The 2016 United States Figure Skating Championships came to a close on Sunday with Adam Rippon taking home gold with a high score of 182.74 in the men's free skate.
Coming into the final day of competition, Max Aaron was in the lead with a score of 91.83 in the short program. Ross Miner (90.90) and Rippon (88.01) were second and third, respectively, with just one event remaining.
Here are the final standings after the competitors took part in the free skate:
|Position||Skater||Free Skate Score||Total Score|
U.S. Figure Skating tweeted out an image of Rippon right after he captured the championship:
Rippon needed to be virtually perfect to catch Aaron for the top spot. He wound up coming as close as possible to hitting that mark, hanging on for a win by a mere 1.2 points, though it was not without controversy.
During Rippon's routine, which includes four lutzes, three axels and two toe loops, he fell out of the gate during the quad lutz. Judges deducted one point for the miscue, but he still managed to impress them enough to capture the day's high score.
The thrill of victory for Rippon gives way to the heartbreak of defeat for Aaron. The 23-year-old said he felt confident coming into the final day of competition, per Paula Slater of GoldenSkate.com.
“I’m ready for it and I want to deliver a clean performance,” said Aaron. “In this long I have yet to do that and that’s what I’m coming to do.”
There was nothing wrong with Aaron's effort, as his score of 177.72 was third-best in the free skate, but he didn't have enough panache to get back on top since his win in 2013. He keeps inching closer to the gold medal, finishing third at this event in 2014 and fourth in 2015, but can't seem to climb over the top of the mountain.
Former U.S. Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Wagner tweeted out her support of Rippon following his victory:
Daniel Kulenkamp put on a show early in the finals, vaulting into the top spot with a high score in the free skate of 130.37 that gave him a total of 187.34 after his disappointing 13th-place finish on Friday.
It was a stellar effort for the 20-year-old, who told Jace Frederick of the St. Paul Pioneer Press before the short program on Friday he had no expectations coming into the event.
"What I would like to do is come here and skate as well as I can skate and just enjoy the experience." Kulenkamp said. "I just want to enjoy it. It's cool to be on the ice with some of these guys. These are the guys I aspired to be like and followed for many years, and now to be on the ice with them is quite an experience."
The only problem is Kulenkamp started so low on the totem pole when the free skate started that he needed a lot of help to stay in a medal spot.
Sean Rabbitt, who started the day in ninth place, eventually overtook Kulenkamp with a score of 125.92 in the free skate that bumped his total to 192.63.
Wagner complimented Rabbitt for his strong finish to leave a good impression on the judges:
Before Rippon lit up the scoreboard, Nathan Chen appeared as if he were going to boast the best score of the day with 180.60. Ice Network noted the historical significance of his skate after it was over:
That's the fifth-highest free skate score in U.S. history (Rippon, Abbott, Brown x2).— icenetwork (@icenetwork) January 24, 2016
The signature move of Rabbitt's routine was a split jump he executed near the end, providing the perfect combination of artistry and spectacle to overcome his early miscues.
Rabbitt's hold on the lead didn't last long because 15-year-old Vincent Zhou came out of the gate in a blaze of glory. The California native briefly held the high score of the day with 149.13 points, prompting Wagner to share a brief story about training with the young man:
Trained with Vincent for a month...this kid works so hard. Great skate and even better pants #USChamps16— Ashley Wagner (@AshWagner2010) January 24, 2016
Unfortunately, a title was not in the cards for Zhou. He was bumped out of the top three after Grant Hochstein, Alexander Johnson and Timothy Dolensky went above and beyond with their performances.
Hochstein in particular put on a show that earned a score of 173.58. According to Ice Network, the 25-year-old's score was a personal best:
A dazzling day of skating from so many of America's finest athletes provided spoils for Rippon and further frustration for Aaron. Both competitors put on great shows, but Rippon did enough even with his slip-up to secure the gold medal.
Now that Rippon has earned his first medal in this event, the target will be on his back. His ability to respond to the adversity early in his run speaks well of his resolve and discipline moving forward in his career.