The 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships concluded with the Senior Men’s Long Program.
The perennial also-ran, a newcomer, and a veteran stood on the podium after the Championship Men’s free skate. Meanwhile, a former champion struggled to move up in the standings after a dismal short program.
Jeremy Abbott (Broadmoor SC), a skater with a natural blend of athletic ability and artistic talent, finally put all of the pieces together to win his first national title. The gold medalist has traditionally struggled with putting two good programs out in a competition until this season.
“I felt awful leading up to this event,” confessed Abbott. “I felt awful today. I felt awful on the ice. I was able to control myself and do everything that I needed to do. I wasn’t really that happy with my performance, and I am just learning how to compete to keep mistakes to a minimum. I’m relieved that it is over, and I am so excited that I won.”
Abbott has been skating well all season, qualifying for and winning the Grand Prix Final, and established himself as a serious contender – not only for the National title, but for the World Championship as well.
“I think that everything happens for a reason, and happens in its own time,” said the 23-year-old philosophically. “So I guess I might just be a late bloomer, and it’s just my time. I am just thrilled that it is happening.”
The new champion landed seven clean triple jumps in his routine to Eight Seasons by Piazzolla. He made just one error of the night – a popped triple loop at the end of his program. Nevertheless, Abbott’s non-jumping elements earned him high levels and positive grades of execution (GOE), which helped him to earn a segment total of 155.49 points in the free skate and 241.89 points overall.
The reigning junior silver medalist made the unlikely leap from the junior podium to the senior podium by earning a medal of the same color this season. However, Brandon Mroz (Broadmoor SC) perhaps had the performance of the evening, landing a quadruple toe loop and two triple Axels to move up from fourth place after the short program to second overall.
“I train with Jeremy and Ryan (Bradley) for two hours a day,” Mroz explained. “We have a friendly rivalry, and push each other every day. I think that I have improved so much because they push me more than I can even explain.”
Skating to Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Mroz skated without a care in the world, and came up big against some very experienced men. Winning the technical mark in the freeskate, Mroz earned his first trip to the World Championships.
“Wow! That’s great,” Mroz exclaimed. “I’m very excited about winning the free skate, and I am looking forward to competing at Worlds.”
The 18-year-old scored 154.82 points in the free skate, and 229.70 points overall, edging out Evan Lysacek (DuPage FSC) by .60 of a point for the silver medal.
Lysacek looked stiff from the start, and was not even close to rotating his opening quadruple toe loop before he fell on it.
“I think that I definitely went for it all out, but it was not my finest,” Lysacek said with a hint of disappointment. “I have been training well and felt very prepared for the event. I had a good warm-up, but I got a little out of my rhythm and tried to get it back throughout the program.”
“I think that it was important to go for the quad just for myself,” continued the two-time and defending champion. “I have been doing them well all week, and I certainly never (fell) on one this week. It was the wrong time to put that one out there, I guess.”
However, Lysacek did land eight triple jumps, including two Axels, but did not look comfortable as he skated his Rhapsody in Blue program. His efforts were good enough for the bronze medal, but Lysacek placed fourth in the free skate – something that he is not used to doing at the National Championships.
“The National Championships is very important to me,” the 23-year-old admitted, “that’s why it is so disappointing. This will not hurt my professional career in the long run, but it does hurt me on a personal basis. I’ll go home and continue on the path that I am on, and just hope that this was a fluke.”
Lysacek’s free skate total of 145.51 points brought his competition total to 229.10 points.
The entertaining Ryan Bradley (Broadmoor SC) skated a fine program to a Perez Prado medley, putting his hand down on his opening quadruple toe loop. Bradley then landed a triple Axel combination before popping his easiest technical element – a triple Salchow, into a single.
“It’s kind of the same thing as (the short program).” said a frustrated Bradley. “I did all of the hard stuff, and messed up on the easy stuff. That was kind of a big bummer, but I’m excited that I was able to come back after the mistake which is something that I haven’t been able to do this season.”
Bradley’s free skate total of 147.35 points was not enough to overcome his short program deficit, but the 2007 silver medalist earned his first pewter medal with a total of 221.40 points.
“I’ll go home and put all of my efforts into training for next year,” said the 25-year-old enthusiastically. “It is the most important year to make sure that I am prepared, and I intend to be ready for the Olympics.”
Former national champion and reigning Worlds bronze medalist Johnny Weir (SC of New York) had another rough outing after finishing in seventh place in the short program.
“It was a very difficult preparation for me coming into this event,” Weir explained. “Usually I am much more prepared coming into a national championship, but when you are pushing yourself so hard to contend for a title, it doesn’t even come into your mind that ‘oh, you’re sick’. A regular person will take two weeks off of work after being so ill, [but] I was right back at the rink two days later.”
The ever-colorful Weir opened by making the same mistake he did in the short program – popping a planned triple Axel into a single. However, the 24-year-old came right back and landed a nice triple Axel-double toe loop combination. In all, the Grand Prix Final bronze medalist landed five triples, and scored 133.23 points in the free skate, and 203.99 points overall.
In sixth place after the short program, Curran Oi (SC of Boston) continued to surprise with a sixth place finish overall. In his championship debut, Oi landed six clean triple jumps, and attempted two triple Axels in addition. The 18-year-old finished in eighth place in the free skate with 121.27 points, but was able to hold on to sixth place overall with a total of 194.03 points.
Hometown favorite Parker Pennington (Winterhurst FSC) plummeted from third place after the short to eighth overall with a disastrous performance that left him stunned.
“I had a hard time staying focused,” admitted Pennington, who injured his ankle in the warm-up. “I did everything that I could between the warm-up and my skate to get myself ready, but I didn’t anticipate that happening and just wasn’t ready.”
Junior World Champion Adam Rippon (SC of New York) moved up from 12th to seventh overall with a solid free skate, while last year’s bronze medalist Steven Carriere (SC of Boston) continued to struggle and finished ninth. Tommy Steenburg (SC of Northern Virginia) finished in 10th.