January 28, 2013 in Sports

Upstart Aaron wins first U.S. figure skating title

Nancy Armour Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Max Aaron celebrates after finishing his free skate program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. His stellar performance in the free skate boosted him from fourth place to first.
(Full-size photo)

OMAHA, Neb. – 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. 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.

Aaron’s spins were excellent, so fast and tightly centered he was practically a blur. He jazzed up his footwork with high kicks and hops.

Miner is skating with more polish and assertiveness than ever before. Every element in his program, to the old “Captain Blood” movie, was finished to perfection.

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.

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