OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Never mess with the guy who knows how to rumble.
Little-known Max Aaron won his first title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Sunday and helped knock down three-time champion Jeremy Abbott to the last step on the podium. With two quadruple jumps and an arsenal’s worth of other tricks in his “West Side Story” program, don’t count the 20-year-old upstart out at the world championships in March, either.
Aaron screamed and shook his fists when he finished his program, then slid across the ice giving a Tiger Woods-like fist pump. (He was wearing red, appropriately, and it was Sunday.) When his marks were posted, Aaron’s jaw dropped and the audience roared. He won the free skate in a rout to jump from fourth to first, and finished with 255 points overall, almost four better than Ross Miner.
Abbott, who had won three of the last four U.S. titles, dropped to third after a disappointing and flawed free skate.
Aaron was the U.S. junior champ two years ago, but has done little of note since then. Skating first of the top men, however, he wasted no time showing he intended to make a run at the title. He opened with two quadruple salchows, the first in combination with a double toe loop, and did seven other triples. Aside from a small turn out on a triple axel, all were done with such great speed and flow people watching at home on their couches were probably saying, “That doesn’t look so hard, I could do that.”
Aaron is more than just a jumping bean, however. His spins were excellent, so fast and tightly centered he was practically a blur. He jazzed up his footwork with high kicks and hops, the kind of flourishes audiences — and judges — love.
But it was his perfect portrayal of the bad boy in “West Side Story” that was most entertaining. As he heard the first notes of his music, he fixed the audience with a smirk and began snapping his fingers. He oozed attitude throughout the entire program, so much so it’s a wonder the Jets didn’t storm the ice and try and wipe the smile from his face.
His big score in the free skate — 175.87 — was going to be tough for Abbott, Miner and the rest of the guys to top. No one came close.
Third the last two years at nationals, Miner had a breakthrough at NHK Trophy, where he was the bronze medalist. That gave him confidence he could be the top American man, and he’s skating with more polish and assertiveness than ever before. Every element in his program, to the old “Captain Blood” movie, was finished to perfection. There was no rushing out of jumps or awkward ends to spins. It’s the kind of precision a skater has to have if he’s to contend with the international crowd.
He, too, did a quad — a gorgeous one, to boot — and seven other triple jumps. His only flaw was singling an axel, a silly mistake that’s sure to nag at him until next year’s nationals.
Abbott will have plenty of regrets after a program that was barely even adequate for a skater of his caliber. He was so slow on the approach to his quadruple toe it looked as if he was going to stop and, no surprise, he landed on his rear end. But it was his other jumps that were more disappointing. He turned several planned triples into doubles, and his landings were scratchy and awkward. That’s a no-no for anyone, but it was particularly bad for a skater who prides himself on his skating skills, including edge quality so fine the carvings could be sold as artwork.
Abbott knew it, too, banging his forehead with his fist as he skated off the ice. But when he saw the marks, even he looked stunned and the audience gasped.
More Related Stories
- Illinois' fracking and coal rush is a national crisis
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Kaitlyn Hunt refuses plea offer, will go to court over high school relationship
- DHS admits "impossible" to control 3D-printed guns
- Journalists file suit against Manning trial secrecy
- Russia: Syrian regime ready to talk peace
- Report: Nearly a quarter of all Americans struggle to afford food
- Ted Cruz against the world
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- 2 men arrested for endangering commercial aircraft
- Oversized load blamed for bridge collapse
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Iran hackers aiming at U.S. energy firms
- Lawyers release data in attempt to discredit Trayvon Martin
- Anonymous rallies behind Kaitlyn Hunt
- Bridge collapse: Part of "aging infrastructure"
- Mistrial in penalty phase of Arias case
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Interstate 5 bridge collapses north of Seattle
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11