Ice Network

Broadmoor Open jump event getting makeover

Inaugural Freezer Aerial Challenge to showcase sport's toughest jumps
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Three-time U.S. champion Michael Weiss will serve as one of the judges for the inaugural Freezer Aerial Figure Skating Challenge at the Broadmoor Open. -Getty Images

The jump event at the Broadmoor Open has always been an audience favorite. On June 25 and 26, a new jump-only competition is being introduced that promises to expand and refine the concept while adding layers of excitement for fans.

The inaugural Freezer Aerial Figure Skating Challenge will showcase current top competitors doing their toughest jumps. It will feature a celebrity host, famous judges, a 10-point Grade of Execution (GOE) scale and $30,000 total prize money.

"We want to inject something fun and new into figure skating," said Tom Zakrajsek, one of the event sponsors. "You look at the extreme sports and how popular they are, and how they show off the athleticism, like the half-pipe and aerial skiing -- I've watched that event at the Olympic Games and it's pretty exciting."

The existing jump event has always had a vibe closer to everyday training, with skaters dressed in casual clothes, talking to the crowd and to other skaters on the ice. It's a more relaxed event than most skating competitions, and the crowd gets very involved.

The new Aerial Challenge is also aiming for a fun atmosphere, partly in an effort to modernize the sport and how it's viewed. That includes the name, which was deliberately chosen to echo the aerial events in skiing. (Freezer is in reference to the event's title sponsor, Freezer Integration Consulting.)

Brian Boitano, Audrey Weisiger and Michael Weiss are some of the other sponsors of the event. To raise funds, Boitano is auctioning off a dinner that he will cook himself. Weiss, who has donated some prize money, competed in the International Skating Union's Top Jump event nearly 15 years ago, and said he thinks that kind of event is needed again.

"I think it's a great idea. In the U.S., we're continuing to fall behind, so this seems like a fun and challenging way to motivate skaters to try and improve technically," Weiss said.

Weiss will be one of the judges, and he recommended to organizers that the event be more fun and informal.

"When you watch skateboarding, people just drop in, and the judges judge it," he said. "That type of environment creates a direct competition between the athletes: Here's your quad, now I'm going to do one!"

The event will start with the Broadmoor Open jump competition June 25, which is open to U.S. and foreign skaters. Each skater has two chances to do two different jumps and a jump combination. The winners of the junior event and the top three from the senior event will be invited to participate in the Freezer Aerial Challenge the next day. There, they will compete against an invited roster of International Selection Pool skaters. YouTube personality Michael Buckley will host the event.

In the Freezer Challenge on June 26, celebrity judges, including Weiss, Rachael Flatt and other big names, will join ISU judges in assessing a GOE for each jump based on a 1-10 scale: 1 for a popped jump, 10 for an excellent jump.

Asked what it would take for him to give out a 10, Weiss was specific.

"A perfect jump for me is someone whose air position is flawless, arms and feet tight in," Weiss said. "Tons of speed going into the jump, and tons of speed coming out. Lots of height. No break at the waist on landing, a deep knee bend.

"Chengjiang Li, from China, when he did a quad toe-triple toe, would only get a +1 or +2 GOE. I was like, 'If there is a better quad toe in this planet, I would like to see it!' He'd be going 20 miles an hour going in and had so much speed coming out, he'd almost go out of the rink. That's the kind of 'wow' factor I'm looking for."

In the semifinal round, skaters will attempt three different double, triple or quadruple jumps, once each. The scores will be added, and the top five then go on to the final round, where they will compete against invited skaters. In the final round, skaters will perform a three-jump combination, a double or triple axel and one additional jump of their choice.

Scores from the final round will carry over to the championship round, in which the men will perform a triple axel combination, a quadruple of choice and a triple-triple or quadruple-triple combination. Ladies will perform a double axel-triple toe, a three-jump combination and a triple-triple combination.

In the bonus round, men will perform two quads back to back, and ladies may perform a triple axel. The combined points from the final, championship and bonus rounds will determine the winner. First place will earn $7,500, with $5,000 going to the second-place finisher and $2,500 to third. A separate backflip competition will award a prize of $1,000, and a $500 bonus will be given to the skater who achieves the highest jump/longest air time.

Zakrajsek hopes that this event will continue, and that it provides a way to extend the careers of some top athletes.

"The International Judging System is very demanding," he said. "It takes so much time, so there's got to be an alternative. Many skaters who go on to school can't do three or four sessions a day. We lose so many athletes that way. Perhaps this will be a viable way for people to stay involved in skating a little longer."

If the event is a success, Weiss thinks it could eventually be part of the Olympics.

"When you think about Olympic events, swimmers like Michael Phelps have the opportunity to win lots of medals," he said. "If this were to grow, you could have an Olympic triple axel champion or quad toe champion."