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Abbott brings good boots, solid quad to San Jose

Miner in good form; Mroz may sideline quad Lutz; Aaron looks for senior breakout

Brandon Mroz, famous for landing the first quad Lutz in competition, has bigger plans.
Brandon Mroz, famous for landing the first quad Lutz in competition, has bigger plans. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/24/2012) - It was "only" a club show, but Jeremy Abbott's performance of his swing-style short program at Detroit Skating Club's "Champions Ice Revue" earlier this month gave Jason Dungjen a glimpse of what could be.

The two-time U.S. champion landed a quad toe-triple toe in his competitive short program, set to swing music.

"That would have been in the mid-90s, points-wise," said Dungjen, who coaches Abbott with wife Yuka Sato. "It's a big-time short. If you start doing the math, doing a quad-triple instead of a triple flip-triple toe is like adding [the value] of a new jumping pass.

"The risk is obviously much bigger, but if you're successful, the pay-off makes it worth it."

It's a risk Abbott doesn't feel he needs to take at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. But at the Grand Prix Final in December, he landed a clean quad in his free skate for the first time since the 2010 U.S. Championships, and he plans to keep the jump in the program in San Jose.

"I've been doing it all season," the 26-year-old skater said. "I'll do it at nationals in the free and we've started to work on it in the short, so maybe at Four Continents I'll do it in both programs."

"There haven't been any changes to the programs since the Grand Prix Final," Dungjen said. "For nationals, the idea is to make sure he's on the team. Obviously, we all know Jeremy can do it. The ultimate goal is to win. But the way you win is to go in and do your job the best you can. The rest takes care of itself."

Abbott comes to San Jose armed not only with a quad, but more importantly, with a comfortable pair of skates. Equipment trouble put a severe damper on his 2010-11 season, contributing to a fourth-place finish at the U.S. Championships and keeping him off the 2011 U.S. world team.

"The biggest turnaround for Jeremy has been his boots," Dungjen said. "He is able to train consistently. Last year, he was not. Chronic equipment problems can start to affect a skater mentally. They start doubts."

"I was just having trouble with the fit and the mounting and just kind of the overall make of the boot," Abbott said. "But we've talked with the manufacturers and just really made sure things were strong and settled for this season. So for me at the moment, that is all in the past."

Birthday boy Miner in good form

2011 U.S. bronze medalist Ross Miner arrives in San Jose fit, confident and fully legal, having celebrated his 21st birthday on Jan. 24.

The Skating Club of Boston competitor and his coaches, Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson, haven't made big adjustments to Miner's programs, a Flamenco short and free to music from The Untouchables soundtrack.

"We've been mostly polishing the [free] program, working on details," Miner said. "There are no major changes. We've been doing a lot of run-throughs to build endurance."

It's Miner's second season using his short, and despite a disappointing performance of it at 2011 Skate Canada, he called it "100 percent comfortable. I've done it quite well, many times in competition. It's the program I like to do to start the day's practice."

Miner won his first-ever Grand Prix medal, a bronze, at 2011 NHK Trophy, and the taste of big-time international success has whetted his appetite for more.

"I've worked my butt off," he said. "I've done everything I can to make myself confident and comfortable heading in to nationals. If I can get off the ice proud of what I did, I'll be happy with myself.

"For me, if I just focus on skating my best -- and not on placement -- that's when I skate my best. Lots of things in figure skating are out of your control; you can only control what you do on the ice."

Change of quad strategy for Mroz

Tom Zakrajsek and Becky Calvin, who train their skaters at Colorado Springs' World Arena, bring two senior men to San Jose: 2009 U.S. silver medalist Brandon Mroz and 2011 U.S. junior champion Max Aaron.

The 21-year-old Mroz, who landed the first-ever quadruple Lutz in competition at the Colorado Springs Invitational in September (Watch here) and repeated the feat at 2011 NHK Trophy (Watch here), may not execute the spectacular maneuver this week.

"He hasn't been training the quad Lutz as much," Zakrajsek said. "Prior to Christmas, he was training four quads [toe, Lutz, loop and flip], and then he got sick and was battling a cold, so he backed off a bit, although he can certainly still rotate them.

"I recommended taking the [quad] Lutz out of the short, because he's done quad toe in the short many times with good success. As for the free, we'll see. It will be either [quad] toe or Lutz. It's the first jump in the program, and the set-up is similar, so if he feels good he might try it. He certainly wants to do it."

In addition to jumps, Zakrajsek wants to see his skater fully interpret his programs, including a short to "Mack the Knife" and free to Bizet's Carmen.

"The feedback we've gotten is that judges want to see him relate to the music and audience more," he said. "In the long, we tweaked the pacing and moved one spin. That really seems to have helped."

Aaron, too, arrives in San Jose fit and ready, Zakrajsek said.

"He's been training very hard. He's improved a lot, especially his artistry, plus his quad [Salchow] is more consistent. He's doing clean shorts and longs in practice.

"When you're the U.S. junior champion, people really look at your first nationals as a senior, and certainly he's working to get the highest scores he can."

Zakrajsek has been targeting two areas in particular.

"He's able to do a Level 4 flying spin, so we'd like to see that," he said. "We're also working on triple Axel-triple toe [combination] for the long program."