The U.S. Figure Skating Championships concluded today, Jan.24 with the men’s free skate. The ladies, ice dance and pairs champions were crowned yesterday leaving the men to bring the house down and complete the competition. The men brought out some exceptional skating that will keep people talking and debating for weeks to come.
Winning the crowd over and creating an incredible moment for the audience and viewers was Adam Rippon. This was Adam’s eighth U.S. Championships as a senior and over the years he has won two silver medals and now after a wonderful free skate he is the new national champion. Rippon fell on his opening quad lutz but then regained momentum and completed an outstanding free program that included eight triples.
Adam has had a challenging career, but today his perseverance and hard work finally paid off. “To be sitting here eight years after I won my junior title, I can only say that it has been a really long road filled with ups and downs,” Adam said in the press conference following the event. “I talked with my coach before I came here, Rafael Arutunian, and he told me that I had one goal and that was to skate clean. I knew after I made the opening mistake that I needed to skate clean and preform. I was really glad that I was able to do that today and come out on top and finally be a national champion.”
The leader going into the men’s event was Max Aaron who had a solid short and was somewhat of a favorite to reclaim the national title, which he last won in 2013. Aaron delivered two solid quads in the free skate along with five triples and four doubles. Max missed the gold by a narrow margin of 1.2 points, which could arguably be the difference had he completed the triple lutz-half loop-triple salchow he had planned, but instead he doubled the salchow missing out on the full value of the combination and quite possibly the national title. Max settled for the silver medal. “Again, today was a step in the right direction,” Max said. “I fought through the performance. It wasn’t what I trained. I’m glad I’ve stuck with my process, and again came close to a clean performance.”
Capturing the bronze medal along with making history once again at the U.S. Championships was 16 year-old Nathan Chen. Nathan became the first U.S. man to land four quads in the free skate at a U.S. Championships. “It’s a huge honor to score that high,” Nathan said about receiving a technical score that was 100.24 points. “I was honestly not planning that [four quads] going into the competition. After the short program I figured I was totally capable of doing it, and I was ready to do it, so I decided that I could just go for it. I had nothing really to lose at that point so I decided that I could totally do it.” Not only did he land four quads, but he proceeded to attempt five more triple jumps. Chen fell on his triple axel, but other than that he had a clean performance that earned him a standing ovation. According to the scores, had Nathan delivered a clean triple axel he very well could have won the event. In the end he finished 3.82 points behind Rippon.
Taking home the pewter medal was Grant Hochstein who gave a riveting performance to selections from Les Miserables. He placed fourth in both of his Grand Prix events this season and has been slowly on the rise. Hochstein will not be going to the World Championships, but was awarded a spot at the Four Continents Championships.
Tension and debates have already begun about why Nathan did not receive a higher placement after such an outstanding feat and many are concerned that U.S. Figure Skating is not awarding competitors who are competing with quads, discouraging those who are excelling technically. 2015 U.S. champion Jason Brown petitioned to be on the world team since he was unable to compete at the U.S. Championships due to a lingering back injury, but he does not have a consistent quad in his free skate. U.S. Figure Skating reached a decision and sent out a press release today that the men’s world team will consist of: Adam Rippon, Max Aaron and Nathan Chen. The World Figure Skating Championships are set to take place at the end of March in Boston.
Regardless of the scoring and quad debates, it should not take away from the exciting performances that these athletes delivered today. It took years of training for Adam to come to this point in his career and no debate should diminish his gold medal accomplishment. Though Max may not be thrilled about his silver medal finish, it is still a stepping stone in the right direction for him. Nathan, as well, should be encouraged about the history that he made at these U.S. Championships. The U.S. men are clearly different than the rest of the world for so many reasons, but today it should be about celebrating and tomorrow the debate can resume.
Men’s final results:
1. Adam Rippon – 270.75 WATCH NOW
2. Max Aaron – 269.55 – WATCH NOW
3. Nathan Chen – 266.93 WATCH NOW
4. Grant Hochstein – 252.84 WATCH NOW
5. Ross Miner – 248.01 WATCH NOW
6. Alexander Johnson – 241.94 WATCH NOW
7. Timothy Dolensky – 236.13 WATCH NOW
8. Vincent Zhou – 217.23 WATCH NOW
9. Sean Rabbitt – 192.63 WATCH NOW
10. Daniel Kulenkamp – 187.34
11. Scott Dyer – 182.10
12. Shotaro Omori – 181.49 WATCH NOW
13. Emmanuel Savary – 179.32
14. Sebastien Payannet – 172.68
15. Ben Jalovick – 167.33
16. Jimmy Ma – 161.63
17. Robert Przepioski – 160.54
18. Curran Oi – 150.06
19. Eric Stinehart – 141.50