Of all my Nationals predictions posts, this is the one I’ve agonized over the most. I’m still waffling about who to put where as I type this, actually. But if I’m going to make predictions, I’ve got to get them in before the event starts, no? So let’s go.
This event will really come down to who skates clean. I had at least six guys on my list of potential podium finishers, and there are more than that in this field—provided they deliver the goods. There were not a lot of clean performances on the Grand Prix this fall, and frequent mistakes have kept a lot of promising U.S. men’s skaters off the national podium and the world team in recent years. Adam Rippon was the U.S. silver medalist in 2012 but hasn’t made a return to the podium. Richard Dornbush was 2nd the last time this event was held in Greensboro, in 2011, but hasn’t repeated. Both are in the field again this year and could easily be podium finishers with clean performances. Basically, there are a lot of “ifs” for me in this event, but here is how I think it will go:
- Max Aaron
- Jason Brown
- Richard Dornbush
- Jeremy Abbott
- Nathan Chen
Yes, in the spirit of indecision, I added the 5th place finisher. This lineup is just that close! There has been a lot of hype surrounding last year’s U.S. Junior Champion Chen leading up to these Nationals. I think he’ll give a solid performance, but I read on Ice Network this morning that he is fighting a heel injury, so he may not make it to the podium in his first senior season. He was also U.S. Junior Champion in 2012, did not successfully defend his title in 2013 (he settled for bronze), and then came back last year to take the title. I would wager that he learned a lot about handling pressure and expectation through those experiences, and that will serve him well this year.
Jason Brown is the most consistent of the field and, without question, has the “complete package” in terms of artistry and technique. But his lack of a quad gives me pause and I think Aaron’s two quads will lift him to a second U.S. title. Brown can survive without a quad when some of these other guys make mistakes, but many of them have two in their long program. If they hit those quads, Brown may be in trouble. That said, his components scores will definitely keep him in the medal race.
Jeremy Abbott tends to peak at Nationals, so he also can’t be counted out. Unfortunately, his father recently passed away, which could understandably affect his performances here. My thoughts and prayers are with Jeremy and his family.
I put Dornbush in 3rd. As I mentioned during the Grand Prix, I love his style and if he combines that with a clean performance he could have a shot at the title. He blew everyone away in the short program last year in Boston, but then couldn’t hold it together in the long, so he’ll have to avoid that this year. He had a subpar Grand Prix season, but attributed some of his mistakes to an overly jam-packed schedule—he was taking three advanced physics classes at UC San Diego. With that off his plate, I anticipate a focused performance.
I’m excited to watch all of the events this weekend but I think this might be the one I’m anticipating most, because it really could be anyone’s game. If there are lots of mistakes it could be a bit of letdown, so let’s hope everybody brings their a-game and see where the chips fall. Happy watching!