London calling: Relaxed Miner slips into hoodie
Aaron takes detour, hard fall; Reynolds may up the ante
|Max Aaron has competed in London many times in his career -- his hockey career, that is. (Renee Felton)|
At 2012 Skate Canada, Michael Slipchuk, Skate Canada's director of high athlete performance, handed out Roots sweatshirts sporting the logo of the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario. Not wanting to tempt fate, Miner set his aside until he placed second to Max Aaron at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and earned a spot on the world team.
"I would not wear it until after nationals," he said, adding, "It's the most comfortable hoodie ever."
Miner's quadruple Salchow, which he's planning in both his short program and free skate here, looked similarly relaxed during Monday's afternoon practice, when he landed the four-revolution jump with ease.
"My first practice this morning was not the best," the 22-year-old skater told reporters in the mixed zone. "I went to the hotel, came back this afternoon, and it wasn't Monday morning anymore. I'm happy with this one."
"At home, we've done a lot of work to improve [the quad's] consistency," he continued. "I feel very confident with it. We've really focused on it."
In past seasons, Miner -- who landed his first quad in competition at the 2012 NHK Trophy -- might have been conscious that other skaters in his practice group, which included Canadians Patrick Chan and Kevin Reynolds as well as Aaron, were reeling off quads. Now he feels right at home.
"At Four Continents last season (where he won bronze), I didn't have any quads," he said. "Having something is great, if you can do it when it counts. I would show up and not have the same ammunition, and maybe think, 'Oh gosh.' Then I realized if I do the things I can do, I can have good results. My skating skills gave me a good base. The quad is one element. Now, though, I feel I'm starting from a stronger position."
"Do it when it counts" could be Miner's mantra. A few years ago, his coaches at the Skating Club of Boston, Peter Johansson and Mark Mitchell, wanted their talented pupil to get even more serious about his daily training, so they put some rules down on paper and had Miner sign on the dotted line.
He does a minimum of three run-throughs a day, including a short program and free skate. He repeats whichever program seems to need it most. If he makes more than two mistakes in a program, he does another full run-through, in the same session.
"Once a year, I have a day when I do 10 programs, and then I'm like, 'OK, let's not do that again,'" Miner said.
In keeping with the contract, Miner re-doubled his efforts after a disappointing ninth-place finish at the 2013 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, where he fell on a quad attempt in his short and popped a few jumps in his free into singles.
"I was very frustrated, coming home from that," he said. "It was not the way [I had been] training. It was not what I am capable of. I had skated well in practice. It wasn't me."
Miner and his coaches haven't made any major changes to his programs, but he arrived in London refreshed and ready.
"Coming home [from Osaka] gave me the motivation to get through the tough days, to fight the demons," he said. "I definitely feel my skating has improved a lot since then."
Aaron hits London ice via Chicago
Winter storm Triton, which rampaged through the Midwest, forced Aaron to take an unexpected detour on the way to London. Scrambling to get out of Colorado Springs, Colo., on Saturday, the U.S. champion landed in Chicago at 3 a.m., got to a hotel at 4:30 a.m. and trained that afternoon at a rink in Northbrook, Ill.
"The storm was not in my control," Aaron said. "I was going to stay home [on Saturday] and practice, but this wasn't bad. In a funny way, I learned from it."
Aaron said much the same about his afternoon practice, which included a hard fall on a quad Salchow in a run-through of his West Side Story free skate.
"I'm kind of glad I took the fall," he told reporters. "I know it sounds silly, but I'm glad when I go through all of the possibilities. I take it into experience and consideration, wrap my mind around it. It [puts] me more ahead."
This is Aaron's first time competing in Canada, at least as a figure skater. The 21-year-old played hockey until 2008, when the aftermath of a broken back convinced him to concentrate on one sport. In P.F. Chang's U16 AAA, he shared the ice with players like Rocco Grimaldi and Jason Zucker, who went on to play on winning U.S. teams at the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) World Junior Championships.
That experience may come in handy at London's Budweiser Gardens, which Canadian skaters call one of the louder venues. At today's practice, fans gasped at Aaron's fall and loudly cheered a later triple Axel in his program.
"I've played in many hockey tournaments here," he said. "I love the fans [in London]; they're just like hockey fans, very vocal."
Quads, quads, quads
At Skate Canada in 2011, Reynolds made history, becoming the first skater to land two quads -- a toe and a Salchow -- in a short program. Canada's silver medalist may try to duplicate that feat in London.
"The plan is, if my first two jumping passes, a quad-triple and triple Axel, go well, then I'll try another quad," said the 22-year-old skater, who has mastered both quad Salchow and toe loop.
Two quads in his short could bring Reynolds' count to five overall. He landed three in his free skate at the 2013 Four Continents Championships, where he won gold.