Rippon debuts new free -- with Arutunian's blessingCarroll lends eye to Brown's jumps; Dolensky bares skin for photo shoot
Adam Rippon returned from the Japan Open early this month with a big surprise for his coach, Rafael Arutunian. With just two weeks to go before leaving for Skate America, he wanted a new free skate.
Arutunian wasn't about to argue with Rippon, but he did gloat a bit.
"I just said, 'You know, Adam, that's a very good idea,'" Arutunian said. "And this program is much better. I was against the other program (set to Stateless' "Bloodstream") right away when he brought it. And I told him very softly, and I just waited until whenever judges would say it was not good enough. And then I said, 'Remember, I told you so, but I was not pushing you.'"
Rippon, too, is confident in his decision to scratch "Bloodstream" -- "The criticism was the music plateaued too much," he said -- in favor of a medley of "Arrival of the Birds"/"Exodus" by Cinematic Orchestra and Coldplay's "O." Dancer Benji Schwimmer choreographed both routines. Rippon skated to "O" in shows this summer.
"I really love this program ("O"), and I wanted to use it, and I was thinking of using it next season," the skater said. "But I talked to some friends and I thought, 'If I have a really good idea, you never know what can happen. I have to use it now and if I do, maybe I will get an even better idea (for the Olympic season).' I had to seize the moment, use what I thought would be the better program."
So as soon as he got back from Japan, he and Schwimmer were on the phone, arranging time to change up the choreography.
"I know it's within my realm, to pull off changing a program with a week and a half between events," Rippon said. "But I was smart about it, I kept the layout relatively the same. I felt like that way I wouldn't lose anything from all that training (for) muscle memory I put in over the summer. It was all still there; I just rearranged a few things, and if I can't move a few things in a week and a half, it's time to reconsider."
Carroll lends Brown's coaches another pair of eyes
When Jason Brown went to California to train with Frank Carroll this summer, rumors started to swirl that the skater had left longtime coach Kori Ade.
Ade found herself being approached by colleagues offering their condolences.
"They'd say, 'Oh, I'm so sorry,'" Ade said. "I didn't know what they meant. Then it hit me: Jason was in California with Frank. And I'd say, 'Hey, it's fine. I've been out there to see him a few times. We've been together 16 years, and we talk about everything."
Having Brown spend part of the offseason training elsewhere is nothing new, Ade noted. Earlier in his career, he left their training home in suburban Chicago to work with Anthony Liu in Lake Arrowhead, California.
"It's what we've always done, get another set of eyes, another approach, new inspiration," Ade said. "And it was the right move, definitely."
Carroll spent the bulk of his time with Brown working on his jumps.
"He is such a great performer. He has such great, lovely line and style and feeling to music, I didn't have to go there," he said. "And he's a wonderful boy, like a puppy, just so anxious to please.
"I did work on the finish of the jumps, and trying to get him out of things quicker and on axis. We worked on specific technical things, mostly on quickness, and specific things the body has to do on the jumps."
Brown appreciated Carroll's point of view, which is a bit different than that of Ade and Rohene Ward, his other coach (and choreographer) in Monument, Colorado.
"He's very old school, in the sense of (wanting) a classic look," Brown said. "He's very particular about the landing positions, when it comes to the stillness going into your jumps. Rohene, especially, wants all these crazy transitions going into the jumps. Frank will have me do the crazy transitions but have the stillness and control he is looking for, whether I land the jump or not."
On occasion, the veteran coach also dosed out some tough love.
"What's cool is he picks up on different things," Brown said. "Because Kori and Rohene see my programs every day, they know what to expect. If I am super tired one day and I do something wrong, they'll say, 'We know you're tired, forget about the toe point.' Frank doesn't see me as much. I can't get away with as much. He'll say, 'This is what I expect of you.'"
Having the infectiously positive Brown around was a mood booster for Gracie Gold. Now that her twin sister, Carly, has retired, Gold has only Japan's Daisuke Murakami as a regular training partner. If Murakami is in Japan, she trains alone with Carroll.
"When Jason is there, a couple of weeks in the summer, we had that fun motivation," Gold said. "He just has that kind of radiant (personality), I'm sure everyone feels it. It's so constant, by the end of the week, it's almost tiring."
Dolensky proud to be SKATING cover star
Like Brown, Timothy Dolensky is working to successfully add quads to his programs. At Skate America, he plans a quad salchow in his free skate, set to music from Chopin.
"It's not consistent enough for the short program," said Dolensky, seventh in the U.S. last season. "The bottom line is, I need a clean short. I need to feel more comfortable with the quad, and it's not quite there yet."
Something Dolensky is quite comfortable with is posing for the camera. The 24-year-old from Kennesaw, Georgia, was one of 25 skaters who participated in SKATING magazine's #ShowMeHealthy photo shoot during Champs Camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in late August, and one of his skin-baring photos was chosen for the cover. He's also the star of the feature article, offering healthy lifestyle tips to readers.
"When we got into the photo shoots, we said, 'We're going to pick the best photo for the cover,'" said Troy Schwindt, editor of SKATING. "We had no pre-conceived idea of who that might be. Tim takes a lot of pride in his physique, and when he came into the room, we all said, 'Wow.'"
Dolensky, who credits his defined musculature to body weight core circuit training, enjoys the extra attention.
"It's kind of surreal, I still can't really believe it," he said. "We got an email that said [posing] was optional, and I said, 'Sure, I'll do it.' And I guess they liked mine the best."