Truth: All it takes to get us psyched for the Olympics is hearing Scott Hamilton’s voice for five seconds. The man is still pure joy. In preparation for our PopWatch on Ice coverage of the Vancouver Games, we tuned in for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships over the weekend to see which men and pairs will be representing us. (The ladies and ice dancing competitions are next weekend.) Jeremy Abbott, who delivered what Hamilton referred to as a “beat down” to defend his title, was the talk of Sunday’s men’s free skate. Except for in my apartment, where it was all about Ryan Bradley, who finished just off the podium and sadly won’t be making the trip north. He brought the crowd to its feet with a tongue-in-cheek routine set to Baroque chamber music. Utterly charming, and he landed two quads. A definite must-see, so I’ve embedded it below. If he hadn’t been sitting in sixth after the short program, he might’ve made the Olympic team. After the jump, a look at the men who will be traveling to Vancouver (Abbott, reigning world champion Evan Lysacek, and Johnny Weir), as well as the pairs teams (Caydee Denney/Jeremy Barrett and Amanda Evora/Mark Ladwig).
Jeremy Abbott: The 24-year-old, who trains under Yuka Sato, looks a bit like a studly Clay Aiken. What I like about him is that he’s able to convey emotion without wearing a costume that distracts you from his skating. (While I did pause to note that his short program, to Jeff Beck’s cover of “A Day in the Life,” featured some heavage, what I remember more is that he ran his fingers through his hair in a way that was not at all cheesy.) His free skate, which includes a quad, was the performance of his career.
Evan Lysacek: He added the quad into this long program and fell. Bad for him, but good TV — particularly when NBC played his coach Frank Carroll’s reaction back while they were waiting for the scores. (Both Lysacek and Carroll, who’ll you remember coached Michelle Kwan, laughed.) Lysacek has a nice intensity about him on the ice. Perhaps it’s the stubble. I prefer his long program costume to his short.
Johnny Weir: Finishing third was redemption for Weir, who missed the podium at last year’s Nationals. He singled a triple axel, and his free skate was scored fifth, but he had a large enough lead over Bradley, whose long program was scored second, to seal the bronze. Except for telling the camera that it was capturing his crow’s feet in the kiss ‘n cry area, he didn’t say anything crazy on Sunday. Pity. His short program.
Caydee Denney/Jeremy Barrett: They’ve only been together for two years — and she’s only 16 — but they put together two clean performances to take the title. What’s great about them is that unlike so many pairs teams, you don’t have to worry about them on the side-by-side jumps. They’re solid, which means we can breathe. I wish they had some more originality in their lifts, but that, along with increased chemistry, will come in time. Watch till the end of their free skate below: Their coach, Jim Peterson, cries! Happy tears are good. Sad tears (like the ones Keauna McLaughlin shed when she and her partner, Rockne Brubaker, blew their chance at Vancouver) not good.
Amanda Evora/Mark Ladwig: Here’s a story you’ll be hearing about in Vancouver: Evora’s been dating Barrett, the male skater in the other U.S. pairs team, for five years. They now live together.
Who’s psyched for the Olympics now?