Ice Network

Skaters display jumping talents at Aerial Challenge

Bradley's Brawlers claim team title at third annual event in Colorado
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Led by captain Ryan Bradley, Bradley's Brawlers won the team title at the 2017 Aerial Figure Skating Challenge. -Sora Hwang

Featuring a new format and high-quality live Facebook stream, the third annual Aerial Figure Skating Challenge delighted fans at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs -- as well as those watching around the world online.

The first part of the event was held June 23 and mostly followed the format of previous years. Ten male skaters and 19 women competed for prize money and wild card spots for the team event, which was held the following day.

The men's event featured Max Aaron, Alex Krasnozhon, Tim Dolensky, Jordan Moeller, Jimmy Ma, Camden Pulkinen and Emmanuel Savary; the women's field consisted of Mirai Nagasu, Courtney Hicks, Paige Rydberg, Angela Wang, Starr Andrews, Ashley Lin and Livvy Shilling.

The scoring, unique to the event, was a combination of the technical element score for the jump, plus a Grade of Execution based on a scale of 1 to 10. Scores were handed out by a panel of ISU judges and celebrity judges, including Todd Eldredge and Kitty Carruthers.

Most of the skaters wore black practice clothes for their jumps, while pounding rock music energized the venue. Ma, getting into the spirit of the event, did his jumps while wearing a San Antonio Spurs hat.

Audrey Shin, who finished ninth in novice at the 2017 U.S. Championships, won the ladies event. Her jumps included a triple lutz-triple toe-triple toe combination, for which she received 17.42 points.   

In the championship round, the women were required to do either a triple axel or a quad. Although none of the three finalists landed their attempts cleanly, Shin and runner-up Alysa Liu gave the axel their best shot, and third-place finisher Hanna Harrell tried a quad toe.

Aaron won the men's event by 12 points, beating out Krasnozhon, the 2017 U.S. junior champion.

The top three men were required to do two different quads back to back. Aaron did a quad toe and quad salchow, while Krasnozhon, who had been leading until the championship round, got dinged for under-rotating his quad salchow and quad loop and finished second. Moeller came in third. 

"We want to encourage the young generation to go for the higher-point jumping skills like triple axel, quads and triple-triples in a safe, low-key and fun environment," said Tom Zakrajsek, the principal organizer of the event. 

The following day, the team event brought out big names on the ice and on the judges stand. Christopher Dean joined Eldredge and Carruthers as a celebrity judge, along with Olympic bobsledders Sam Michener and Jimmy Reed. 

Three teams, captained by Ryan Bradley, Jeremy Abbott and Dolensky, competed for a total of $30,000 in prize money. Bradley's Brawlers included Aaron, Wang, Rydberg, Pulkinen and Moeller, as well as the pairs team of Chelsea Liu and Brian Johnson. Abbott's All-Stars consisted of Nagasu, Harrell, Liu, Ma, Savary, and Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, and Dolensky's Dynamos were made up of Hicks, Krasnozhon, Shin, Pooja Kalyan, Jason Brown, and Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc.

The team event featured two rounds of jumping. Every skater or pairs team did two different jumps or jump combinations, and everyone was allowed one re-do if their first attempt wasn't to their satisfaction.

Aided by in-arena host Rusty Kath, the atmosphere was very lighthearted. Teams wore matching practice gear, with Dolensky's team name studded with rhinestones on his squad's shirts.

"Our primary concern was what we were wearing and how blinged out it was," Dolensky said. 

The jumps in the first round included a quad of choice for Aaron, Krasnozhon and Savary, and triple axels for Ma, Pulkinen and Brown. The pairs were required to do a twist, and the round finished with a backflip from each of the captains.

Bradley, known for his fan-friendly style, was called out by Kath for bribing the judges with a box of doughnuts. He crammed one in his mouth before his laid-out backflip and landed the high-flying act still chewing.

The jumps in round one were almost universally excellent, with the scores staying pretty firmly in the 8-to-10-point range.

The jumps were tougher in the second round, which featured a few falls because of the added difficulty. Skaters were required to do hard combinations; Aaron, Krasnozhon and Savary had to do back-to-back quads, while the pairs all did superb throw jumps.

The captains put an exclamation point on the event, each doing a backflip in combination; Bradley put a triple toe on his, Dolensky did a triple toe before his backflip, and Abbott did a backflip-backflip-triple toe combination that he had tried for the first time the day before. 

"I got here and realized I needed to have a variation for the competition," Abbott said with a chuckle. 

After landing his jump combination, Bradley dropped to his knees and prayed to the judges, who rewarded him and all three captains with 10s across the board.

Bradley's team won the overall event and $15,000, beating out Abbott's team by just two points. The All-Stars split $10,000, with the Dynamos collecting $5,000.

"I was really proud of my team," Bradley said with a smile. "The camaraderie backstage was great."

Abbott, too, was incredibly pleased with how the whole experience went.

"The event was a blast," he said. "The format was awesome, so much fun. I'd really love to see this grow into a more substantial international event."