Quads become standard for elite men
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) The three quadruple jumps Spain's Javier Fernandez landed in his long program at the European championships this weekend didn't go unnoticed by the men at the U.S. championships.
The degree of difficulty in pulling off the four-revolution jump one time, let alone three, is extremely high. The way the sport is evolving, skaters who want to achieve the highest rewards had better be able to execute the high-risk trick.
"To be really, truly competitive, you have to have a quad in the program in the short and long," U.S. runner-up Ross Miner said. "This year is the first year it's been apparent that the quad is really important, and obviously it will continue into next year. It's great we have had a lot of guys trying it here."
Canadian Kurt Browning was the first skater to land a quad in competition, in 1988. It takes guts to try it, and success can depend as much on ice conditions as execution.
The jump is extremely taxing on the body, particularly the core. Evan Lysacek, the 2010 Olympic champion, had been training the past year to include two quads in his long program. But the pounding he took from practicing quads led to a sports hernia that required surgery in November and forced him out of nationals.
"The truth is, the skills and tricks that the best guys in the world are doing right now are the most extreme tricks in any sport on any apparatus in the world. Am I wrong?" Lysacek said, noting a quad requires a body rotation of 1,440 degrees. "What other sport does that? Maybe divers. I think a few divers did it off the three-story dive. But we're doing it off our own two feet. So there is danger involved in that and I, obviously, have experienced that first-hand."
U.S. champion Max Aaron landed two of the total of five successful quads Sunday. Miner, Brandon Mroz and Keegan Messing completed one.
"I call it `the beast' because some days you have it, some days you don't," Aaron said. "On the world stage, you see guys doing two or three in a program. Guys are going to be doing two in a short program. That's what it's going to take these days."
While it's becoming a drawback for a skater to not have a quad in his repertoire, Lysacek said, it can be foolish to go quad-crazy.
"For every quad you do, if you make a mistake on another element, you have negated that quad," Lysacek said. "So the margin for error in men's skating is zero."
ABBOTT'S REGRETS: If it weren't for the skates he was wearing, three-time champion Jeremy Abbott might have been kicking himself after his disappointing free skate.
Abbott was the leader after Friday's short program. But he dropped to third after falling on his quad toe and doubling two planned triple jumps, including a salchow at the end of his program that would have kept him in second.
Abbott wound up third behind Max Aaron and Ross Miner with a total score of 249.33. His free skate score of 165.23 was more than five points behind Miner and more than 10 behind Aaron.
"Stupid, bleeping triple-salchow," Abbott said. "I knew going into it I needed that jump, and then looking at protocols I definitely needed that jump. When I doubled that, I knew that would be the difference. It's the easiest jump in my program and I let it go. I knew at that point I was going to be just enough behind that it wasn't going to happen."
LOOKING AHEAD: Ross Miner is already looking forward to next year's nationals, and not simply because that's where the Olympic team will be selected.
Miner has quietly developed into one of the most reliable U.S. men, winning the silver medal Sunday after finishing second the previous two years. He also was the bronze medalist at this year's NHK Trophy.
"I'm really excited with the result," Miner said. "I'm looking forward to Boston next year. It's going to be a bunch of fun."
Boston is Miner's hometown, and also home of the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
WORLD TRAVELERS: As expected, Caydee Denney and John Coughlin were chosen for the world championships team.
Denney and Coughlin weren't able to defend their pairs title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships because he's recovering from hip surgery. But the Americans are trying to ensure they have two pairs teams at the Sochi Olympics, and Denney and Coughlin give them the best shot.
The two U.S. pairs need to finish with a combined placement of 28 or better (12th and 16th, say) at worlds to earn two spots in Sochi. Inexperienced pairs often have a tough time cracking the top 10, and neither new U.S. champs Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir nor runners-up Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim have been to worlds before. Denney and Coughlin, however, were ninth at worlds last year.
Worlds are March 10-17 in London, Ontario.
Castelli and Shnapir will join Denney and Coughlin at worlds, with Scimeca and Knierim the first alternates. Scimeca and Knierim will go to Four Continents, along with Castelli-Shnapir and bronze medalists Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay. Four Continents is Feb. 6-11 in Osaka, Japan.
The top three dance teams - Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Maia and Alex Shibutani - were selected for both the worlds and Four Continents teams.