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Max Aaron Reconfigures Strategy.  Reigning Champ Ready to Reclaim Title and Clinch Olympic Team Berth

by Liz Leamy

Max Aaron, the reigning U.S. champion who stunned the skating world last year with his astonishing 2013 Nationals victory in Omaha, seems bound and determined to repeat that feat once again in Boston, despite somewhat of a rocky start earlier this season.

Last year, the 21 year-old Scottsdale, Arizona native, who trains in Colorado Springs with Tom Zakrajsek and Becky Calvin, catapulted to the pinnacle of the U.S. competitive ladder with a one-two series of performances at the 2013 Nationals defined by stellar quads and soaring triple jumps.

Aaron, noted to be a dark horse since he had been ranked eighth at the 2012 U.S. Championships, further proved himself as one of the countrys finest with a respectable seventh-place finish at the 2013 Worlds in March.

This season, however, Aaron has faced some challenges in terms of jump consistency at some of the fall Grand Prix events. Last October, he clinched bronze at Skate America in Detroit, pulling up from seventh in the short, but was seventh at the NHK Trophy in Japan due to some technical errors.

Not one to be deterred by disappointment, Aaron decided to take action and made plans to visit with his choreographer, the enigmatic Lori Nichol, in Toronto, who helped him rework his Carmen free skate.

My coaches and I went over what is the goal and best route going into Boston, said Aaron in a conference call Friday. I wanted something fresh and new so the audience and officials would think its a new program and a new Max.

After some serious music editing and a major reconfiguration of his jumps, spins and connecting steps, Aaron said he returned to Colorado Springs satisfied and confident with the free skate program.

We took out the third quad, said Aaron, who said his long program now features two quads and two triple Axels. Im looking forward to showing this new program.

Aaron, who sounded energized and confident, also credited Dr. Alex Cohen, a sports psychologist for the U.S. Olympic Committee at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, for his renewed mental strength.

Weve really been going over how to compete under pressure and certain key points before the performance, he said. Its about keeping the timing the same, the legs warm and making sure my mental game is tough.

This approach certainly seems to be working for Aaron, who said he feels comfortable and confident in regard to competing at the U.S. Championships in Boston in a few weeks.

Im glad I finally came to my senses, Im looking forward to putting out a performance I havent done all season, he said. Im looking forward to defending my title and making the U.S. [Olympic] team.

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