Promoting His Sport To The Max
|(L-R) Evan Lysacek, Ashley Wagner, Max Aaron, Gracie Gold, Jeremy
Abbott and Agnes Zawadzki participate in a figure skating press
conference on Sept. 30, 2013 at the 2013 Team USA Media Summit.
PARK CITY, Utah – It is 7:14 a.m. and Max Aaron already has had breakfast, gotten into his figure skating costume and skates, and at the moment, he is jumping on a plastic surface in a hotel meeting room.
Sports Illustrated photographer Simon Bruty was clicking away as Aaron did his best to jump as high as he can for the camera.
“Excellent job, mate,” Bruty said. “But can you do that again? Just move back a little bit.”
Aaron does jump again and again.
“I’m jumping as high as I can,” Aaron said.
“Now can you do the splits?” Bruty asked.
To which Aaron laughs and offers to do a different pose instead.
“You’re doing great,” Bruty said before adding, “especially for 7:15 in the morning.”
It’s just the start of an incredibly busy day for Aaron, the reigning U.S. figure skating champion, who is just one of 100 U.S. athletes who have gathered in Park City, Utah, for the U.S. Olympic Committee’s 2013 Team USA Media Summit. Athletes, many of whom are training for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, are here to do media interviews and photo shoots with roughly 350 media members who, like the athletes, are preparing for the Winter Games as well.
Many of the stories that Olympic fans will read in glossy magazines such as Sports Illustrated and US Weekly and see on TV shows, from morning news programs to “Access Hollywood” between now and when the cauldron is lit at the Winter Games, will come from interviews and photo shoots that happened in Utah this week.
So that’s why, even though Aaron’s day has been hectic — he had just a 20-minute break for lunch (“It was actually more of a snack,” he said) and had to put in a full day of training on Sunday so he could be in Utah to attend the summit today — he knows that it is well worth it.
Not to mention that he had a lot of fun along the way.
In addition to doing the early-morning photo shoot for Sports Illustrated, Aaron did a slew of other interviews, including one news conference with fellow skaters Jeremy Abbott, Gracie Gold, Evan Lysacek, Ashley Wagner and Agnes Zawadzki.
Throughout the day, he was shuttled from one interview to the next, answering questions for a variety of TV programs and magazines. At one point, Aaron was even asked to play the drums for one interview and said that was one of the highlights of a very unusual day at the office.
The hard part of preparing for a day such as this is that each media outlet is seeking different types of information from each athlete. Some reporters focused on Aaron as a skater, asking him questions such as this: How many quads will he attempt in a program? (The answer: His plan is to do three in the free skate.) Others were more interested him as a former top hockey player. (He was a top developmental player for USA Hockey before making figure skating his full-time sport.) And still others needed him to do what are referred to in the business as “lifestyle” interviews in which reporters would ask him about his workout regimen (He can squat 315 pounds.) and how well can he drum. (He did that pretty seriously from the time he was in fifth grade until he was in eighth grade.)
He had been hoping he would get a chance to take a photo with U.S. track Olympian Lolo Jones, who is trying to make the U.S. Olympic Team as a bobsledder in Sochi. Alas, he did not get that photo, but he was excited that he got a chance to sit in a bobsled. Because bobsled athletes were invited to the media summit as well, there were bobsleds available for photo shoots and Aaron hopped in one during the day.
Because there were so many different interviews with so many different requests, Aaron was constantly changing his outfit to meet the needs of the various media outlets. So he toted around a small bag of clothing to make the various accommodations. Some media wanted him photographed in his figure skating costume (He brought his black outfit that he plans on wearing when he skates his long program to music from “Carmen.”) For other interviews, he sported a Team USA sweatshirt and jeans. For others, he wore regular street clothes.
|Figure skater Max Aaron performs at a demonstration event for
members of the media on Sept. 30, 2013 in Park City, Utah.
By about 3 p.m., when he had finished yet another round of photo shoots and was off to meet with folks from US Weekly, Aaron appeared to still be going strong. Still, he knew his day was far from done.
“There’s no end to this day is there?” Aaron said as he scooted off yet again.
Later in the day, at about 5 p.m., Aaron was getting prepped for a TV interview with Fox Sports 1. What made this interview different from the rest is that the interviewer was none other than Michelle Kwan. Although Aaron had met Kwan, the nine-time U.S. champion and two-time Olympic medalist, in brief meetings before, he had never had a sit down chat with the skating legend until this moment.
The interview took place in a hotel room filled with producers and cameramen. With Kwan sitting in one chair and Aaron across from her, she asked him questions ranging from his preparations for the upcoming Winter Games to his work on his choreography.
Afterward, he waked out of the hotel room and said, “That was truly neat. I remember meeting her once at a Champions on Ice show and always admired her. But to sit down and share my passion for the sport with her … wow. I have to say that was really neat. I’m glad they recorded it because maybe I can show it to my mom.”
Following that memorable interview, he left for a quick dinner. His schedule allotted for a 25-minute meal, and then he had to head over to the Park City Ice Arena to record an on-ice segment for “The Pete Holmes Show.” Holmes is a stand-up comedian who is going to have his own show on TBS beginning Oct. 28.
By 7:45 p.m. — more than 12 hours after his first photo shoot with Sports Illustrated — he is back in his costume and on the ice preparing to do an exhibition skate in front of the perhaps the toughest judges in the world, the media.
He was about to skate but the music started at the wrong moment. Although he was tired from a long day, his good humor remained intact.
“He’s icing the kicker,” Aaron shouted to the crowd of reporters in the stands.
Although he fell on his opening quad toe loop, he landed two quad Salchows and waved to the crowd. Not bad for a guy who skipped a day of training.
Almost as soon as stepped off the ice, he went to change his clothes and do the last interview of the day, with The Boston Globe. The 2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships will be held in Boston in January and the newspaper knows Aaron will be a big story at that event. It is in Boston, after all, where Aaron will find out if he has indeed achieved his dream of becoming an Olympian.
The interview ended at about 9 p.m., and it was only then that Aaron had finished his media obligations.
He’s tired, but then again, it isn’t every day he gets to do something like this.
“The day was awesome,” said Aaron as he was about to leave the rink and call it a day. “I had so much fun. It was great to see all these athletes here and to see all of them with so much passion for their sport.”
At 6:45 a.m. Tuesday morning, Aaron was scheduled to return to the Salt Lake City airport for his return to Colorado Springs, Colo., where he lives and trains. He would leave behind one city that had hosted a Winter Games. And he hoped that his day here was part of a road that would lead to another Olympic city in Sochi.
Amy Rosewater is a freelance writer and editor for TeamUSA.org. A former sports reporter for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, she has covered two Olympic Games and two Olympic Winter Games. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.