By Karen Price | Jan. 09, 2017, 12:49 p.m. (ET)
Adam Rippon performs during an exhibition at the 2016 KOSE Team Challenge Cup at Spokane Arena on April 24, 2016 in Spokane, Wash.


Defending U.S. figure skating champion Adam Rippon suffered a broken foot on Friday and will be unable to defend his title, he announced on Monday, but Rippon vowed that the setback would not deter him from his goal of competing in PyeongChang, South Korea for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

“You can mark my words,” Rippon said. “I don’t feel like I will only come back from this. I feel like I have laser focus to be much better because of this.”

Rippon delivered the news on a previously scheduled conference call, the subject of which was meant to be his preparation for the upcoming Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships being held Jan. 19-22 in Kansas City, Missouri. Instead, Rippon said that during routine off-ice warmup exercises prior to his first session of the day on Friday, he came down on his left foot and felt a crunch. 

The diagnosis is a sprained ankle and fracture of the fifth metatarsal, and although it appears right now that he won’t need surgery, the injury is expected to keep him off the ice for eight to 12 weeks. Rippon called the injury “very low on the spectrum of severity” and said it is not career-ending.

The 27-year-old native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, also said that he plans to use the time off the ice to rehabilitate some smaller injuries and work on his flexibility, conditioning and other aspects of training to which he can’t always devote the time he’d like during the offseason.

“Only my left ankle is hurt,” he said. “There’s a lot I can still work on and improve.”

Already this season, Rippon earned bronze medals both at Skate America and the Trophee de France — where he scored personal bests in both the free skate and total points — and a place in the Grand Prix Final, where he finished sixth.

Last year’s national title was his first, and Rippon was looking forward to defending it against such talent as Jason Brown and up-and-comer Nathan Chen, Rippon’s 17-year-old training partner.

“As disappointed as I am to not be in Kansas City and have the opportunity to defend my title, I’m going to be OK,” Rippon said. “U.S. Figure Skating has this campaign right now called the ‘Get Up’ campaign, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I will get up. It’s who I am, it’s what champions do and I’m a champion.”

Rippon said he will initially remain at home in Los Angeles and then after nationals head to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to continue his rehab. 

Crediting his upbringing and his mother’s influence for his positivity in the wake of this setback, Rippon believes when he comes back he’ll be more mature because of the time to reflect and focus on what he needs to do to reach his goals in the future.

Sitting on the bench near the ice immediately after the injury on Friday, he said, his first thought was simply that this will be part of his story, that he will be an Olympian and will refuse to give himself any other option than to be optimistic.

“I have 12 months before the national championships in San Jose and the Olympic Games,” Rippon said. “Twelve months is more than enough time to be prepared, especially with everything I’ve done, because when I come back I’ll have all the experience and work I’ve put in. It won’t disappear.”

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.