Ice Network

Aaron embraces mathematical aspect of skating

Team USA skater excited to be at epicenter of technical revolution
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Max Aaron has embraced the technical advances that have been made in men's figure skating over the last few years. -Getty Images

Team USA's Max Aaron arrived in France with a Grand Prix medal under his belt (a bronze from Cup of China), after missing the podium at both of his assignments in the series last season. He talked to icenetwork about being at the epicenter of the current revolution in men's skating.

Icenetwork: How do you feel being in France for this Grand Prix?

Max Aaron: I'm so excited to be here. It's my fourth time in France, and my second Grand Prix here. Actually, I could only skate half of it last time (in 2014, the terrorist attacks in Paris led to the cancelation of the competition before the free program), so, hopefully, I get to skate the whole event in France this time! I love skating here, because the French bring all those kids from the schools. I feel I'm giving back to the community, and it feels great!

Icenetwork: You had a great skate at Cup of China.

Aaron: That medal was my first one (on the Grand Prix) since 2015. Last season was tough for me, especially after my stomach surgery. It took far longer for me to come back than I had expected. I should have withdrawn for the season, but I didn't want to lose my world standing. This year, I am here and healthy again (he touches his head, as if it were made of wood), right for the Olympic year. I may get all my jumps or not, I may medal or not...I'm just having a lot of fun and enjoying myself. My parents are here, they made the trip from Arizona, and it means a lot to me. I keep smiling at them as I am practicing!

Also, there are so many good skaters here. It's so amazing!

Icenetwork: How did you live through the blitz of last season, with the eruption of quads, while you could not compete at full strength yourself?

Aaron: Oh my gosh, the level of skating has become so outrageous! It's tough, but it's also so much fun and competitive. Take the number of points: With 240 points, you used to be able to end up third, maybe second, in any international competition. Now you end up seventh! An 80-point short program would have ranked third; now you'd be eighth or worse! The level has increased so much. I think it's more enjoyable for the audience, and it surely is for the competitors. It puts pressure on you to give your personal best each time you skate. It's nice to see quad lutz and flip and loop -- there are so many jumps now. It makes it really fun for a competitor, and for the audience, too. You can hear that the energy of the crowd is so much higher for a quad lutz than for a quad toe or sal. You can tell from the rise of their voices that everyone is getting excited!

Plus, it's great for me to be skating in a field where they land so many different quads.

Icenetwork: You were one of the "quad trailblazers," so to speak. Do you land quad lutzes and flips yourself?

Aaron: I've landed quad loop, and I could get back the quad lutz, but it's not something I want to do in an Olympic year. In fact, the question really is: Could I add one quad or two quads to my program? I do two quad toes and two quad sals; could I add one more? Well, maybe. But I wonder that sometimes, as I'm landing the fourth quad of my program.

As far as the lutz and flip go, I have to consider that they may add more points, but they also add to the risk. It's all a math game. Altogether, is it in my interest to risk failing on one and losing the points rather than landing a quad toe or sal? Take Shoma [Uno]: He could do five or six quads, but he opted to put some (other) elements in the second half of his program. That gives him additional points, which amount to about the same as another quad.

This is fun for me to calculate, actually. My (college) degree is in finance, so I can add quickly. At the rink, I already know skaters' totals, just as I'm watching them skate (laughs).

There is another thing to take into account: I want to involve my components, also. They've been my downfall in the past. My goal is to add one quad in both programs and add more life to those programs.

Icenetwork: You seem to enjoy your short program to Les Misérables a lot.

Aaron: Oh, yes! I loved the play, and I picked the music myself.

Icenetwork: How do you feel your practices are going so far?

Aaron: This morning was tough with the quads. Every day is different. You have to find a way to control yourself in each one of your jumps. Your window of accuracy is so slim. Every day there is something different; you never can say "I got them." So I get to work on the quads every single day. That's true for any jump, really, but we mastered triple jumps early enough in our lives that we don't need the same effort (with those). I suppose it will be the same with quads for the younger generations.

Icenetwork: You elected to skate to The Phantom of the Opera this season. How come?

Aaron: (with a huge smile) I always wanted to skate to this music. It's been maybe seven or eight years I have asked to skate to it. Each time, people told me no, not now, we'll do it later. So this year, on the Olympic year, I finally get to skate to it. I've loved this music for many years. I was inspired by Patrick Chan, who skated to it in 2011. At the time, I was training with him. It's been my favorite program of all time ever since.

When you hear the music of a free program day after day, you sometimes get bored. I must say that this program has never been annoying to me. I'm glad I finally get to skate to it.

Icenetwork: Do you like that kind of music?

Aaron: I love opera. You know, I grew up watching ballet, because my sister was taking ballet classes. That's funny, because people keep thinking that Max is "rock 'n' roll" and that kind of music. It may not look like me, but I like ballet! I love performing to this music. During practice, I may be falling or missing elements, but I'm still enjoying it.

Icenetwork: What is your goal at this competition?

Aaron: Skate two clean programs and work through the tough times when they happen!