April 02, 2016

BOSTON (AP) Max Aaron rushed into the kiss-and-cry area to embrace Adam Rippon.

Rippon had just skated a rousing long program at the world championships Friday, moments after Aaron did the same to briefly place them at 1-2 in the standings in front of a giddy home crowd. It was an exhilarating free skate for the American men - yet deflating at the same time.

Right now, what qualify as sterling performances for the U.S. still fall well short of the world's best. The three Americans combined to try four quadruple jumps Friday - under-rotating one of them but not falling on any. The bronze medalist, China's Jin Boyang, cleanly landed four quads by himself in his long program.

All three Americans - Rippon, Aaron and Grant Hochstein - finished in the top 10, when, based on past results, it was plausible coming in that none would make the top 10. But the showing wasn't enough to secure the U.S. three spots again at next year's worlds.

To earn the maximum three berths, a country needs its top two finishers' places to add up to 13 or less. Rippon was sixth and Aaron eighth to narrowly miss the magic number.

Rippon under-rotated his quad lutz, but the rest of the program to a Beatles medley had TD Garden roaring. In his translucent purple Sgt. Pepper-inspired shirt, Rippon at one point mid-performance waved his arms to get the fans to scream even louder. He held his hand to his ear afterward, soaking in the adulation.

''I was ready, and I went out and I laid down one of my best long programs, and I'm so happy it was at worlds in Boston,'' he said.

Rippon had the fourth-highest free skate score with 178.72 points for 264.44 total. Once regarded as a skater unable to fulfill all his promise, he's turning out his best performances at age 26, but he doesn't have the big jumps of the world's top competitors.

Aaron has the jumps if not the artistry, landing two quads Friday. He scored 172.86 points for 254.14 total.

''The crowd is so cool,'' he said. ''You just enjoy it. You embrace it and let it ride you all the way home.''

Hochstein was making his world championships debut at age 25 - he had never finished better than seventh at nationals before this year. He landed a quad toe loop to open his program to ''Les Miserables'' and had earned a standing ovation before his final spin. He scored 162.44 points for 237.25 total and finished 10th.

''What is it? Cloud nine? I'm like on cloud 11,'' he said.

Hochstein made the team when the third-place finisher at nationals, Nathan Chen, was injured. The 16-year-old Chen offers hope for the future - if he can stay healthy. He has the big jumps - he landed four quads in his long program at U.S. Championships - though his artistic scores lag behind for now.

Injury also likely cost Jason Brown a spot on the world team. He, too, is lacking the quads done by the world's top skaters, though he still managed to finish fourth at worlds last year without one.

No American man has won a medal at worlds since Evan Lysacek in 2009.

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