By Johanna Bear
The final event of the 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships proved to be a climactic, explosive, and fitting end to what has been a remarkable competition that validated veteran skaters and shone the spotlights on younger skaters who were able to step up to the challenge.
Jason Brown held onto his lead to win his first U.S. Championships and put himself on the Four Continents and World Championships teams that will represent the United States in Seoul and Shanghai in the coming months. Though he did not include any quadruple jumps in his free skate, he landed all of his triples cleanly and used his high component score and connection with the audience throughout his passionate “Tristan and Iseult” free skate, which earned a 181.62 to propel him to a total score of 274.98 and victory over a very deep field that challenged him until the very last performance.
“I’ve trained so hard and I’ve trained so consistently, so I went out there like it’s another day in the office. I told myself that I’m going to do what I do every day and enjoy the moment,” Brown said with his trademark smile, “I just went out there like ‘I’m ready to go out there and put on a show.”
Adam Rippon was in fifth place after the short program but then went on to deliver the highest scoring free skate in U.S. Championships history with the help of a quad Lutz, that was just slightly underrotated, and his usual artistic flair. His free skate earned him a 187.77 en route to a combined score of 272.48 for the competition. Rippon was coming off of a disappointing eighth place finish last season and shot up the leaderboard to win the silver medal for the second time in his senior National career. He will also represent the United States at the Four Continents and World Championships in the next few months and will look to continue his rejuvenated confidence and consistency in those events.
“I feel amazing right now. After the quad Lutz, I just let go and trusted my muscle memory,” Rippon explained, “I wanted to come here and make a statement that I’m a deserving U.S. champion. To do that, you need to skate with tenacity and take big risks. I took those big risks in both programs here and I’m proud of that.”
In a reprise of their friendly rivalry and success at the junior level, Joshua Farris challenged Brown until his very last spin, though due to an added double toeloop that resulted in the discounting of his triple Lutz-double toe combination, Farris settled for the bronze medal after coming into the free skate in second place. His hauntingly beautiful “Schindler’s List” program brought the crowd to its feet from the footwork onward and earned a 177.58 to add up to a total score of 267.98. Farris has struggled this season after a high ankle sprain delayed his training early on in the year. It also caused him to withdraw from his first Grand Prix event. This event will prove to be an important confidence boost for the 21-year-old from Washington. He will comprise the final portion of the United States contingent to Four Continents and Worlds and like Brown he will be going to the World Championships at the senior level for the first time after winning the title at the junior level in 2013.
“I’m feeling really great. I was more nervous today than I’ve ever been, being in the position I was in after the short, so I’m very happy that I was able to skate the way that I did,” Farris said after his free skate, “I’ve still improved with every performance from year to year and I’m thrilled to be in the position I’m in.”
2013 U.S. Champion Max Aaron skated like the namesake of his “Gladiator” program, but ultimately fell short despite landing two quads to his feet among a host of other powerful jumps and ended up in fourth place. He earned a 173.41 for his free skate and a total score of 259.19 and will be the first alternate to both the Four Continents team and the Worlds team. His quad Salchow triple toe combination earned a massive 16.60, which was the most points garnered for a single combination in the event.
I felt great, but there was more to the program than just the quad. It was great to start off the program that way, so I had a blast,” Aaron enthused, “I gave it my all and I have no regrets. I had a fun time out there. I was really working on my mindset, but I had a blast the whole time and no regrets.”
Fourtime U.S. Champion Jeremy Abbott was looking to move up the leaderboard after finding himself in third place, but with two falls in his gorgeous “Adagio for Strings” program, he ended the event in fifth place. After helping to regain the U.S. men’s third international spot at the World Championships last year, Abbott made the decision to continue with his skating career. His free skate in Greensboro earned a 168.36 and his competition score totaled 258.29.
“Obviously, it’s not what I wanted, I wanted to skate the best I could so I could be in the top three and have a chance to go to the World Championships,” Abbott admitted, “I’ll go home and reevaluate life. We retooled my swing this season and it’s been so much for the better. I have been able to go through the season completely injury free. I felt more confident and stronger and much more consistent than I ever have before. In the long run, everything we did will be worth it. I have much more security in my skating. This is the first time ever that I have been off the podium in my senior championships. It’s extremely tough to swallow, but it is what it is.”
Douglas Razzano put together an incredibly moving free skate to Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No.2” and moved from tenth place to seventh with a total score of 233.42, while Nathan Chen finished in eighth place in his senior National debut with a combined score of 230.99. Chen will represent the U.S. at Junior Worlds with 2015 U.S. Junior Champion Andrew Torgashev and 2015 U.S. Junior silver medalist Kevin Shum.
Right Chen was Grant Hochstein who placed ninth for his best result at the U.S. Championships since his senior debut in 2010. Alexander Johnson skated to the powerful soundtrack from “Sweeney Todd” and impressed in his return from injury by earning a total score of 218.27, which put him in eleventh place, and Sean Rabbitt brought the crowd to its feet with his free skate, which contributed to his combined score of 211.24 and saw him end up in twelfth place. Rounding out the Figure Skaters Online contingent in the men’s competition was Jordan Moeller who placed thirteenth in his senior National debut after a crowdrousing performance to the “Peter Gynt Suite.”