Ice Network

Aaron plans whirlwind holiday weekend in New York

Skater joins Scimeca Knierim, Knierim for show at Rink at Brookfield Place
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Max Aaron will skate a new short program, to "La Virgen de la Macarena," at next month's U.S. championships. -Getty Images

Max Aaron has traveled to some faraway places in his figure skating career, including Tallinn (Estonia), Moscow and Beijing just this fall. But he's never hit the streets of New York City -- until this weekend.

"Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, I know they're in New York a lot," Aaron joked. "Maybe I'll get lucky and see a few celebrities."

The U.S. silver medalist, along with fellow Colorado Springs residents Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, flies to Manhattan on Friday evening for a holiday weekend highlighted by performances at the Rink at Brookfield Place, a picturesque outdoor rink in Lower Manhattan nestled near upscale restaurants, hotels and shops. The rink's directors, Olympic ice dancers Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov, will also perform in the free show, "Magic of Beauty," on Sunday at 6 p.m.

"Rehearsals are late on Saturday, so we have one full day free, and I want to go to a lot of different places: Fifth Avenue, Soho, the Financial District," Aaron said. "I'm going to get it done."

It's a rare weekend away from the Olympic Training Center (OTC), where Aaron lives while training under coach Tom Zakrajsek at nearby Broadmoor World Arena. He isn't going home for the holidays, although he hopes parents Neil and Mindy make the drive up from Scottsdale, Arizona, to visit.

"Some athletes stay at the OTC through the holidays, and sometimes we all get together for dinner, which is a lot of fun," he added. "We're all in the same boat -- living there because we want to be the best, to be Olympians. There are sacrifices that sometimes need to be made, and this is one."

He also hopes to celebrate Hanukkah with friendly rival Jason Brown.

"I think Jason will be around...maybe we can do something together," Aaron said. "We're the only two Jewish people at the Olympic training site. There were two (Jewish) interns this semester, but they are leaving this Friday, so now it's just us."

Beyond daydreams of Hadid and Jenner, Aaron's thoughts are occupied by his new short program, choreographed by Phillip Mills to "La Virgen de la Macarena" ("The Bullfighter's Song"). He may perform the program at Brookfield Place on Sunday.

"I've been struggling with the ("Nessun Dorma") short all season," Aaron admitted. "It was time to take a different approach, play a different character, and that's what we did."

"I did what I usually do: came up with a bunch of options, went on the ice and skated to them. Something about this (music) stood out to me, and I took on the role very quickly. Now we're in the phase of designing the costume. I have a really neat idea for it, but I can't say it yet because it might not come true."

After Cup of China in late November, Mills flew to Colorado Springs and choreographed the new program in a day and a half.

"I told him, 'I just want you to be who you are. You're strong, you're fast, you're powerful -- let's trade on those three assets in your skating'," Mills said. "I thought it was a great idea he had. I did it as a very strict, classic paso doble. It's all there: the Spanish port de bras (arm carriage), the stomping and clapping."

Aaron is also targeting another relative weak point: his spins.

"This season has been horrendous with the spinning, and it's really embarrassing," he said. "I need all Level 4s and better GOEs (Grades of Execution). I have a lesson (with Janet Champion) every single day now, as opposed to two times a week. I feel more confident. I've watched a lot of tape, and the spins look a lot better, more appealing to the eye."

The 2013 U.S. champion, who usually kicks off the season in high gear, felt like he was playing catch-up this fall after undergoing hernia surgery in late May.

 "I didn't want to talk about it because I didn't want anyone to say, 'Oh, it's OK, you had surgery.' I had it and I needed it, and let's move on from there," he said. "But I didn't know how difficult it was going to be to get the core muscles engaged again, get everything firing again. It took a little longer than I expected, and it spilled over into the season."

Aaron was especially disappointed with his bronze-medal finishes at two Challenger Series events early this fall, as well as his short programs at Rostelecom Cup and Cup of China, where he placed fifth and fourth, respectively.

Now, he thinks he's back on track.

"My stomach feels great, my muscles are firing, my flexibility is coming back in my stomach muscles," he said. "It is what it is, and I'm just happy to be back to where I was. This is the situation I am in, and I just can't wait to get to Kansas City (site of the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships)."

He and Zakrajsek have been training the quad toe, hoping to add it to his free skate at the U.S. championships next month.

"I wanted to do it this fall, (but) in the beginning of the season, I could not get to that point," he said. "I feel better now, so I am running programs with three quads in the long. I want to continue on this path and when we get to nationals, if things are going better, I'd love to see it through."