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Bradley ready to be the main attraction at worlds

U.S. champ feeling fit, confident headed to Moscow

Ryan Bradley sees himself as something of a team captain to the U.S. men's contingent at worlds.
Ryan Bradley sees himself as something of a team captain to the U.S. men's contingent at worlds. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(04/21/2011) - Add Ryan Bradley to the list of skaters who think the extra-long 2010-11 competitive season has worked out to their advantage.

On a conference call with reporters yesterday and in telephone interviews last week, the Colorado Springs-based skater proclaimed himself fitter and more confident heading into the 2011 ISU World Championships, than he was when he won his first U.S. title in January.

"It's been five weeks of [extra] training, now that's behind us, its game time, and I feel stronger than ever," he said, adding later, "I'm skating well, and this timing is working out perfectly for me. I can't wait to get off the plane and get down to business."

Bradley has more reason than most to be grateful for the extra training time. He skipped the fall Grand Prix season after undergoing surgery in May for a broken bone in his right foot and has been playing catch-up ever since.

Like other competitors, he ramped down his training level when the world competition, scheduled to take place in Tokyo in March, was canceled due to the after-effects of earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan.

"Especially at my age, it's all about timing the reps," he said. "I would do one run-through a day; we'd mix it up, do the short one day and the long the next. My body would tell me what [rest] it needed."

After worlds was moved to Moscow and slated to begin April 24, Bradley began doing two run-throughs each day, building back his stamina.

"I got really lucky with the way this all panned out. I was short time training for nationals, I wasn't quite where I wanted to be. This extra five weeks, [even though] it's under horrible circumstances, gave me time to catch my body up and get more confident in the second half of the program. I can't tell you how much I've improved.. I feel like a much more solid skater, [rather] than just a jumper."

Bradley's long-time coach, Tom Zakrajsek, built flexibility into the training schedule.

"At Ryan's age, it's somewhat about conservation," Zakrajsek said. "At times, he would do 35 minutes of the session instead of 45.

"He is training way better now, than he was before nationals. His run-throughs are stronger, his stamina is stronger, his jumping is efficient and the speed of his spins is improved."

Bradley, who at age 27 is one of the older competitors, agreed.

"At nationals, I was scrambling," he said. "Jump-wise, I'm way more confident now in the quad, the triple Axel. When I hit the 2:15 minute mark [in the free skate], I'm just as confident in the Axel as I am in the short program."

Since January, Zakrajsek -- along with Ryan's sister Becky Bradley, who has coached her brother this season -- tinkered with Ryan's comedic free skate to a Mozart medley, adding a one-foot sequence to the circle steps in hopes of gaining a Level 3 from the technical panel. They have also tweaked his spins, shooting for higher levels than those gained at the U.S. Championships.

But the meat of the routines - what Bradley calls his "jump boxes" -- remains the same. He plans a quad toe-triple toe combination in the short, and two quads and two triple Axels in the free.

"Run-throughs are going phenomenally well," he said. "I know I will probably have one of the hardest programs at worlds. It's a great feeling; it makes me feel like I'm competitive with the best in the world."

Entering worlds as the top American is a new position for Bradley, who has competed much of his career somewhat overshadowed by Evan Lysacek, Johnny Weir and Jeremy Abbott, winners of the seven U.S. titles prior to Bradley.

In his two prior trips to worlds, in 2007 and 2010, Bradley placed 15th and 18th, respectively. This time around, his sights are set considerably higher.

"My first year making it I was second at our nationals and I still went to worlds feeling like the third man," he said. "We had these giant entities, Johnny and Evan, and they were the top two, and I was along for ride. And that went into my head a little bit.

"Last year I got the call [as an alternate] and competed with a broken foot. This year, we have such an awesome young team, two young guys I know really well [Ricky Dornbush and Ross Miner]...I'm the leader of that team, which is great, a huge confidence booster."

Bradley thinks his injury-shortened 2009-10 could play out to his advantage.

"For some skaters it's been a ridiculously long season, over a full year," he said. "My situation, I'm working on five months in now, just hitting my stride...Some of these kids may be burnt out and I'm definitely capable of putting up big numbers."