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Top 5 Surprise Moments from the U.S. Championships

We had the “wow moments” and the tearjerkers at Nationals this year, and I think there were also a few surprises. Check out my top 5:

1. The return of Joshua Farris

I ruled him out based on his recent ankle injury and a rough showing at NHK Trophy, but man, was that a mistake. And I’m glad it was, because he is my favorite of all the men’s skaters on the scene right now. Not only does he have the jumps, but his spins, footwork, and artistry are superb. His jump entrances are also unique (and difficult). Watch his footwork sequence get a huge reaction from the crowd in his Nationals long program (which is rare in a piece as somber and quiet as Farris’ Schindler’s List long program):

The best part about his skating is that he looks so natural on the ice, as if nothing is forced. Johnny Weir pointed out in that video that Farris is a natural artist, and I couldn’t agree more. Hopefully he makes a strong showing at Worlds! I think it is entirely possible, because Farris was one double toe loop away from winning the title at Nationals. He did three double toes in combination, which is against the rules and resulted in him not earning any points for his triple lutz-double toe combination. The 7 or so points that combo would have given him would have been enough for the title. A rough lesson to learn, but one that will not be forgotten any time soon and will serve him well in the future.

2. And as a bonus surprise, Farris is also a fantastic guitar player and singer. Thanks to NBC for revealing this hidden talent:

3. Mariah Bell in 6th place for the ladies was another pleasant surprise.

I loved her when I first saw her perform live in Boston last year and was thrilled to see her put out two solid performances this year. I bet she will grow a lot before next season and hopefully get some Grand Prix assignments. I think she flies a little too far under everyone’s radar–she skates with beautiful ease and pizzazz. Watch her short program performance and just try not to smile (really, you can’t not grin while watching this):

4. Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea’s bronze medal in the pairs event

She had surgery on her right hip in July, and the commentators during the event mentioned that the pair hadn’t resumed full-time training until about a month prior to Nationals. It certainly didn’t show in their long program, and the emotion was palpable as they hit nearly all of their elements:

Quite the impressive showing for last year’s Four Continents silver medalists, and they will head to that event again this year.

5. There was some buzz surrounding 15-year-old Karen Chen (who is from the same town in California as Olympic Champion Kristi Yamaguchi) coming in to Nationals, but she still blew everyone away with a career-best performance that included six triples and earned the bronze medal. Too young to compete at the World Championships, she will go to the Junior World Championships instead. After withdrawing from Nationals last year with a broken ankle, this was a great moment for her:


Top 5 “Wow” Moments at the U.S. Championships

What a week of fantastic skating at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Since I’m pretty sure everybody knows the results by now, I’m going to do some posts on my top moments from the competition. Let’s start with the Top 5 “Wow” Moments—those performances or elements that were, quite literally, jaw-dropping.

1. Adam Rippon’s quad lutz in the long program

It’s the first element of his program in the video below and it absolutely soars:

For a skater that often struggled with consistency and living up to his potential, the rest of his program also qualifies as a wow moment. He blew everyone away with superb technical skills, beautiful spins, and fantastic skating skills en route to the silver medal.

2. Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim’s quad twist in their long program

This year’s newly crowned champions opened with a stunning quad twist. The height and technique are fantastic:

3. Madison Chock and Evan Bates’ opening lift in their free dance

They make it look so easy, but the strength and balance required from both of them in this lift is insane. NBC commentator Tara Lipinski said it took Chock and Bates weeks of practice on the floor before they even dared to try this on the ice. The work paid off as they earned their first U.S. title.

Image Source: Madison Chock, Instagram (@chockolate02)

Image Source: Madison Chock, Instagram (@chockolate02)

4. Max Aaron’s quad salchow-triple toe in his Gladiator free skate

Aaron, the eventual 4th place finisher, has the best quads in the U.S., without question. This explosive combination is reminiscent of the Yagudin-Plushenko-Goebel years, where the men were tossing off these quad-triple combos with ease:

5. Joshua Farris’ opening triple axel in his short program

Not only is this axel huge and done with great technique, but he looks so calm and relaxed going in to it, it might as well be a waltz jump. It’s also worth noting that the entry out of footwork and a one-foot change of edge ups the level of difficulty, yet he still pulls it off masterfully:

He added two more of these excellent axels in a long program that earned him the bronze medal.

As I was writing this post, I realized that all these wow moments also happened to be the opening elements in their respective programs. Looks like these skaters and their choreographers really know how to start a program out strong.

What were your favorite wow moments from Nationals?