The gauntlet was laid down by the reigning champion Max Aaron.
'The long program sets the men apart from the boys," Aaron said Thursday night. " I have the arsenal in jump content. I have five to six points on the next highest man. I am here to skate, and see where I land." (Translation: not on my butt)
Interesting to hear the word "arsenal" as part of the figure skating venacular. The men's competition was all about the collection or supply of munitions. Quads were to rule the day.
They did and they didn't.
Jeremy Abbott landed the biggest and best quad right off the bat, and hung on for dear life from there. The leader going into the long program almost had a deduction before he started. After a long hug with coach Yuka Sato, Abbott took is time getting to his mark. A skater only has one minute to get in place after his or her name is announced and the "shot clock" was winding down. I have never heard a skating audience count it down. Abbott made by one second.
Once Abbott got going, his program was performed in a controlled methodic style. Abbott had plenty in his arsenal. Even though at times the jumps leaned, or the landings were shaky. The 28-year-old seasoned veteran, looked like fighter going ten rounds. Nobody was going to to take this from him.
The best overall performance of the day was delivered by Jason Brown. Who gave this kid the heads up on the Irish theme?
The 18-year-old from Highland Park, Illinois came dressed in the perfect color for a revved up audience. Lucky Green. If a Celtic skate is going to work anywhere, it's Boston. Jason Brown's River Dance on ice was terrific. He had me after his footwork sequence, (now aptly called steps) What is so special about his skating is how he sets up his jumps. A back spiral on a huge outside edge is a whole different thing than the standard back crossover approach. It's not about the quad for Brown- he doesn't even attempt one. It's about performance. It is so rare in the men's event to see a skater actually entertain an audience the way Brown does. It's so fun to watch. Jason Brown is figure skating's version of Springsteen. Bruce just needs to get a pony tail.
Max Aaron put the heat on his competitors, being the first of the "fab four" to skate. Performing to the familiar music from "Carmen," Aaron planned two quads instead of his standard three. He stuck the first one in combination and touched and hand down on the other. The "king of quad" has a mighty big arsenal indeed. Most impressive to me is that he was still ripping off triples in the final minute of his program. Aaron perfectly executed a triple trifecta of flip,loop and toe in less than 45 seconds with time winding down. Understand, by this time most skaters legs are burning, along with their lungs. The former hockey player skates tough, plays hard and means business. Athlete first, artist next. It works for Max Aaron.
Two time silver medalist, Ross Miner was skating for pride. After finishing a disappointing 8th in the short program, the Vermont native and Watertown resident was out of contention. His program was set to the events of Marathon Monday and the week that followed. I wasn't quite sure how this would work, or how many judges would understand the theme. The music and choreography told a terrific story, and Miner delivered with passion, grit and resolve. It was a make and miss performance with beautiful jump combinations one minute and mistakes the next. It's mostly about the jumps for the guys, and Miner missed too many.
Honorable mention goes to Wakefield's Steven Carriere. After a 12th place finish in the short program, Carierre redeemed himself with a gutsy, performance in the long. He stood up on his quad, and did a "make up" triple axel. The Boston College junior gets points from me for keeping up his course load during his intensive training. Carriere fought for every landing. From one Eagle to another, I wish Steven well. When I asked him about his future plans, he said, "Theology. First thing tomorrow."
Call me old fashioned. I don't think figure skating needs to go quad crazy. How far can the revolution evolution go? All the way to Sochi and back. That's the answer.
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