In an unusual coincidence, U.S. skater Brandon Mroz seems to almost always finish with an even numbered placement in major competitions. He has finished second four straight times at U.S. Nationals: novice in 2006, juniors in 2007 and 2008, and seniors in 2009.
“People say it’s a curse, but at least I’m consistent,” he said. “I knew a medal was possible this year, but silver was a shock. To get silver my first year in seniors is a great starting point. I’m young and I’m only going to get better. It’s in me to get to the top.”
Mroz was second twice at the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final (2007 and 2008) and fourth twice at Junior Worlds in the same seasons. “That definitely helped me by putting me in situations where there was a lot of pressure,” he said. “It made me a better athlete and helped define my character.”
This year, Mroz competed for the first time at an ISU senior international, the 2009 Four Continents Championships. And again his finish was an even number – eighth.
Only at the 2009 World Championships did Mroz finish in an odd-numbered place, ninth, after placing eighth in the short.
“Nerves were blocking me a bit,” he said, “but I just tried to push through and do the best I could. I learned what’s in me and what I could do. Everybody gets better from knowledge, and I can take it and apply it to next season in the Olympic year.”
Mroz has continued to set personal bests this year, both nationally and internationally. He set new marks for his short program and overall score at Skate Canada, then improved those scores again at Four Continents and Worlds with 76.10 points in the short and 207.19 points overall.
Mroz included a quadruple toe loop, triple Axel, triple loop, triple Salchow and triple Lutz in his long program, as well as a triple Axel-double toe loop and a triple flip-double toe-double loop combination. His short program had a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, triple Axel and triple flip.
“I’m working hard on the quad Salchow,” Mroz said, “and I’m going through all my jumps to be sure they’re solid. I’m working on some new combinations, triple flip-triple loop and triple loop-triple toe. I can do a quad toe-double toe and quad toe-triple toe in training. They’re not too hard.”
“I got my first quad toe on my 17th birthday,” he added. “I gave myself a high five. The quad toe has been consistent all year in my long program. I’m really comfortable with it, so I might try a quad combination in the short next year. I’ll have to be at least 75 to 80 percent consistent with it.”
“My technical side is pretty much there,” the 18-year-old underlined. “I’m pushing the envelope with jumps, but what gets you the most points is a clean program. I need to really work on my second mark.”
Mroz, who trains in Colorado Springs, is coached by Tom Zakrajsek, who also coaches U.S. Men’s champion Jeremy Abbott and ladies silver medalist Rachel Flatt. He has worked with Zakrajsek for about five years.
“It definitely helps to be surrounded by great athletes,” Mroz said. “We’re always pushing each other and trying to get one jump ahead. It’s a nice asset to have.”
“He has such great spirit when we are working together in lessons and during training,” Zakrajsek stated. “I can still remember our first lesson five years ago. He was totally cooperative and we worked very well together instantly. So far that has not changed, and I think that is a big part of his consistent improvement each year. He is a great student and leader in our sport.”
Mroz skates for two hours a day six days a week. He works out three days a week, has Pilates and ballet classes twice a week, and also works with other Olympic athletes at the Olympic Training Center.
Mroz had all new programs for the 2008-09 season.
Tom Dickson choreographed his short program to Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks by Richard Strauss. “I wanted to do something where I could play with the character,” Mroz said. “I had some suggestions and Tom and I picked the same piece. Tom cut it just right. It was fun.”
Mroz skated to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for his long program, which was choreographed by Lori Nichol.
“It was my first time with Lori,” Mroz said. “I wanted a different outlook on skating and how programs are made. I wanted to see what someone else could do with my second mark. I knew Lori did great with other skaters and my second mark definitely improved.”
For shows, Mroz uses Jail House Rock by Elvis Presley and Brazil by Frank Sinatra. “Tom Dickson and I created the Sinatra number at the end of last season,” Mroz said. “I really like Sinatra music and I had an idea it would be pretty fun.”
Mroz graduates from high school this summer, but may delay going to college, where he hopes to study medicine. “I don’t want to take time off from school because it’s harder when you go back,” he said, “but juggling an extensive training workload with school is hard. Right now I’m trying to stay in the moment and concentrate on the Olympics. I’m sure I’ll go past 2010 because I’ll only be 19.”
“I’ll definitely stay around the sport because I love doing shows and the lighter side of skating,” he added.
Off ice, Mroz enjoys hanging out with friends, playing video games, reading, watching action and comedy movies, skiing and snow boarding after the skating season, and playing with his dog, Wags.