive care unit.
Meno immediately flew to Calgary to be with Sand, who had caught his eye in the early 1990s when they were skating with other teammates but training with legendary trainer John Nicks on a strip mall rink in Costa Mesa. Sand proposed to her during the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, and they married a year later. They have two teenage sons, Jack, a senior baseball player at Crean Lutheran High in Irvine, and Matthew. A photography Meno posted on Instagram As teamtoddandjenni showed the family at the beach, the children’s red hair echoed Sand’s auburn.
His skating family was stunned by the news. Tai Babilonia, who was coached by Nicks when she and Randy Gardner won the 1979 world championship, has known Sand since he was a young singles skater training in the Valley. Babylon and Gardner skated with Meno and Sand in ice shows, and she is especially proud that she is carrying on Nicks’ legacy as a coach. Not long ago, Sand commented on a photo Babylon posted on Instagram. She thinks it was the day before he was attacked.
“Just the nicest guy. The biggest heart,” Babylon said. “He is a true gentleman. That’s what he is: a knight on ice. That’s Todd.
“I pray every night for Todd.”
Friends created a fund to help the family with the huge expenses that accumulate every day. Starting Friday, more than $131,000 has been donated.
Meno has chosen not to provide public updates on her husband’s condition. On Instagram, she said her family was grateful for the thoughts and prayers sent to them, adding: “Please keep the prayers coming.”
Sand was in good physical shape and Frazier said he was unaware Sand had any health problems. Frazier saw him two days before Sand left for Calgary. “He was a normal Todd, 100%, like always,” Frazier said.
For Knierim, “normal Todd” means a source of welcome, inspiration and growth.
Knierim was a singles skater when she met Meno and Sand in Aliso Viejo. “My first impression of them was how caring they both were,” Knierim said. In 2019, after Knierim switched to pair skating with her future husband Chris Knierim and they needed a coach on short notice, Sand stepped in and took them to an event in Japan where they medaled. They moved to California in 2019 to train with Meno and Sand.
When Chris Knierim dropped out and Alexa teamed up with Frazier, there was no doubt the new duo would stick with Meno and Sand. “I was able to go where I wanted to when I started over with Brandon, but they provide such a safe and comfortable environment to train in every day,” she said.
“The way he creates such a warm environment is just his kind nature that he brings. He has this aura that he just accepts and forgives, and he has a way of making you feel like you’re enough no matter what you do. He always, as a coach, he wants to push and fight for more, but you never feel like you’re not good enough, and he just has a natural way of instilling that belief in his skaters. The energy of him is unique because he is strong, but he has a stillness around him that resonates deeply.
Baram and Tioumentsev won the junior world title hours after Sand was taken to the hospital. “We skate for Todd and everyone who has helped us throughout the season. It was very difficult and we tried to remember what Todd told us: stay in the moment,” Tioumentsev said that day.
Knierim and Frazier became the first American skaters to win the world championship since Babylon and Gardner last year, but they will have to defend their title later this month in Saitama, Japan, without Sand by their side. They have had a hard time accepting that, their absence hurts so much.
“We have our good days and we have our hard days right now,” Frazier said. “It’s been a bit difficult to manage those emotions during our training practices, but we’re doing the best we can and doing what we know Todd would want us to do.”
That is the best way to honor him. “There aren’t a lot of things we can control,” Knierim said, “but one thing we can control is how we approach practice and training and approach it in a way that Todd would be proud of, and that’s been our right approach. now.”
That is the strength of Sand shining through them. May that strength flow back to him and make him strong again in every possible way.