Ice Network

Money, bragging rights on line at aerial challenge

Broadmoor jump competition brings back memories for Meissner, Flatt
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Max Aaron is one of the favorites to take home the top prize in the Freezer Aerial Figure Skating Challenge. -Getty Images

When Kimmie Meissner was asked to be a celebrity judge for the inaugural Freezer Aerial Figure Skating Challenge, she jumped at the opportunity.

"I said yes right away," Meissner said. "I would've loved to have been in this competition back when I was training. I love the whole idea: a little pressure, a little money on the line. I think it's great."

Although jump competitions have been held at the Broadmoor Open in the past, this is the first time that an event of this magnitude -- complete with an auction, sponsors and $30,000 in prize money -- will be taking place. In this competition, there will be no spins, no footwork, no transitions -- just jumps, with skaters trying to out-do each other with various triple-triple combinations and quads. (There will also be a separate backflip event.)

Icenetwork will provide FREE on-demand video, photos and news from the Freezer Aerial Figure Skating Challenge, which is set for Friday at the Colorado Springs World Arena.

Meissner, who became the second American woman to land a triple axel in competition (the first, of course, being Tonya Harding), said she loved having similar, but far less organized, "events" at practices during her training days at the University of Delaware. Back then, she and Shaun Rogers -- her good friend and training mate -- often would engage in jump competitions of their own.

"It was all about bragging rights in the rink," Meissner said with a laugh. "Shaun and I used to get into competitions all the time. He would win a lot of them, I will give him that. But I do remember one time when we did a competition with triple axel-triple toes. I got to about six or seven of them, and then he either fell or stepped out of one. I kept saying that that was probably one of the best jumping days of my life."

Even during warmups for shows or tours, such as Stars on Ice, Meissner said skaters would compete with one another to see who could land the most and the hardest jumps. She said she often "battled" with Evan Lysacek in practices.

"I would see skaters who hadn't tried triple flips or triple loops in years all of a sudden start practicing them," Meissner said. "We're competitors."

Meissner, the 2006 world champion, will be joined on the judging panel by three-time U.S. champion Michael Weiss and U.S. champion Rachael Flatt.

Flatt, a recent Stanford graduate who continues to live and coach in the Palo Alto, California, area, was known for her triple-triples as a competitor. Like Meissner, she, too, participated in some end-of-session "competitions" at her practice rink -- which just so happened to be the Broadmoor.

"It was so much fun, not only to do this kind of stuff but to watch," Flatt said. "(Coach) Tom [Zakrajsek] used to have these jump sheets and would keep track of completions. Sometimes guys would goof around and do up to 20 double toes in a row. I remember I once did 15 or 16 double loops. I just went back and forth across the rink. I had to stop because I was laughing so hard."

Flatt competed in the jump events previously held at the Broadmoor. The hardest combination she remembers landing at one of them is a triple lutz-triple loop.

"I might have done a triple lutz-triple toe-triple loop," Flatt said. 

Max Aaron, who lives in Colorado Springs and trains at the World Arena, said he might try a quad loop.

"I'm up for anything," said Aaron, who has landed two quads in his free skate at each of the last three U.S. championships. "A quad loop, I wouldn't mind trying one. I have landed it a few times."

Aaron has trained with the likes of Brandon Mroz, the first skater to land a quad lutz, and has practiced with Patrick Chan and Jeremy Abbott throughout his career.

"I'm looking forward to this event," Aaron said. "There will be lots of guys trying to show each other up, but it will be a friendly rivalry."

Other top men entered are reigning U.S. champion Jason Brown, who trains just 20 minutes away in Monument; Brown's training mate, Jordan Moeller; and Richard Dornbush, who is based in Southern California. Sochi Olympian Polina Edmunds, Mariah Bell and Tyler Pierce are among the ladies entrants.

"A jump competition like this is good for the sport because it allows us skaters to have a little bit of healthy competition, while at the same time providing a fun atmosphere and showing the audience and judges the jumping skills each skater has," said Edmunds, who first participated in the jump event at the Broadmoor when she was about 10.

Kori Ade, who coaches Brown, Moeller, Bell and Pierce, is looking forward to the competition, likening it to a free-throw contest. 

"I'm excited because this is about executing jumps and demonstrating consistency," Ade said. "It's a tough time in the season to show that, but I think it's exciting and fun, and it's also about the camaraderie.

"This is a tangible thing for skaters. There's empathy among the skaters. There's no gray area in this type of event, like maybe the scores were different because of artistry. If you land a jump, you land it. If you fall, you fall.

"They're going into this as a new, cool opportunity, and I think they're thinking, 'How can we contribute more positive energy into the sport?'"

Deep down, Meissner wishes she could lace up her skates Friday.

"That's the big secret," Meissner said with a laugh. "I'm going to go out there and do a triple axel. It will be my big reveal."