HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- Adam Rippon and Jason Brown are fully aware the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games are approaching.
Making the 2018 U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Team is at the forefront of their minds every time they step foot in the gym or onto the ice at their training rinks. Just as it was as they took the ice to compete in the men’s short program at the 2016 Skate America Saturday afternoon in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
Rippon scored 87.32 to put himself in second after the short program, while Jason Brown earned 85.75 for third. Japan’s Shoma Uno leads with 89.15.
With less than 16 months remaining until the Games, both U.S. men plan to take advantage of every opportunity they have to compete and they put their best foot forward at Skate America. Should they land on the podium after Sunday’s free skate, they would both be two-for-two in international medals this pre-Olympic season. At last month’s U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, Brown took gold and Rippon the bronze.
Brown is focused on staying healthy, which he says is his key to making his second Olympic team next season.
“I can’t make the 2018 team if I’m not healthy,” Brown said. “So I think that to me is most important. Doing it in a way that follows my plan and my coach’s plan because I’ve drilled, drilled, drilled, drilled, drilled jumps and I’ve ended up injured.”
The Road to PyeongChang marks Rippon’s third shot at making an Olympic team, and his best yet.
“I think not qualifying for the Olympics in 2014, it stung,” Rippon said. “I took that experience and I learned from it, and I realized I can’t focus on what other competitors are doing.”
The 26-year-old had several breakthrough performances last season, when he won his first national title and finished sixth (tying his career-best finish) at world championships.
At the men’s short program press conference Saturday, Rippon spoke about how he has watched men’s skating change throughout his career.
“I skated in 2010 when Evan Lysacek won the Olympics with two triple axels,” he explained. “I skated when one (quadruple jump) would be enough to win a world championships. And now I’m skating where four quads and three quads are almost required to be on the world podium.”
Rippon did not perform a quad in his short program at Sears Centre Arena, but is hoping to add it later in the season.
Instead, he is relying on his performance ability.
“I’m going to do what I can to the best of my ability, and I’m going to perform the hell out of it because I want people to be on their feet,” Rippon said of his approach to the sport.
His siblings, who are not skaters, helped him realize that he needs to perform for the non-skaters who don’t understand the difference between a triple axel and a quadruple lutz.
“All they know is I went out there in a tank top today and it went really well,” he said. “So that’s what I want to show the audience. I want people to get involved and say, ‘I love this performer.’ I love performing. That’s why I’m out there. I’m enjoying what I’m doing.”
Brown, though five years Rippon’s junior, serves as an inspiration for him.
“I look to my countrymen, especially someone like Jason who does all of the elements at such a high quality and he gets rewarded for it,” Rippon said.
Brown’s score would have been higher had he not missed his grab on a camel spin, an uncharacteristic mistake. He even attempted a quad, though he was unable to land it.
“I attacked, and that was my biggest goal because if you attack, you know you learn the most from that – hit or miss,” Brown said.
The quad has been Brown’s foe for several years now, as a clean quad continues to escape him, but he plans to continue putting them in his programs, including in Sunday’s free skate, and is confident he will land it soon.
“I really take it as motivation and I want to do the best that I can. I want a quad in my program. I’m determined to integrate it into the program, and I can’t wait to come to the media mixed zone once I complete it in competition. It’s going to be a big victory and so I’m excited about that.”