SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Adam Rippon waited exactly one year for his day of reckoning to arrive, but that day didn’t pan out the way he had planned.
“I actually broke my foot a year ago today, and I skated a little bit like it was still broken,” Rippon said jokingly.
Knowing he would compete his free skate at the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships exactly a year to the day after suffering a sprained ankle and fracture of the fifth metatarsal, Rippon, always with a flair for the dramatic, couldn’t wait to complete his comeback story.
The broken foot caused him to withdraw from the 2017 U.S. championships and miss out on a chance to defend the national title he earned the previous year.
Entering Saturday night’s free skate in second, Rippon was halfway to fulfilling the headline he had dreamed about: Rippon Returns From Broken Foot, Makes Olympic Team On Third Try. But that vision unraveled rather quickly.
Rippon’s free skate started out with an fall on his quadruple lutz. Minutes later, he under-rotated a triple toeloop, then followed it up directly with a single salchow (instead of a planned triple) and a single lutz (again instead of a triple).
“For what I did today, I take full responsibility,” Rippon told the media after his performance. “I felt really good this whole week… On the first quad lutz, I felt like I was losing my right foot a little bit and I just let that feeling get the best of me towards the end, I just felt like it was gone.”
The 28-year-old dropped to fourth overall, leaving his status as one of the three men expected to be selected to the 2018 U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Team in question. Rippon had tried for the 2010 and 2014 Olympic teams as well, and seemed to have his best shot – by far – for PyeongChang.
Nathan Chen, 18, successfully defended his national title, landing five quads in his free skate, with a total score of 315.23. Ross Miner, 26, was the upset star of the night, rising from sixth after the short to take silver with a total of 274.51. Seventeen-year-old Vincent Zhou, also previously out of podium position with a fifth-place performance two nights prior, landed four quads of his own (before falling on the fifth) to secure bronze with a 273.83.
Rippon’s final score was 268.34.
Also falling down the results list (and on the ice) was 23-year-old Jason Brown, the only Olympian in the field.
In third after the short, Brown started his free skate with a fall on his quad toeloop, followed by two under-rotated triple jumps. He later singled a planned triple toeloop, then singled a double toeloop.
The 2014 Olympic team bronze medalist was sixth in the free and overall with a total of 253.68.
“I’m disappointed, it’s that simple,” he said. “I came in knowing I’m capable of so much more. I’m definitely disappointed in the skate that I put out but I know I’m going to continue getting stronger from this event and continue moving forward with the most positive attitude I can.”
While the Olympic team looked like it would be Chen, Rippon and Brown entering the night – based on their performances in the short and their skating resumes – which two skaters will join Chen, the Grand Prix Final champion, on the Olympic team is anybody’s guess after two of the favorites had disappointing performances and Miner and Zhou used the opportunity as their time to shine.
Now a selection committee meets to choose the team, while looking at the athletes’ performances at three set tiers of events from the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. The team is announced Sunday morning.
Both Rippon and Brown, consistently two of the country’s top men’s skaters over the past quadrennial, are at ease with the wait.
“It’s out of my control,” Brown said. “I’ve really given everything I can to the selection committee that I am a worthy contender, getting three spots for the men’s team with Nathan at worlds, being here. I think the whole season I’ve really put out strong performances; I know I’ve had a few weird ones, but I’m consistent and solid – fingers crossed!”
“I knew that there was a criteria set to be selected to the Olympic team. I feel like I have better criteria than second and third place here, but with that being said Vincent and Ross skated very well tonight and no matter what the selection is, I will be 100 percent OK and can handle that,” Rippon said.
“No matter what, I feel like a champion,” he added later.
While San Jose did not end as planned for either skater, Rippon is confident he deserves a spot on the team – and that his results show it.
“Oh yeah, I’m second – no question,” Rippon said when asked if he had been keeping track of the other skaters’ performances in the tiered events. “My grand prixs are better than everybody except Nathan. My tier ones are I had a bad U.S. championships, but I qualified for the Grand Prix Final, and I wasn’t at the world championships last year because I had a broken foot.”
Brown on the other hand, while still hopeful he is chosen to go to PyeongChang, seemed to already be handling the possibility of missing out on his second Games, resigned to the hope he receives other international assignments.
“We’ll see what comes with the selection tonight and see where that goes,” Brown said. “Next is you look at the next four years and you take it one event at a time. So if I get to compete in another event later this season, like Four Continents or if I get another assignment, then prepare the best that I can for that but besides that it’s really just staying focused and be the best that I can be in the years coming up.”
Tier 1 for the Olympic team includes the 2018 U.S. championships, the 2017 Grand Prix Final and 2017 world championships. Tier 2 events are the 2017 grand prix series and 2017 Four Continents, while the third tier includes 2017 Challenger Series events, the 2017 nationals, 2017 world junior championships and 2017 junior Grand Prix Final.
While Chen is considered a lock based on his 2017 and 2018 U.S. titles, 2017 Grand Prix Final gold, golds at both his 2017 grand prix assignments and for being the top American at last year’s worlds, here is where the remaining four contestants stand:
Brown was sixth at the 2018 nationals, sixth at the Grand Prix Final (after being called up as first alternate), seventh at the 2017 world championships (second highest American), second and fourth at his grand prixs, sixth at Four Continents, second at a Challenger Series event and third at the 2017 U.S. championships.
Miner was second at the 2018 nationals, sixth at his one grand prix assignment this season, fifth at last year’s U.S. championships, and fifth and sixth at two Challenger Series events this season.
Rippon was fourth at the 2018 nationals, fifth at the Grand Prix Final, second at both his grand prixs and third at a Challenger Series event in 2017.
Zhou was third at the 2018 nationals, fourth and ninth at his grand prix events, second at a Challenger Series event, first at junior worlds and second at the 2017 U.S. championships.