Max Aaron was disgusted.
After a sloppy long program at the NHK Trophy in early November sunk him to seventh place, the U.S. champion convened with his support team and deliberated on his options. In an Olympic year, he decided to make a drastic change less than two months before the 2014 U.S. championships: Aaron is dropping from three to two quadruple jumps in his long program.
''Every time I watch a performance, I'm disgusted with how I've skated,'' he said on a conference call Friday. ''It's very hurtful for me.''
Aaron was the surprise U.S. champion last January and finished a respectable seventh in his world championship debut. With the Sochi Olympics looming, he thought he could handle three quads. He landed them in practice, but everything fell apart in competition.
''That's where I started to get inside my own head,'' he said.
The 21-year-old Aaron was third at Skate America in Detroit in October, then turned in ''an extremely poor skate of a long program'' at the NHK Trophy in Tokyo.
''Still to this day, I'm very embarrassed,'' he said.
So he huddled with his coaches, trainer and sports psychologist and concluded that he needed to return to a repertoire that felt comfortable.
''I'm glad I finally came to my senses and decided this was the path I wanted to take,'' Aaron said.
He believes he can make up the points in other components and is leaving open the possibility of adding back that third quad between the U.S. championships and Sochi - if he can regain his form in Boston next month to make the team. The men's short program is Jan 10.
''I knew that was going to take some time,'' he said of mastering the three quads. ''Time is not what I had this season.''
When he watched his long program, Aaron said, it didn't feel like a performance, just a lot of jumping. He also changed the order of jumps, some choreography and portions of the music, which is from ''Carmen.'' The new score feels more fluid, he said. Aaron also hopes the different selections will help repress memories of his struggles this fall.
''I want to be a complete skater,'' he said. ''I don't want to be the skater who's constantly just jumping again.''