Golden Skate

USA’s Rippon buckles down for season

Adam Rippon

USA’s Adam Rippon performs his short program at 2014 Finlandia Trophy.

USA’s Adam Rippon is gearing up for his seventh year on the Grand Prix circuit, and will compete first at Skate Canada starting tomorrow, followed by Trophee Bompard later next month.

“I’m so excited!” said Rippon, who is coached by Rafael Arutyunyan. “These are two of my favorite events to do and I’m so lucky to be doing them both.”

Looking ahead, the 2007–08 Junior Grand Prix Final champion is keeping his fingers crossed for a spot at the Final in Spain, as well as the Four Continents and World Championships later this year.

Earlier this month, the 2012 U.S. silver medalist missed the gold by a less than half a point at 2014 Finlandia Trophy, placing second (220.75) behind Russia’s Sergei Voronov (221.11).

“Of course I’m not happy with losing with such a close score,” admitted Rippon. “I lost some easy points on spins and footwork. Overall, I was really happy that I could fight through my nerves and deliver a good free skate for everyone in Finland.”

The skater from Clarks Summit, Penn., underrotated the quad toe and stepped out of the triple Axel in his short program to “Tuxedo Junction”, placing third with 68.53 points.

“I feel like I was really tight in this performance,” explained Rippon. “It was my first international competition since last season. I didn’t push as hard as I usually do and my jumps suffered.”

Nevertheless, Rippon rebounded to win the long (152.22), landing seven clean triple jumps—including two triple Axels. While the two-time World Junior champion didn’t do a quad, it was enough to climb to second overall.

“I didn’t do a quad in the free skate because I wanted to skate a solid clean program and end the competition strongly,” he pointed out. “I felt skating clean was the most important thing.”

The “veteran” skater is still young and still loves being an amateur athlete.

“I’m buckling down, getting more focused, and I feel really good about where I am,” said the 24-year-old. “I’m really excited to be competing this year and hope that it’ll be my best season yet.”

The 2010 Four Continents champion admitted to being devastated that he didn’t make the US Olympic team last year, and contemplated retirement.

“I couldn’t make myself go to the rink,” he said. “I needed to just be anywhere else. The more time I spent away, the more I realized I wanted to spend even more time away. I was really heartbroken.”

Rippon’s mother and group of friends helped get through it, along with the outpour of support from social media, emails, and talks with others.

“I felt like I let everyone, including myself, down,” he recalled. “When people came forward and told me they thought I had more to give, I started to believe what I was afraid to say out loud, ‘I have more to give!'”

“Being a professional athlete is hard work,” said coach Arutyunyan. “There is a time in every single athlete’s life where they think about retiring. In Adam’s case, it was heavy duty for him to become the World Junior Champion twice so soon after picking up the sport. He was 11 when he started skating, and while talented, he did not have enough experience needed to deal with the downfalls in this level of skating.”

In addition to the support he received, Rippon also regained focus by doing exhibition programs and working with other skaters on their choreography—namely Mirai Nagasu and Ashley Wagner.

“I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have two clients on the Grand Prix this year,” said Rippon. “Ashley and I have always been very close friends, so being able to work with her has been a different experience for us. I think she’s a beautiful skater with so much power.”

“Mirai went through the same heartbreak I went through during the Olympics,” he continued. “We channeled our feelings into these programs. I’ve never seen her skate so beautifully than I’ve seen her when she skates these programs. She poured her heart into the choreography. We did these programs while the Olympics and World Championships where going on, so it was a great thing for us to do to focus on the future. It was our therapy.”

In terms of his own choreography, Rippon likes to be pushed outside of his comfort zone. Over the summer, the skater worked with his coach and choreographers on new transitions into all of his elements, and feels he has grown a great deal since last season.

“I think that is vital to improvement,” he said. “I worked with Tom Dickson and his wife Catarina Lindgren. I have always loved Catarina’s skating as a professional, and was so excited to learn from her. She did my short program to “Tuxedo Junction” and it’s so much fun to skate to.”

Dickson, who choreographed his long program last year, did so again with Rippon’s program to Liszt’s “Piano Concerto No. 1”.

“Adam now has the necessary tools to take his skating a step further,” said Arutyunyan. “Now he is ready to be a fighter. If he can stay mentally strong enough to use the weapons he has, he will go far.”

Rippon’s goals for Skate Canada are to skate with “reckless abandon”.

“I think sometimes I tighten up because I want so badly to do well,” he said. “I want people and myself to be relaxed and just enjoy my performances.”