OMAHA, Neb. — Never mess with the guy who knows how to rumble.
Little-known Max Aaron won his first title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and helped knock three-time champion Jeremy Abbott to the last step on the podium. With two quadruple jumps and an arsenal’s worth of other tricks in his “West Side Story” program, don’t count the 20-year-old upstart out at the world championships in March, either.
“I kind of thought in the back of my mind he could be the national champion,” coach Tom Zakrajsek said. “There are so many great men and you never know how they’re going to skate or how it’s going to be judged. I did think he gave a performance today — when you give a performance like that, it’s worthy of a national title.”
Aaron screamed and shook his fists when he finished his program, then slid across the ice giving a Tiger Woods-like fist pump.
“The goals I had coming into this event were just to complete two clean programs. I didn’t think of ever medaling,” Aaron said. “But I knew if I completed the programs the way I know I can do them, I knew I could be up there.”
When his marks were posted, Aaron’s jaw dropped and the audience roared. He won the free skate in a rout to jump from fourth to first, and finished with 255 points overall, almost four points more than Ross Miner.
Abbott, who had won three of the last four U.S. titles, dropped to third after a disappointing and flawed free skate. The Americans can send only two men to the world championships, so Abbott will have to watch and hope Aaron and Miner perform well enough to gvie the Americans an extra spot for the Sochi Olympics.
“These two men skated brilliantly and they deserve to be in the positions they are,” Abbott said. “Not to put any pressure on them, but they better get three spots for next year.”
Aaron’s score in the free skate — 175.87 — was just too much for anyone to top.
“This wasn’t just a performance that happened. This is how he trains,” Zakrajsek said. “Our big goal was just to deliver what he trained and see how he fit in.”
Aaron was the U.S. junior champ two years ago, but had done little of note since then. He actually considered quitting skating last summer, after he finished eighth at nationals.