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Adam Rippon wins junior men's gold

Adam Rippon grabbed the lead in the men's short program.
Adam Rippon grabbed the lead in the men's short program. (Paul Harvath)

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By Becca Staed, special to icenetwork.com
(01/25/2008) - There was a lot of movement today on the leaderboard in the junior men's free skate, except for one constant -- Adam Rippon (SC of New York), who took first place in junior men at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The 2007 Junior Grand Prix winner displayed seamless footwork and forceful triples with grace, proving that he will be giving the senior men a run for their money next year.

"Being the champion in anything feels great," Rippon said. "But being the champion of such a strong event, where you could make one mistake and it would cost you a medal, feels great, especially to be part of a strong developing junior team for the upcoming years at the senior level and for the future of American figure skating."

The last to skate, Rippon had a lot to overcome after Brandon Mroz (Broadmoor SC) posted an incredibly high 203.63 overall score. But he managed to top Mroz with an additional 10 points, posting a personal best score of 213.76.

"Brandon and I are friends off the ice," Rippon said. "Whenever I compete against him I feel like I have to push myself to skate better."

Rippon opened his free skate, set to Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata", with four nearly perfect jumps -- a triple flip-triple toe, a triple Lutz, a triple loop and a double Axel. His next combo spin and circular step sequences earned adequate Level 3's, followed by a stellar flying sit spin that notched up a Level 4.

He continued zipping across the ice with energy to spare, completing another seven jumps -- a triple Lutz-double toe-double loop; triple flip; double Axel-triple Salchow sequence, and a double Axel -- a jump arsenal for which he gained additional points. After closing the program with more Level 4's on his straight line sequence and combo spin, Rippon received a standing ovation from the audience.

The 18-year-old will move up to the senior level next year.

"There is always pressure for a junior coming into the senior level," he said. "But I feel that if I can train well and keep my skating progressing at the same rate that it has been, thanks to my coach, I should skate well as a senior."

Once again, Mroz, who placed second in the 2008 Junior Grand Prix Final, fell behind Rippon, though not for a lack of effort. While Rippon finished 10 points ahead, Mroz's 203.63 overall score was 20 points above the rest of the field, earning him his second silver of the season.