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Rippon, others feel skater's Lutz underscored

Weir, Goebel speak out over grades of execution awarded for signature jump

Adam Rippon performs his "Rippon" Lutz en route to winning the bronze at 2010 Skate Canada.
Adam Rippon performs his "Rippon" Lutz en route to winning the bronze at 2010 Skate Canada. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/30/2012) - Adam Rippon arrives at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships in Nice with a unique weapon: his namesake triple Lutz, executed with both arms held aloft.

Throughout his career, 1988 Olympic champion Brian Boitano made his 'Tano Lutz, done with one arm overhead, a mainstay of his programs. But Rippon, who won silver behind Jeremy Abbott at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, is the only skater ever to complete his version of the difficult jump.

"I worked on it so it would be another reliable thing I could do, and I do think it's something that helps me stand out from the rest of the skaters, especially when everybody is doing a lot of the same elements," Rippon, 22, said.

Yet even when fully rotated and landed properly, the "Rippon" Lutz doesn't necessarily garner more points than a regular triple Lutz.

"Sometimes it gets frustrating, because the base point value (six points) does not change at all, and sometimes you have skaters who do an all-right triple Lutz get plus 1 or 2 GOE (grade of execution) with it, and I'll do 'Rippon' Lutz and get the same GOE," Rippon said.

"The grade of difficulty of it, I think, is much greater. For me, the technique and the whole maneuvering of the jump are more difficult, but I've done it so many times I don't have too much struggle with it, aside from silly mistakes once in a while."

Air positions are not the only features judges consider when assigning a GOE to a jump. There is also entry, take-off and landing, among other considerations. But even when all else is adequate, the "Rippon" is often rewarded no more than regular triple Lutzes.

At Trophée Eric Bompard last fall, for example, the maneuver earned GOEs ranging from -1 to +3 from the nine judges in the free skate, and 0 to +3 in the short program.

"I think it's outrageous," three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir said. "At times, he only gets zero GOE for it from some judges.

"It's outrageous that, if it was well done, it would even be a question he should get +3. I've seen other skaters get +3 on their triple Lutzes, and there's no comparison. It's even more difficult than some quads, I would think. I certainly don't want to try it."

Tim Goebel, the 2002 Olympic bronze medalist and two-time world silver medalist who has also served as a technical specialist in the U.S., takes it a step further.

"I think it's undervalued," Goebel said. "Automatically, if it's done routinely well, he should get +2. The one he did at the free skate at nationals was +3 for sure. (It gained four +3's.) I think it should have a higher base point value. Why try it if you're not rewarded?"

While Rippon considers the move worthy of more credit, he thinks he understands why the international judging system (IJS) maintains its value at six points.

"I was wondering the first time I did it in Paris at [Trophée] Bompard two years ago (it was actually at the 2009 event) if I would get a bonus element, but I understand it's a Lutz, not a totally different element," he said. "It would be nice if there was some reward for trying something different.

"People do double toes with two arms or one arm [overhead] to increase grade of execution, and really, I'm just doing the same thing on a more difficult level."

Rippon, who has not yet landed a quad in competition, plans to try the quad Salchow in his free skate in Nice. It will be the third time this season he has tried that four-revolution jump; he doubled an attempt at the 2012 U.S. Championships and had another attempt at 2012 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships downgraded. He also tried the quad Lutz earlier in the season.

"My only goal [at Four Continents] was to go out there and rotate the quad Sal and get that monkey off my back," Rippon said. "It's a step forward I needed to make. The skating I put forward at Four Continents wasn't as strong [as at the U.S. Championships], but it was a good step forward to two solid programs in Nice."

And, of course, his favorite jump will be in both of his programs.

"Whatever happens with the points, the audience reacts to it," he said. "For me, it's something that stands out, something that people are looking for, and that's why I like it."