COLUMBUS, Ohio — Amber Glenn thought she’d thrown away her chances of winning her long-sought US Figure Skating title when, after landing a dramatic opening triple axel, the 24-year-old from Texas fell apart over the second half of her programme.
Then she watched Isabeau Levito collapse right behind her.
The defending champion fell three times during her own free skate, drawing an audible gasp from a rapt crowd in Columbus, Ohio.
And when Levito’s score was read, Glenn’s tears of anguish turned to tears of joy. Her score of 210.46 points was enough to crown her the nation’s best for the first time, a full decade after she reigned as the US junior champion.
“I mean, utter shock,” Glenn said according to AP. “It was definitely not the performance I know both Isabeau and I are capable of so much more.”
Levito finished with 200.68 points, falling to third behind Josephine Lee, whose winning free skate gave her the silver medal.
In the men’s event, Ilia Malinin made one of the toughest combinations in skating look easy and was rewarded with 108.57 points, giving him the biggest lead after a short program under the current scoring system in nationals’ history.
The 19-year-old Grand Prix Final champion opened with an effortless quad toe loop then landed the quad lutz-triple toe combo, before making a triple axel look like a skip across the ice.
“I was definitely relieved after the performance, especially after some boot malfunctions the past few weeks,” said Malinin. “I was really grateful that I was able to get out there.”
The defending US champion, Malinin is the only skater in the world to land a quad axel in competition.
“I’ll have to see how I’m feeling just mentally and physically,” Malinin said. “I think it will all depend on how I’m feeling and I guess what my point of view is, or how I feel about it going into the free.”
Max Naumov, the 2020 junior national champion, was a distant but surprising second after his opening quad made up for a problem on his triple axel. He received 89.72 points in his quest for a podium spot after finishing fourth last year.
As usual, Jason Brown brought down the house at Nationwide Arena despite a fall on his opening triple axel.
Brown earned 89.02 points as he seeks to become the oldest man on the podium since Todd Eldredge won in 2002.
“It’s crazy that the people I competed against are coaching people at this event,” Brown said. “That, to me, blows my mind, and the level of skating just continues to be elevated year after year, and I think that is incredible.”
Incredible is an apt way to describe what transpired in the women’s free skate.
Glenn, who trailed Levito by less than half a point after their short programmes, landed a huge triple axel to open her programme, a jump that very few women are willing to attempt.
When the scores were read, Levito was left in third place and Glenn had replaced her as the US champion.
“I know I have so much more left in me,” Glenn said. “Ten years ago, I won junior (nationals), and the world of expectations were put upon me, and it crushed me. And now, coming back 10 years later and having this – it’s incredible.”