Rippon Ripe for Debut Championship Season

By Liz Leamy

Adam Rippon, the reigning U.S. Junior World menís singles champion from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, skated two stalwart, yet slightly flawed programs at the Moran Memorial non-qualifying competition in Hackensack, New Jersey last weekend.

The promising 18 year-old came up second behind Nobunari Oda of Japan. He performed a promising one-two punch of programs that featured some excellent jumps and interesting footwork and spins.

Although he fell on the landing of his triple Axels in both programs, he still racked up some nice marks. He earned a 57.64 in the short and a 130.56 in the free skate, for both of which he also received high program component scores.

"It was my first competition as a senior and Iím pretty happy with how I did," said Rippon.

Rippon, who is the 2008 U.S. National Junior menís champion and 2007-08 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final gold medalist, earned high marks for his signature edges, flow and power. Although his planned triple loop had been doubled and he had a slight edge slip on his combination spin, Rippon did a triple flip-triple toe, triple Lutz-double toe-double loop, triple Lutz from Rocker turns, a second triple flip, triple Salchow and two double Axels. He also skated with the finesse, presence and expertise of a well-seasoned Championship skater.

"Iíve been working hard on getting the triple Axel," Rippon said. "It was nice to do it and show everybody. I feel this was a good start for me."

Rippon trains full time at the House in Hackensack, New Jersey, with Nikolai Morozov, the acclaimed Olympic and World Championship coach. He started working with Morozov back in the spring of 2007. Since then, his competitive results have been impressive.

Right from the outset of the 2007-08 season, Rippon dominated the junior menís field both domestically and internationally. He won his initial round junior menís combined event at the Liberty Open in July 2007, but did not skate in the final round free skate. That fall, he placed first at the ISU Junior Grand Prix Harghita Cup in Romania and second at the Sofia Cup in Bulgaria. In December 2007, he clinched the gold the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final in Gdansk, Poland.

One month later, Rippon claimed the junior menís title at the 2008 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships in Saint Paul, Minnesota. In March, he wrapped up this incredible season with a first-place victory at the 2008 Junior World Championships.

"It was such an unbelievable year," Rippon said. "I really started to see what I was capable of doing. Iím just trying to take everything one step at a time and want to continue growing in regard to improving my skating."

Prior to this rip-roaring season, Rippon had been sixth at the 2007 U.S. Championships in the junior menís division. Although he had all of the technical elements at that point, he said he had lacked that Ďití factor that he found through working with Morozov

"I could do all of the elements, but couldnít put them together," Rippon said. "Nikolai helped me to learn that and we got some good results. I felt like I was learning to become more of a complete skater."

Since the conclusion of last season, Rippon has been working hard to insure good results for the coming year. He also wants to continue to represent the U.S. in an effective fashion, and has been preparing for two of the most popular ISU Championship Grand Prix events this fall ó the 2008 Skate America and the 2008 Cup of Russia in a steadfast and determined manner.

At these events, Rippon will join the top American Championship menís contenders, Johnny Weir, the 2008 World Championship bronze medalist and Evan Lysacek, the 2008 U.S. Championship menís gold medalist, which he is excited about. "Itís incredible to be competing with them," Rippon said.

In order to elevate his skating to the Championship stature, Rippon has been focusing intensively on increasing his technical arsenal. Since the spring, he has been working on his triple Axel, which is regarded to be one of the most challenging elements in all of figure skating.

"Itís such a mental jump as opposed to physical. You really have to know that you can do it," said Rippon, who now has the jump both clean and relatively consistent.

The jump looks good, too. Although he fell on the landings of both of his triple Axel attempts at the Moran Memorial, both jumps were high, fully rotated and had excellent air positions. The takeoff edges were also fast and powerful.

"It was my first attempt at doing it, and I was happy that I was marked for the full rotation," Rippon said. " I want to just keep developing and getting better."

He has also been working on increasing the overall level of his skating. Six days a week, he spends four hours a day on the ice where he focuses on jumps, spins, footwork and his programs. Typically, he usually does about five to six repetitions of each triple jump to build his strength, quickness and consistency.

Rippon said he is excited about his new programs for the upcoming season. For his short, he will interpret the music, "Storm" by Vanessa Mae and "Send In The Clowns" by Stephen Sondheim, and "I Pagliacci" by Ruggero Leoncavallo for his long. "I really like the choreography of my new programs, especially the long," Rippon said. "I had wanted to use it ["I Pagliacci"] for a while, but I wasnít quite ready for it yet until this season."

This year, Rippon has also taken a big step in terms of his own personal growth. Since the spring, he has been living on his own at an apartment with other skaters in Hackensack, New Jersey, which he described as a bit of a new experience.

Last year, his mom, Kelly, had helped him to settle into his new Hackensack digs, where he relocated after living near his former training base of the University of Delaware. "It wasnít too big of an adjustment because I had been living in a city before I came here," Rippon said. " This year, Iíve learned to do more on my own which has been good."  Rippon, who is from the Scranton area of Pennsylvania, has five younger siblingsóthree brothers and two sisters--who are age seven to 16.

In July, Rippon traveled with Morozov and his other students to Andorra, where they trained for two weeks at altitude. "It was a really interesting experience," he said. "We had a great time."

This summer, Rippon said that he enjoyed watching the 2008 Summer Olympics that were held in Beijing. He particularly liked following the U.S. womenís volleyball team, which had been undefeated for more than 100 matches going into the Games.

"They were amazing," Rippon said. " It just shows what can happen when you get the right group of people together, set goals and believe in what youíre doing."

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