Ice Network

Maturing Uno hits new high at Skate America

Masterful Brown, solid Rippon cap weekend with silver, bronze
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The men's medalists (L-R): Silver medalist Jason Brown, gold medalist Shoma Uno and bronze medalist Adam Rippon. -Getty Images

Jason Brown landed a quadruple toe loop, and Adam Rippon's new free skate soared on a broken wing, but it was the diminutive Shoma Uno who overshadowed both U.S. men with a technically packed yet stylish free skate that won Skate America and marked him as a serious threat for the world podium.

The Japanese teenager may be small -- he's listed at 5-foot-2 -- but he skated big, and with the smoky intensity required from his program set to Astor Piazzolla tangos.

Within the first few seconds, he landed a quadruple flip and a quad toe loop, racking up more than 26 points. Another quad toe and four triple jumps followed in the program's second half, with his only major error coming on a fall on an under-rotated triple axel. His 190.19-point free gave him 279.34 points total, a new personal best, and he defeated Brown by almost 11 points.

"This title means more to me than others, because I really won it by how well I skated, not because other skaters made mistakes," Uno said through an interpreter.

Truer words were never spoken, because Brown's free skate -- choreographed by Rohene Ward to music from The Piano -- was superb. He opened with a smoothly landed quad -- a jump he has been chasing for several seasons -- and then used spirals, spins and steps to highlight the music's intensity and give his eight triple jumps, including two solid triple axels and a triple flip-triple toe combination, meaning. He earned 182.63 points, a new personal best, and finished with 268.38 points.

"I wanted to stay in the moment as much as possible, and just perform, perform, perform," Brown said. "I expressed myself in a different way, because the music is slower, but I showed more emotion than I ever have."

The 2015 U.S. champion, famous for his ebullient personality, fought to control his emotions after landing the elusive quad.

"It was kind of one of those dazed moments," Brown said. "I was so focused. I said, 'I'm going to attack it,' and suddenly I'm on one foot and I didn't have to fight for the landing. I thought, 'Oh my God, this is happening,' and then I thought, 'Wait! You're competing right now.'"

The news that the technical panel judged the quad under-rotated hardly dampened Brown's enthusiasm.

"You know, it's still a victory, I won't look at it one way or the other," he said. "I'm obviously not going to fight the panel -- they give what they give -- but I don't look at it as anything other than a victory today."

For Kori Ade, who coaches Brown in Monument, Colorado, the moment was no surprise.

"It didn't make my heart skip a beat, or anything dramatic like that," she said. "Obviously, with something like a quad, it can be just as much emotional as it could be physical. There was no doubt in my mind athletically he could get it done; I just wanted to see him emotionally be able to control and be deliberate in his actions and, obviously, consistent in his confidence."

Brown has also worked on the quadruple salchow, with Ade judging its consistency about the same as Brown's toe. It may appear in the skater's program later this season.

"We will look at things before NHK Trophy (Brown's next event)," she said. "Jason and I both like to look at the year in small segments and plan for the immediate future in terms of tactical choices. In the next five weeks, we'll decide whether it's appropriate now or later, but it's coming."

Rippon fell on his opening quad toe, which was judged fully rotated by the technical panel. Every other element -- including a triple flip-triple toe combination and two triple axels, as well as intricate steps -- was done to near perfection. His trademark Rippon triple lutz capped the engaging program, and he earned 174.11 points to finish with a 261.43-point total.

"I did a fully rotated quad -- I'm pleased with that -- but the goal is definitely to land it," Rippon said. "I have a few things I need to work on heading into the Grand Prix in Paris but more importantly for nationals. I want to improve the overall quality of everything, land that clean quad and hopefully add another."

The program is less than two weeks old: Rippon scrapped his "Bloodstream" free skate after the Japan Open early this month, in favor of a medley to "Arrival of the Birds" and Coldplay's "O" that he has nicknamed "the bird program."

"I'm the leader of the flock, and in the beginning of the program, my wing is broken," he said. "When the Coldplay comes on, I'm thinking about my broken wing and waiting for it to heal and trying to fly.

"I feel like I'm connecting to this music," he continued. "I'm really pleased with my choice. I think it says a lot about my training that I was able to change it with a week and a half before the event, and skate well."

Russia's Sergei Voronov, winner of the Ondrej Nepela Memorial earlier this season, had a strong program including a quad toe and two triple axels to place fourth. World bronze medalist Boyang Jin of China recovered from a fall-ridden short program to land a quad lutz in his free skate and place fifth.

Timothy Dolensky, seventh in the U.S. last season, opened his free skate to "Sometimes I Dream" by doubling his planned quad salchow. He also struggled with a triple lutz, but he landed two triple axels and, as usual, impressed with his Level 4 spins. He finished eighth with 226.53 points.

"Rough start, but I was really pleased how I settled in after that and finished the program pretty strongly," Dolensky said. "I was a little tight in the beginning. It's difficult when you double your first element mentally, because you have the whole rest of the program to go at that point."