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Springs snips: Dornbush surprised by selection

'Acclimatization' is byword for U.S. men; Rippon sticks with quad Salchow

Richard Dornbush will try to erase the memory of his 13th-place finish at U.S. nationals.
Richard Dornbush will try to erase the memory of his 13th-place finish at U.S. nationals. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(02/08/2012) - After missing all three jump elements in his short program at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, Richard Dornbush thought his season was over.

But the 2011 U.S. silver medalist, who rebounded with a fifth-place free skate and ended up placing 13th in San Jose, was chosen first alternate for the 2012 Four Continent Figure Skating Championships. Then, last Friday afternoon, he received word that U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott would skip the event to rest a sore hip. Dornbush arrived in Colorado Springs the next day.

"Definitely, it was a nice surprise," the 20-year-old said. "After the long program [in San Jose], I was looking forward to getting back home and refocusing for the next season.

"After hearing that I had been selected first alternate, it's good to know USFS still has a good amount of faith in me."

There is an element of controversy to Dornbush's selection, which was made by U.S. Figure Skating's International Committee Management Subcommittee. He was chosen ahead of skaters including Armin Mahbanoozadeh, who placed fourth in San Jose and won a bronze medal at 2010 Skate America, and Douglas Razzano, the fifth-place finisher in San Jose who won silver at 2011 Finlandia Trophy.

"I think it's definitely based off my international experience and what I've done internationally," said Dornbush, who placed ninth at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships.

"I'm sure it was," said Tammy Gambill, who trains Dornbush in Riverside, Calif. "That was part of the criteria, the last two years' [results], and he was the top American at worlds last season. He ensured us two [world men's] spots, so I think that pulled a lot of weight. He's usually very strong."

Neither skater nor coach makes any excuses for his performance in the short program, which put him 17th in that segment.

"I would say it was a very, very, very, very bad day," Dornbush said. "It was a rough skate. Some days things go exactly perfectly and some days it is the exact opposite. But I feel strong coming in to this competition."

"It was a nightmare; you just stand there and go, 'What?,'" Gambill said. "All you can do is convince him he's OK, and it's happened before to the great skaters."

Fortunately, help was available.

"Scott Hamilton came up and talked to him, Michael Weiss came up and talked to him, Paul Wylie, they all told him the same thing: Everybody has done it," Gambill said. "It happens sometimes. It was good for him to hear he's not the only one in the world who's ever skated a bad short."

Dornbush, who landed a quad toe in his fourth-place finish at 2011 Skate America, does not plan a four-revolution jump here.

"We're looking for two clean skates, and to bring back his confidence," Gambill said.

Rippon sticks with quad Salchow

Adam Rippon, still glowing over his silver-medal finish in San Jose, is ready to improve his programs even more.

"I got here a little bit early, so I had a few days to train before competition practice," said Rippon, who arrived from Detroit on Sunday night. "It's helped because my breathing feels a lot better than when I first got here."

The 22-year-old, who trains under Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen, said his first U.S. senior medal -- he won the junior title in 2008 -- took a weight off his shoulders.

"It's been really tough the past few years because I've known -- and people have told me -- I had the potential to be on the podium at nationals. To actually realize that is a dream come true, and it's very validating."

Rippon, who tried a quad Lutz in his programs last fall, switched to a quad Salchow in San Jose, where he doubled his attempt. It didn't hurt his results; he placed second to Abbott in the free.

He's sticking with that plan here.

"After the short program [in San Jose], I just knew I needed to do everything I could, and so I went for the Sal," he said. "As soon as I did the double, I knew I had to quickly turn the program around. I was happy I could do that.

"Here, it's another practice competition to kind of get ready for worlds, and I'm going to do the same thing."

Ross Miner, who won his second consecutive bronze medal in San Jose, won't be going to worlds, as there are only two U.S. men's spots. But the 21-year-old from Boston is still happy with his season.

"I'd love to improve on nationals," he said. "Obviously, the footwork sequence and the last spin [in the free skate] were not as good as I can do them.

"Coming in here, I feel confident; I've worked hard. I have a good opportunity to improve my ranking, a good opportunity to earn a season's best score. I would love to be going to worlds, but I understand."

Like Rippon and Dornbush, Miner arrived in Colorado Springs over the weekend, taking time to adjust to the 6,035-foot altitude.

"I stayed at the OTC [Olympic Training Center] for a few days -- it's an awesome facility -- and then moved to the hotel," he said. "I practiced for two days in the ice hall. At Champs Camp this year they talked to all of the coaches and said, 'If you can get here five days before you compete, you're golden.'"

Miner has some shows on his agenda this spring, including the annual Skating Club of Boston Ice Chips that this year celebrates SCB's 100th anniversary.

"After that, I'm excited to work on the quad Salchow for an uninterrupted period," he said. "It's something I need to have in my program. I said that this season and then sort of got side-tracked, but I know it's something I can do."