The junior men took to the ice this afternoon, and put on a show for the spectators at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Adam Rippon, the leader after the short program, showed why he has been having so much success internationally by laying down a sensitive yet commanding performance. As a result, the teen from The Skating Club of New York, Inc. won the gold medal over one of the toughest fields in recent memory.
Rippon, who trains with Nikolai Morozov in Hackensack, N.J., qualified for and won the Junior Grand Prix Final in December with the highest score ever awarded in a junior international competition. The 18 year-old came into this competition with a lot of buzz, and was able to live up to his and the skating community’s expectations by winning the title by more than 10 points than his nearest competitor.
“I was nervous before I went out,” admitted the new champion, “but I just kept telling myself to focus on what I needed to do to a clean program like I skate in practice.”
The Pennsylvanian opened his program with an easy triple flip-triple toe combination that floated across the ice. In all, Rippon landed seven clean triple jumps, each one better than the previous, and built momentum that culminated with a straightline step sequence which he attacked with reckless abandon.
“When we started the program at the beginning of the season, we just put steps together with different turns and putting them all together,” explained Rippon. “I have to credit Nikolai for helping me to feel my body more so that I can do more creative things and more difficult footwork.”
Rippon scored an amazing 213.76 points in the competition, easily eclipsing the junior national record at this competition, and he did it with an element in his free skate that was not scored.
“I actually don’t know what caused that,” confessed Rippon, regarding his flying sit spin not being scored, “but I will review that with my coach.”
Brandon Mroz (Broadmoor SC) earned the same result this season with a technically demanding and clean performance that pulled him up from third place after the short program.
“My goal today was to approach my long with a new intensity, and I think that I did that,” said last year’s silver medalist. “I am pleased with what I did today, and I am happy with a new personal best.”
Mroz opened his King of the Forest routine with a triple Axel, a jump that Rippon opted not to attempt, and landed seven other triples to edge Rippon’s technical score by .33 of a point. However, Rippon outscored the 17-year-old on the program components by five points to relegate Mroz to second place once again.
“Maybe I’m a little disappointed,” admitted Mroz. “I think that if anything, I am disappointed with my short. I think that I did a great job today, and I don’t have a problem winning silver again. It just shows that I am consistent.”
Finishing with a surprise bronze medal, Andrew Gonzales (All Year FSC) barely qualified for this competition after a poor showing at the Pacific Coast Sectionals, but proved that he belonged with a great performance here in Saint Paul.
“After [Pacific] Coasts [sectionals], I sat down and realized that I really needed to step it up,” shared the Californian. “And I just did program after program because I knew that I was going to be competing against some of the best. So I knew that I had to get some programs under my belt so that I could compete.”
Gonzales landed six clean triple jumps, including a triple Lutz-double toe-double loop combination, to move up eight places from last year.
“I knew that I had to put two good programs together which I accomplished today,” continued the 17-year-old. “My long program went really well, and I am very pleased with my score, and with being able to compete with some of the best junior men in the country.”
Training mate Richard Dornbush (All Year FSC) skated early, but landed six clean triple jumps to catapult from 12th place in the short program to win the pewter medal after other skaters struggled with their programs. The 16-year-old placed third in the freeskate, and included a beautiful triple Axel in his arsenal.
Keegan Messing (Anchorage FSC), a crowd favorite, landed the most difficult combination in the competition. His triple Axel-triple toe combination earned him 11.93 points on his was to finishing fifth in his first appearance at the junior level at the U.S. Championships.
“I was very happy with my skate,” said last year’s Novice bronze medalist. “The one thing that I wish I would have done would have been to land my second (triple) Axel, but I just got too tired going into it.”
The always entertaining Messing had a different approach to the competition than most of his peers.
“This is to show what we’ve got,” boasted the 16-year-old. “Sectionals is the hard competition, and Nationals is the reward. We should just go out and give everyone a show!”
Sitting in second place after the short program, Curran Oi (SC of Boston) struggled with his jumps today, and could only manage a sixth place finish. Last year’s pewter medalist received credit for only one clean triple jump, but was able to stay in the top six based on his score from the short program.