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Aaron rumbles with quad Salchow, eight triples

Mahbanoozadeh rides Dr. Who to silver; Miner gives USA clean sweep

Max Aaron let the skating world know something's coming with his <i>West Side Story</i> free skate.
Max Aaron let the skating world know something's coming with his West Side Story free skate. (Jay Adeff)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(09/15/2012) - Max Aaron was a Jet all the way, and ended up being the gold-medal kid with the SLC crown.

The Colorado Springs-based skater brought pugnacious style and tender nuance to his role as a sensitive tough guy in his Pasquale Camerlengo-choreographed free skate to West Side Story, while also landing a quad Salchow and eight triples, including two triple Axels.

"It was one of my better programs, not only because I stayed on my feet, but I was able to adjust throughout and stay in the program," Aaron said.

"We're trying to put more and more out there, show the jumps and also that second mark (program components) and improve, because that's something that can really help me get to the top. We still want a lot more energy, a lot more excitement in the program."

While there's always room for improvement, Aaron's outing at the 2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic had excitement galore, starting with a clean quad Salchow that gained 11.17 points. Skating with speed and attack, but also showing a softer side during the slower "One Hand, One Heart" section, he reeled off two triple Axels, as well as a triple Lutz-single loop-triple Salchow combination to earn 156.58 points. He ended with 231.27, more than 13 points ahead of the field.

"He got some of his highest component scores ever, and I felt like he really tried today to be a Jet," Aaron's coach, Tom Zakrajsek, said. "He has proved that he is not only working on his jumps and his spins, but also giving an entire performance, which is so important at the top of the sport."

Aaron plans to change his second jumping pass, a triple toe-double toe here, into a quad toe combination later in the season.

"It's definitely difficult doing two different quads back to back, but we're working toward it, and it's something we'll be able to achieve for nationals," he said.

There may also be a more cosmetic change.

"I just want to point out that I did grow a beard out for this," he said, fingering some stubble. "It's not noticeable enough; I needed a couple more days."

Skating to music from the Dr. Who British science fiction TV series, Armin Mahbanoozadeh fell on a fully rotated opening quad toe, but recovered to land two triple Axels and five other triples, including a triple Lutz-triple toe combination (the toe was called under-rotated). He earned 149.11 points for the free skate and 218.06 overall.

"Room to improve, but I'm happy that I fought through things and stuck with it," Mahbanoozadeh said. "I was kind of disappointed [with the quad]; I think it was the first one I fell on all week. I hit one in the short; I'm happy with that, and we're going to go home and train it even more. We're going to be really consistent with it this year."

Until recently, Mahbanoozadeh's run-throughs have been limited, due to a sprained right ankle, which is now fully recovered.

"I started jumping again about three weeks ago, but a lot of people told me I didn't have to do this competition," he said. "I stuck with it and I was happy with the performances I was able to put out. I want to give a shout out to the physical therapists at the [Colorado Springs] Olympic Training Center; without them, I wouldn't have been able to be here today."

Ross Miner, who landed gorgeous quad Salchows in the practices and warm-ups here, doubled the attempt in his free skate and also doubled an intended triple loop. Those were the only mistakes in his majestic program to the lush score of Erich Korngold's Captain Blood soundtrack. The Boston-based skater landed two triple Axels and a triple Lutz-loop-triple Salchow with ease and finished with 213.44 points.

"I was a little annoyed with not pulling in and getting the quad done," the U.S. bronze medalist said. "I've been doing it every single day since Liberty and I know how to do it.

"I doubted myself and I just have to go home and run it more, make sure I land it every single day in that program so I can get out there and know it's going to be perfect on one foot."

U.S. junior silver medalist Tim Dolensky completed his first international senior competition with another solid program, opening his Tango free with a 'Tano triple Lutz (one arm overhead) and executing six other triples, including a triple loop-triple toe. He placed fourth with 203.59 points.

"I broke 200 points today, and that was my goal for the whole season," said Dolensky, who trains under Debbie Prachar and Brittney Bottoms in Atlanta. "I feel really confident. Once I get the triple Axel in my long, I'll be right where I need to be."