The next season, containing one of the most grievous moments in Nicole's life, was very bittersweet. After Nicole learned that Carlo Fassi was back in the states, her nostalgia along with her dissatisfaction with her current coach caused her to join Carlo once again in California. To add to Nicole's injury list, Nicole had a major back injury that caused her to withdraw from many of her early season competitions. She went back to the ice as soon as she could to train for the upcoming Nationals with hope of winning once again. But Nicole's chance of winning or even placing in the top three at that competition was slim after she bombed her short program and found herself in sixth place, yet Nicole skated a brilliant free skate to the music of Giselle to pull up to third place and win a spot on the world team. Nicole continued to train for her next major competition and she had attained the condition, physically and mentally, that she had achieved just two years prior when she won her world medal. Nicole's threat to medal at the 1997 World Championship was obvious when she placed second to only Tara Lipinski during the qualifying rounds. But two days after that glorious achievement, disaster struck. The only true father figure to ever embrace Nicole's life, Carlo Fassi, suffered from a server heart attack that cause his death hours later. At his death bed, he was quoted to say to his Christa, his wife, "Go Nicole." This short, two-word sentence was crystal clear to Christa. Carlo wanted Nicole to be comforted at this very important moment of her career, yet a heart as big as Nicole's could not mend in time to compete up to potential. Nicole bravely took the ice twice, but she could not manage to land a single clean triple jump. She ended up kneeling on the ice praying to Carlo after her free-skate that lead her to a thirteenth place finish. Nicole decided to keep Christa as a coach for the next season for sentimental reasons. Both of them needed each other to get through the loss. Nicole even went though the trouble to help organize a skating tribute for Carlo that was aired on ESPN.
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