U.S. men on bubble to preserve third world skating slot
Not since 1999 have U.S. men earned just two spots for the ensuing World Figure Skating Championships.
After what happened in Wednesday's short program at the 2010 worlds in Turin, Italy, they are in danger of having it become an 11-year itch.
To get three places, the finishes of the top two skaters have to add up to 13 and fewer. After the short program, they are right at 13 -- sixth place for U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott and seventh for Adam Rippon.
That this was going to be a tricky math problem was clear when the top two U.S. finishers at the Olympics -- gold medalist Evan Lysacek and sixth finisher Johnny Weir -- decided to skip worlds, leaving the U.S. with this trio:
- Two-time U.S. champion Abbott, a 11th-place flop at the last two worlds and a ninth-place flop at the Olympics, where he was 15th after the short program.
- Ryan Bradley, fourth at nationals and 15th in his only other worlds appearance, skating with a broken bone in his foot.
- Reigning Four Continents champion Rippon, fifth at nationals, a world meet rookie.
Abbott delivered a thoroughly respectable performance, marred only by a hinky landing on his triple axel, but it still left him well south of short program winner Daisuke Takahashi of Japan, the only 2010 Olympic medalist (bronze) at worlds.
Takahashi had 89.30 points to 81.05 for Abbott. "I was very pleased with how I skated today,'' Abbott said. "I really had to work my program. I wasn't in the zone.''
Rippon, coached by Brian Orser (who also coaches Olympic women's champion Kim Yuna), bettered his personal best by nearly five points with 80.11, his only significant flaw a turnout on the triple axel. A month ago, Bradley had a stress fracture in a metatarsal of his left foot, the takeoff foot for his quadruple jump. He fell on the quad that was to open a quad-triple combination, then doubled a planned triple axel and was left in 10th place with 15 skaters to go, putting him potentially on the bubble to be among the 24 qualifiers for Thursday's free skate.
"I really don't think it affected my short at all,'' Bradley said of the injury. "It just didn't happen today. It was about that, not what happened the past few weeks.... I just dropped the ball today.''
But the next skater, Pavel Kaska of the Czech Republic, finished below Bradley, assuring the U.S. skater of moving on, even though he wound up a dismal 21st in the short program.
France's Brian Joubert, the 2007 world champion coming back from an utter disaster (16th) at the Olympics, was the only one of the top finishers to attempt a quadruple jump. He landed it cleanly and followed it with a triple jump in combination and wound up third, a 10th behind Patrick Chan of Canada (87.80).
-- Philip Hersh
Photo: Adam Rippon of the United States in Wednesday's short program at the World Figure Skating Championships. Credit: Clive Rose / Getty Images