Despite shoulder injury, Mroz ready to roll

Hopes to ride quad to gold in Greensboro

Brandon Mroz hopes to break the "silver-medal curse" that has followed him at past nationals.
Brandon Mroz hopes to break the "silver-medal curse" that has followed him at past nationals. (Getty Images)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(01/21/2011) - Brandon Mroz had a solid fall, winning silver at Cup of China, bronze at Trophee Eric Bompard and just missing qualifying for the Grand Prix Final. Heading in to Greensboro, he is the only U.S. man to land a quad in international competition this season.

For the last few weeks, though, he's been dealing with an unwanted complication.

"Brandon dislocated his shoulder before Christmas in a freak off-ice training accident, working out in the gym," the skater's coach, Tom Zakrajsek, said. "It's pretty much back to normal; he's training extremely well. Certainly he's doing all of the jumps in his arsenal."

Mroz downplayed the injury, saying, "I've been rehabbing [the shoulder] a lot; you gotta do what you gotta do.

"The jumps I've been doing -- the quad toe/triple toe in the short [to "Barber of Seville"] and a quad toe in the long [to On the Waterfront] -- are still the plan. I've been pretty successful with them all season. This is just a minor setback; I'm okay."

While Mroz is back to doing complete run-throughs, the injury ended thoughts of adding a second quad to his free skate.

"We were toying with the idea; certainly Patrick [Chan, who also trains at Colorado Springs' World Arena] is practicing two quads in the long and some of the other international men are, as well," Zakrajsek said.

"The shoulder put a damper on that. Of course, jumps aren't everything. We've worked to improve his spins, both their speed and levels, and his presence and command of the ice."

Mroz has also experimented with putting a triple Axel-triple toe combination in the second half of his free and might try it in practices at Greensboro. Otherwise, he said, preparation has been all about "crossing the t's and dotting the i's. We made a few choreographic changes, too, and once I get there -- with the crowd and such great competitors around me -- I know I'll feel the push to make the podium."

The 20-year-old Mroz, who won the 2009 U.S. silver medal and placed ninth at the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships, helping to qualify three U.S. men for the 2010 Olympics, had some growing pains last year, slipping to sixth place at the 2010 U.S. Championships. Zakrajsek thinks the occasional inconsistency could be a thing of the past.

"He's matured just as any normal person would; he's matured in his training and is more responsible for organizing his life," Zakrajsek said. "He's moved out of the condo he shared with his mother, he's living at the Olympic Training Center, he's on his own with bills to pay and laundry to do. All of those life skills are important."

The skater thinks this post-Olympic season's more low-key approach suits him.

"Obviously, there a different type of pressure than last year, when it was all about the Games and a lot of media expectations," he said. "This year it's nice not to have that type of pressure.

"My programs on the Grand Prix have really motivated me to do well in Greensboro and get some new personal bests. I'm going back to redeem myself."

While Mroz believes winning gold in the strong U.S. men's field -- including two-time defending champion Jeremy Abbott; two-time world junior champion Adam Rippon; former U.S. silver medalist Ryan Bradley; 2010 Skate America bronze medalist Armin Mahbanoozadeh; and Junior Grand Prix Final champion Richard Dornbush -- is certainly possible, he'll have to break a years-long pattern.

"I've won a lot of silver at nationals," said the skater, who took home four silver medals in the novice, junior and senior ranks 2006-2009. "I'll have to break the silver-medal curse, although I'd certainly take another.

"I would love it to be my time. Gold would be such an awesome, awesome achievement."