The 2010 U.S. Championships kick off Friday in Spokane, Wash. with the senior men’s discipline the headline event of the evening. The men’s short program begins at 6:45 p.m. at the Spokane Arena, which last hosted nationals in 2007. There will be a lot on the line with U.S. Figure Skating selecting the country's Olympic team, which will include three men, at the conclusion of event.
The men’s field is deep and includes reigning U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott, reigning World champion Evan Lysacek (who won the U.S. title in 2007 and ’08) and 2008 World bronze medalist Johnny Weir (who won the U.S. title in 2004, '05 and ’06). Also in the field is two-time and reigning World junior champion Adam Rippon, 2007 U.S. silver medalist Ryan Bradley and 2009 U.S. silver medalist Brandon Mroz.
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) held a series of teleconference calls Jan 4-7 with Abbott, Weir and Bradley taking part. Here are some of the highlights from those calls:
2009 - NHK Trophy - 5th
2009 - Skate Canada - 1st
2009 - Grand Prix Final - 4th
On ending last season11th at Worlds: “I got a bit burnt out toward the end of the season and it didn’t turn out how I planned or expected it to. I have evaluated what went wrong with (my coaches) Yuka (Sato) and Jason (Dungjen). … I approached this season differently, a little later [start than last year] so I won’t feel overextended by the end of the year. … I want to peak at the right time. If I would like to retain my U.S. title but that isn’t my goal. My goal is really the Olympics. I want to be there and peak at the right time."
On putting a quad in his long program: “My goal this season was to put a quad in at all competitions so I am very secure when nationals, Worlds and the Olympic Games roll around. It has been very consistent. It may not be needed at Worlds as the last two World champions won without a quad but I feel very strongly about this jump for me. With everything else in my program I feel it puts me in the top echelon of men’s skaters and that is where I want to be. I think it is an obtainable goal to on the World or Olympic podium.”
On being an underdog at nationals with Lysacek being the reigning World champion: “I feel like bit of an underdog but I don’t feel like I have a lot of chasing to do. I feel like I am on par with Evan, Johnny and the other U.S. men’s skaters.”
On reigning Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko’s return to competition: “I have to admit that when I first heard I was certainly a little intimidated. Here is this amazing technician and great champion coming back. Then I was skeptical if he was going to be in shape and healthy enough to compete. He went to Cup of Russia and proved he is still strong.
"But I am not the same skater I have been in previous seasons. Not only is my artistry up there but I feel the technical aspect has improved. So now he has become another competitor in my mind. I don’t hold him on a pedestal. I don’t feel differently about him than anyone else [competing] now. He is just another skater that I have to contend with. I have to go there and focus on myself and what I can do and hope the judges like what I have to offer."
2009 - Rostelecom Cup - 4th
2009 - NHK Trophy - 2nd
2009 - Grand Prix Final - 3rd
On changes to his free skate: "I am training especially hard trying to prepare myself for the U.S. Championships. I [am changing] my free program a bit, updating the transitions and basically giving the program a facelift, including a new costume. So I have been designing and working very hard on that.. ... I think the costume is still very beautiful. I am still keeping the rib detail from the old free costume but streamlining it a bit so it is more obvious what they are. It is black and white and I am wearing fur. I will keep everything else a surprise, but is turning out very beautiful and I am very excited to wear it."
On what he has learned since the 2006 Olympic Games: "Since the last Olympics [where he finished fifth] I have learned so many lessons. The last Olympics was such a big deal for me. I was right there in the middle of the public eye and I learned how to deal with that side of my sport. I changed coaches to Galina Zmievskaya from Priscilla Hill. I have learned so many new training techniques and competitive techniques and [about] mental preparation and presentation.
"The lessons I have learned since the last Olympics are really too many to actually list at the moment. But basically if you think of something, I have learned a new way to handle it.”
On what specifically he learned from his long program in Torino (he was second going into the free skate): “What I learned was a very good lesson for my life, but a very hard lesson to learn. One minute, and for me that was after the short program, people can be supporting you, loving you and pushing you to achieve your greatest of heights, but the minute that you make a mistake or do something the don’t like or give them something to run with, they will turn on you.
"I had some people who supported me … but it was very eye-opening to see how fickle people can be and human nature can be. It was hard lesson but one that everyone in the spotlight gets. There are no free rides. Look at Brittney Spears."
On Galina Zmievskaya: "She has made two Olympic champions and I completely put my faith and trust in her. I had a shaky start to the season at Rostelecom Cup and she said, ‘Don’t worry. Don’t worry. Just keep building and building.’ The training has gone the same way. We have been building and building since the summertime. I didn’t want to take any chances this year.
"Today I was monitored by U.S. Figure Skating. I wanted them to see I was prepared, healthy and ready. And I think it was great to show them that, and they said they are behind me, they are happy with where I am at, and they are looking forward to great performances at nationals. But of course, in the back of my mind I want to peak for Vancouver, God-willing I arrive in Vancouver.”
On the strength of the U.S. men: “At the Grand Prix Final, one of the most prestigious events in figure skating, there were three American men out of six. I think that shows in itself the strength of the U.S. men. I think we are beyond the point where we are not a threat. We are the strongest country in the world as far as men's figure skating goes.”
2009 - Nebelhorn Trophy - 4th
2009 - Trophee Eric Bompard – 9th
2009 - Skate America - 3rd
On skating in Spoken, Wash.: “I think that obviously going to a familiar venue is very comforting. It is very easy to visualize and not have that freak-out moment when you get there because it is somewhere you are comfortable with. Having come off a great competition the last time I was there gives me a lot of confidence. I feel this time around I am a lot more prepared for dealing with everything in Spokane. Last time as great as far as how everything went, there was a lot of intensity, a lot of electricity. It took me some time to wrap my brain around it the first few days. By the time competition started I was fine. But now I know what to expect. I am all trained and well prepared. I can’t way to get back there and feel that excitement again.
On doing two quads in his long program: “I wanted something this season to kind of set me apart from the skaters that have a jump up on me in the components. This is something I was dead set on since last season ended. … I feel very good about it and very excited about it. It is not going anywhere. … I will definitely do the quad triple in short program for sure [as well]. ”
Among the contenders who did not take part in the USOC calls was Lysacek. Here is a breakdown of his season and a few of the other top competitors who will be competing in Spokane:
2009 - Cup of China - 2nd
2009 - Skate America - 1st
2009 - Grand Prix Final - 1st
2009 - Trophee Eric Bompard - 3rd
2009 - NHK Trophy - 6th
2009 - Rostelecom Cup - 7th
2009 - Skate America - 8th