Adam Rippon: "I'm ready for anything"

February 12, 2018
By Suzanne Herrmann
Photos © Keiko Kasai, Suzanne Herrmann, Tina Tyan

American Adam Rippon is so mentally tough he can just dust adversity off his shoulders. I sat down with him after the free skate at Skate America to get some thoughts from him in this Olympic Season.

Before I forget, Deanna (Stellato, US pairs skater) told me to ask you which mesh shirt is your favorite?

I actually was kind of sad when I saw my long program because it was the least see-through… but then I put it on and I was like: "Oh it has the most crystals!" So it's really a toss-up but you know, I just love anything that's see through and also in an arena it gets so hot and I get so hot.

I may have really liked your long shirt a lot…

Oh thank you. I love it.

I may have tweeted it…

Oh good!

It's so sparkly… We would like a dress like that!

Well, I'll have to give you my costume designer's info then!

What is it like now — you said yesterday it's been 20 some odd Grand Prixs that you have done — How have you changed your training, as a person and how have you developed over this time frame?

I think that not everybody has the same path and that was something I really had to remind myself of. It's so easy to look around and see people who are 18, 20, 22, and they have so much success and you look at yourself and you're like 'I don't have that'. It's really easy to think it's just not going to happen for me and I needed to take a good, hard look in the mirror and consider what then is the point? Why am I doing this? Do I enjoy doing this? And the answer was yes. So then I was like, the answer can't be looking around and wondering what other people are doing. The answer has to be from within. Do I feel like I can give more? Yes. And so that's what I focus on every time. I don't worry about what other people are doing. It's easy to get caught up in that but I always remind myself that I found the key for myself and the key is that I focus on, "What do I need to do so that I can come back and be satisfied?" And today you know what? I didn't have a perfect performance, but I'm satisfied that literally nothing can shake me.

Well, yeah. First you had Daniel (Samohin) knock his shoulder out..

Yeah..

And that looked extremely painful and held up the competition and you probably — I don't' know if you knew what was going on?

I had an idea.

There's a delay of some sort, which can throw you.

Yeah.

But then you go and knock your shoulder — did you knock it out?

Yes. I was lucky. I injured my shoulder about two months ago and I dislocated it and..

What were you doing when you did that?

I had just finished doing a program and Nathan Chen was doing a program and I repeated some choreography that he had to the music. I tripped into one of my Lutz holes and I put my arm down and it came right out. What was really fortunate in that circumstance was when I saw the doctor, I learned the proper technique to put it back in. So that's what I did immediately when it happened today. I was shaking it but mostly what I was trying to do was to raise my arm. When you raise your arm, it falls back into place so that's what I did. I moved it around a little bit and then I was fine.

It's pretty impressive that you could do this in a program — you could see in your eyes, "Holy smokes, what's going on here!?"

That was a little bit dramatic but you know what? I'm ready for anything and in the future I think maybe I'll just have the sweeper pick up all the bugs? (There was a bit of a bug issue in Lake Placid with many bugs — flies, spiders and such — falling to the ice. Mostly the sweepers plucked them off the ice, but on this rare occasion, Adam had the privilege of doing so before he began his free).
[Laughs]
But you know when they were blowing the whistle and stuff, I was like, somebody is blowing a whistle and they better stop and then I realized it was the referee.
[Laughs]

I know! I kept hearing it and thought: Is somebody calling to Adam!?

I picked them up but I said, "I'll only pick those bugs up if you give me 30 extra seconds.
[Laughs]
And she said, ok, we'll do it. And I said, "I've got to have your word," ‘cause I wasn't going to pick them up and have them be like start over. I need to go back over to my coach, refocus…

Right

So you know, I negotiated.

That's really funny! We only knew you asked for a tissue!
So you said you're ready for anything. In the past, would that have thrown you off?

Yeah, completely. I think maybe I would not have felt totally confident that I had the rest of my program in my back pocket, but once I got going, I just remembered a few of those key words I tell myself — "Push, shoulder back.. I just keep it really simple when I'm out there and as soon as I got skating again, I said, "All right," and found my timing and tempo with the music and said, "I'm fine."

You looked like you settled in a lot after the first jumping pass.

Yes.

And this is the highest you've ever finished, right?

Yeah and I was second at my last Grand Prix as well.

But you won the long!

Yeah I did. It's the first time I've won a segment. I think it says a lot for the criteria to go to the Olympic Games — tier 2 criteria is how you did at the Grand Prixs and so I've medalled at both. I beat Jason Brown at the first one and beat Nathan Chen in the free skate here. (more on this later - ed) I'm trying to show that not only should I be on that team, but they need me on the team.

I have to say that your consistency now –I'm very impressed.

I've been very consistent in the past two or three seasons. I broke my foot, which was the only thing I've done which hasn't been consistent. I want to come off as unshakeable.

I think it's a mental thing too.

It is. It's less about the competition and going to the Olympics; it's something that happens because of the work I do. That's what I'm focused on and that's what I enjoy so no matter what I am a winner, I'm a champion and that's what matters.

When you give yourself the chance..

Yes, I think we often miss out on a lot of opportunities because we don't give ourselves the chance. So no matter what, to be 28, to make an income as a professional athlete, I'm so grateful and that's what I focus on. I love my job, I love what I do and I'm just very grateful.

Did you say no quads because of the foot?

Well, I still have trouble doing toes because of my foot, so I have to be careful, but I've been doing really well with the Lutz except for today when I busted myself. But I'll be fine. It'll be good!

I think breaking his foot last year led Adam to be even more determined heading into this Olympic season. He exuded a confidence that has eluded him in past Olympic seasons. At the US National Championships, he reflected:

I remember eight years ago, I did a double Lutz and fell on the footwork. Four years ago, I let the pressure get to me and I was a disaster. I'm eight years wiser, I'm stronger, I'm cuter, and I'm just poised and ready. Ready to reclaim my time.

Even though Adam did not have the strongest skate in the field at US Nationals, he was well aware that his body of work throughout the past couple seasons could — and would — determine whether or not he would be granted a spot on the US Olympic team. It was obvious he worked hard to ensure there was no question that he deserved a spot.

I knew there was a criteria set to be selected for the Olympic team and I feel like I have better criteria than second and third place here (Ross Miner and Vincent Zhou). My Grand Prixs are better than everyone except for Nathan's. My tier-ones, you know, I had a bad US Championships, but I qualified for the Grand Prix Final.

As far as how he got to where he is today, he knows that he wouldn't be in the same position had it not been for these experiences. After he skated at US Nationals, he commented:

I wouldn't take anything I've ever done back. Every disappointment I've ever had has made me so much stronger and so much better. I wouldn't be the person I am now. I wouldn't appreciate what I am doing now as much as I do if I didn't have the ups and downs of not making the team, breaking my foot, feeling like I've come up short. I'm just a completely different person.

As Adam said, "I'm ready for anything!"

 


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