For the second time in five years, Greensboro, N.C., is serving as host to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, with all three women, both men, two ice dance teams and parts of two pairs teams returning from the American contingent from the Sochi Olympics. The senior competition begins Thursday with the pairs and ladies’ short programs and continues through Sunday.
Representing Arizona in the men’s field will be 22-year-old Max Aaron and 26-year-old Douglas Razzano, both in the hunt for medals. Aaron, originally from Scottsdale but training at the Broadmoor Skating Club in Colorado Springs, was the 2013 U.S. champion and won the bronze last year, one spot away from punching a ticket to the Olympics. On the Grand Prix circuit this fall, he was third at Skate Canada and seventh at the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow. Razzano, representing Coyotes Skating Club of Arizona, will be making his eighth Nationals appearance as a senior, with a high of fifth in 2012. He was sixth in Boston a year ago, and this season, was eighth in Skate America and 10th at Trophee Eric Bompard in Bordeaux, France.
“I feel good, I’m skating well,” Razzano said last week at AZ Ice in Gilbert. “I did a lot of competitions this fall, two Grand Prixs, I had a great summer competition. I go into every one of these not knowing how many I have left, so I go in with an open heart, not putting any pressure on myself, just doing it for myself because I love to skate, we’ll see what happens.”
Four-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott, 29, is also in the field and was fifth in Skate America. Olympian Jason Brown was second in Skate America and fifth at the Rostelecom Cup, while Richard Dornbush was third in the Cup of China.
Max Aaron’s sister, Madeline, is skating in the championship pairs group with her partner, Max Settlage, of Broadmoor, and they are coming off a fourth-place performance at Skate Canada.
The ladies competition features 23-year-old two-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner, who was third in the Grand Prix Final behind Elizaveta Tuktamyesheva and second in Skate Canada. Defending champion Gracie Gold, 19, who was fourth in Sochi and fifth at the World Championships in Saitama, won the NHK Trophy and was third in Skate Canada. Courtney Hicks was fourth in both Skate Canada and Trophee Eric Bompard, Mirai Nagasu was fourth in the Rostelecom Cup, Samantha Cesario fourth at Skate America, and reigning U.S. silver medalist and Olympian Polina Edmunds, age 16, finished fourth in the Cup of China.
After six-consecutive years of Meryl Davis and Charlie White owning the top of the podium in ice dancing, a fresh team will reach the summit. Madison Chock and Evan Bates were second in the Grand Prix Final, while Maia and Alex Shibutani were fourth. The two teams placed first and second in Skate America, Chock and Bates won the Rostelecom Cup, and the Shibutanis were second in the Cup of China. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue were third at Trophee Eric Bompard, plus Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker were third at the NHK Trophy.
Already concluded, Megan Griffin and Andrew Civiello of Coyoyes Skating Club, placed sixth in the novice pairs after winning the intermediate gold medal last year in Boston. Megan Audet and Jacob Wineland, representing Coyotes and the Skating Club of Phoenix, were seventh in the juvenile pairs. Daniel Kulenkamp of Coyotes is eighth after the short program in the junior men’s, going into the free skate Friday, and Karina Manta of Coyotes will be competing in the junior dance with Joseph Johnson of Broadmoor.