Adam Rippon made his senior U.S. Figure Skating Championships debut back in 2009 and captured the silver medal in 2012 and the silver once again at last year’s U.S. Championships. His career has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. Being one of the older men in the field he has gained not only maturity but a perspective that can only be gained from disappointing performances, heartbreaking outcomes and overcoming the odds.
Adam Rippon was launched into the senior circuit back when skaters like Evan Lysachek, Johnny Weir and Jeremy Abbott dominated the U.S. figure skating scene, which left Rippon to fall into the shadows. “I think that when Johnny and Evan retired I kind of felt like it was my chance to push through,” Adam shared during a U.S. Figure Skating media teleconference on Jan. 14. “I put so much pressure on myself to push through and to get the results that I was looking for.”
This type of pressure did not seem to help Rippon’s performance and he was certainly not getting the results that he was looking for. It wasn’t until he didn’t make the Olympic Team that Adam began to really question what it was he was working so hard for and if he even enjoyed the sport anymore. This led to some much needed soul searching that brought about his inspiration to continue. “I discovered that I really enjoyed the process,” Rippon said. “When I focused on the process and the training every day and the getting in shape and doing the run throughs, I realized that was my motivation and that was my passion that was what I really loved. I use the results as motivation and practice but my true love is the whole getting ready for these events as stressful as they are…it’s such an opportunity to skate at them.”
With his love for the sport rekindled, Adam moved forward last season but still only received moderate results. Then came the 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. “Going into last year’s nationals I just had so many bad competition experiences in a row that I kind of let go and just did everything I could do within my training to be prepared as possible,” Rippon said. “I think what really helped me put it all into perspective was in the short program I was able to let go but at the end of the night I found myself in fifth place. It’s definitely not where I wanted to be especially with the kind of skate that I put out. But I told myself that no matter what I was going to do the best I could in the free skate and that if I ended up in fifth place I promised myself that I would be the happiest fifth place person that ever had come to the U.S. Championships.”
Adam did not have to worry about finishing in fifth place as he made it back onto the podium claiming the silver medal and creating a special moment not only for himself, but for thousands of viewers. “I feel like it was a pheonix, reborn sort of moment for me,” Rippon recalled. “It kind of felt like all of the hard work culminated into a final break through performance.” Adam’s second place finish qualified him for the 2015 World Championships where he came in eighth place.
Rippon came in fourth place in both of his Grand Prix assignments this season and he remains hopeful for the U.S. Championships. “My results in the Grand Prix’s haven’t been stellar this year but I’ve been really consistent,” Adam said. “I’ve really focused all year on getting ready for these championships and for the second half of the year and to hopefully compete at the World Championships in Boston. All of my training this summer and through the Grand Prix has been focused on this part of the season. I feel like I’m in really great shape and I feel like I’ve really laid down the groundwork to have, I hope, a really great championships.”
One element that Rippon is known for, besides the Rippon lutz, is the quad lutz which is one of the most rare and difficult elements that a male skater can perform. This past season Chinese skater Boyang Jin landed the first-ever quad lutz-triple toe combination in an ISU international competition. It would be easy to be disappointed to be so close to making history himself, but Adam chooses to see it through different lenses. “I think that the worst thing that an athlete can do is to look at it and be resentful of another competitor for doing a challenging element,” Rippon said. “I think that when something exceptional happens like that I always like to look at it and study it and see what I can do to improve my own technical content. You have to do everything that you can to your max but I also think that there’s a place for everybody within the world stage of competitive mens skating. I think that all different flavors of skaters really make the whole event.”
Adam impressed audiences by performing the quad lutz at last year’s nationals, but the jump was judged under-rotated. Since then Adam and his team have been working hard this past season to “clean up the rotation” and he is confident that it is has indeed improved since last year. Rippon has decided to once again include the quad lutz in his performance at the U.S. Championships as it has the potential to gain more points than any other jump if performed without error.
Regardless of the outcome of the U.S. Championships or any other event, Adam knows that he always has an incredible friend to rely on, Ashley Wagner. Wagner credits a conversation with Rippon to helping her achieve a strong free skate comeback performance at the Grand Prix Final. “At the end of the day if you put together a great program you’re going to be satisfied with that,” Adam told Ashley. “‘No matter what the results are, they’re out of your control but you’re in control of your skate.’ I told Ashley that if she was proud of her skate she would be proud of herself no matter what the result was. I think that we both remind each other of that, that the results have to be secondary but they will come if we focus on our personal improvement and our personal goals.”
With a clear head on his shoulders and hours of training behind him, Rippon looks to return to Saint Paul, Minnesota for theU.S. Championships where he won his junior national title back in 2008. The two men that he shared the podium with Adam at nationals last year, Jason Brown and Joshua Farris have both been sidelined with injury leaving the door wide open for Rippon to claim the gold. “I think that winning a national title would mean so much to me regardless of who was there,” Adam said in regards to the absence of Jason and Josh. “I think that the field is still incredibly stacked and incredibly talented so I think to win a national title with the current field would be an equally great feat and would mean just as much.”