Home Archive Photos Slideshows Database


Max Aaron Jumps to Head of Men's Pack

 by Karen Frank



(23 January 2016)  In the Senior Men’s Short Program, there were quads landed; there were demonstrations of fast, well centered spins, and there were performances that revealed a mastery of blade-work and flow. Had all of those been combined in one skater, it would have been an event for the ages. Instead, it was an up and down evening, where the judges were forced to decide whether five seconds of air time were more important than the other two minutes and forty-five seconds of skating. In the end, they didn’t decide, clumping the top four skaters – two of whom landed quads- within five points of each other. It will be left to the free skate on Sunday to see how it all shakes out.

The 2013 National Champion, Max Aaron, showing improved control over his jump landings, which goes a long way in the overall impression he gives on ice, easily threw down a quad Salchow-triple toe combination, a triple Axel, and a triple Lutz. His power and speed in moving across the ice to Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma cannot be denied, but the program would benefit from an increase in transition between the elements -- something that three of the judges recognized, giving him marks of seven for the “transitions” score. In addition, his camel/change/camel spin appeared slow. He’ll need to continue to improve these elements, something he would be the first to admit.  “I have my struggles but I’m doing whatever it takes to be an artist, to be the best technical jumper I can be, the best spinner I can be. Nothing is easy about that but I’m doing whatever I can to be the best.”

Overall, it was an athletic, powerful skate that was deservedly in first place, and a move in the right direction in terms of Program Components.

The audience was on their feet before Ross Miner completed his short program to New York State of Mind. With 2016 Worlds in his home town of Boston, Miner seems determined to be part of the American team. Skating with confidence, Miner’s jumps (triple flip; triple Axel, and triple Lutz-triple toe) were all skated with high Grades of Execution, giving him nearly five extra points. He also received high marks for his level four step sequence, which flowed along with the saxophone in the music. There wasn’t a wasted moment in the program, and he had the highest transition component mark in the field.

Though he didn’t try the quad in the short, the overall quality of what he did perform, kept him in the conversation.  The lesser technical base value was a deliberate choice. "I'm focused on putting out a good performance,” Miner said. “Obviously doing a quad is worth more points than doing a triple flip, but for me, it was a decision we made early and the year and we really stuck with it."

The oldest man in the field at 26, Adam Rippon returned to St. Paul seven years after winning the Junior title. Skating to Queen’s Who Wants to Live Forever, Rippon unfortunately began his program with a mistake, by stepping out of the back half of his triple Lutz-triple toe combination. At that point, “I told myself I just needed to do all the rest of the elements as good as I can, or Rafael would kill me,” Rippon said.

To his credit, he did just that, saving the landing of a triple Axel, and gaining high grades of execution on all of his other elements, especially his fast, well-centered spins, and passionate, level-four footwork.

Nathan Chen brought his jump arsenal to the short program, loaded with two quads. His technical prowess is hard to argue with – though the landings on the quad Salchow and triple Axel were a little rough, the quad toe-triple toe combination looked big and clean. At the moment, his overall skating feels Juniorish – he doesn’t fill the arena like Aaron, or engage the audience the way Miner did.  The numeric difference between his fourth and Rippon’s third place came down to the execution of Chen’s flying sit spin, which was called level one, after he did not achieve a position necessary for a higher score (or, for that matter, more time in the air). That said, to be competitive on the International stage, one will need quads and Chen has proven ownership of these multi-revolution jumps.

Chen’s quad prowess impressed the other men in the field, though they still remained focused on their own performance.

“That’s amazing, first of all. That’s a huge accomplishment,” stated Aaron. “I’ve tried two different quads in a program before and that’s not an easy task. For him to be so young and to be able to do that is a huge step in our sport. I see him and even Vincent [Zhou], he’s even younger than Nate, pushing the boundaries in our sport and I love seeing that. For me, I love pressure of getting better.”

Added Rippon, “We can’t look around at our other competitors ourselves, because in some way or another, we’ve all done that and gone, DANG, I’m screwed. And as soon as you think that, you are.”

Outside of the top four are three skaters who, while executing easier and/or flawed jumping, skated well-balanced and interesting programs. Both Timothy Dolensky and Grant Hochstein, were rewarded for their basic skating quality, scoring within a point of each other (80.01 and 79.26, respectively). Dolensky, who skated to Cinema Paradiso, was awarded level four on all of his elements, and was credited for a triple Axel, triple flip-triple toe combination, and triple Lutz.  Skating a stylish performance to Due Tramonti by Ludovico Einaudi, Grant Hochstein was buoyed by perfectly positioned spins and a decent attempt at a quad toe loop (he fell, but was credited with four revolutions).  Hochstein took time to create a picture on the ice, holding out his moves and positions to maximum effect.

Returning to his home state, Alexander Johnson got the local crowd going with a creative interpretation of Tranc by Yair Dalal & Al Ol. His sinuous movements propelled him through level 4 footwork characterized by clever body shapes and edgy steps. Jump-wise, it wasn’t Johnson’s best night, as he turned out of the landing on his triple Axel and fell on a triple Lutz, but he didn’t give up on the performance.

Over and over this week, though, the conversation has been “Quad: We ‘Needz’ Them,” to be competitive with the Yuzuru Hanyus and Patrick Chans of the world. No one would argue that point. But that fails to account for that fact that aside from being able to land four revolution jumps, Hanyu and Chan display a mastery of skating skills that can mesmerize an audience. Fans of skating have been known to say that they’d pay money simply to watch Hanyu and Chan skate from one end of the ice to the other, without attempting a single element.