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Broken foot ends Rippon's hopes for second title

Defending U.S. champion vows to return in top form after devastating injury
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Defending U.S. champion Adam Rippon withdrew from the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships after breaking his left foot during an off-ice practice session. -Getty Images

Last Friday morning began like any other for Adam Rippon, with a few off-ice practice jumps before his first session at Lakewood Ice, his home rink in Southern California.

Seconds later, his season -- along with his chance to defend his title at the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Kansas City next week -- was over.

"I was doing few jumps in place with [coach Rafael Arutunian] watching. I came down funny on my left foot and heard a crunch," Rippon said. "Right away I knew I broke it."

An MRI revealed a sprained ankle and fractured fifth metatarsal bone, injuries that are expected to keep him off the ice for 8-12 weeks. Doctors do not believe surgery is needed.

The skater plans to rest and recover at home in Los Angeles for a few weeks and then head to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for rehabilitation and physical therapy.

"[This injury] is not career-ending and is very low on the spectrum of injuries people have come back from," a determinedly upbeat Rippon told reporters Monday. "Follow-up images will be done four weeks from now to check on my progress and make sure I am on the right track."

It's a sad and sudden end to what had been shaping up to be Rippon's best season to date. At age 27, he qualified for his first Grand Prix Final, with bronze medals at two fall events, including a career-best performance at Trophée de France that included a clean quadruple toe loop in his free skate.

"I hope you -- the journalists, and the officials, the fans and the judges -- won't forget about me and what I did this season in the next few months," Rippon said. "I feel like I have made incredible strides and come into my own as a professional athlete."

His sharp sense of humor intact, Rippon added, "I will not take this lying down, which ironically is what I am exactly doing right now."

The defending champion's withdrawal makes U.S. bronze medalist Nathan Chen, the 17-year-old who won silver at the Grand Prix Final last month, an even heavier favorite to win his first U.S. title in Kansas City. Former U.S. champions Jason Brown and Max Aaron are expected to battle for the silver medal and the second spot on the U.S. men's world team.

Rippon made it clear, though, that his absence was only temporary. He was already anticipating the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

"Only my left ankle is hurt, so there is still a lot I can work on and improve," he said. "Mark my words, I don't feel I will only come back from this, I feel like I have laser focus. When I was sitting on the bench immediately after I broke my foot, my thought was, 'This is my story: I will be at the Olympics. I am positive and optimistic, because I refuse to have another option. I am going to grow, I am going to push forward and use this to be the best version of myself as an athlete I can be 12 months from now."