Boston skater Jimmy Ma makes intriguing entry to this week’s U.S. figure skating championships


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“I have the impression that if I was skating for [an Olympic spot], I wouldn’t skate for myself, ”Ma said.“ Right now, on my way to the nationals, I just want to skate for myself. No matter where it takes me, you know, a place on a team, a medal, if that makes me the president, that’s great.

The Queens-born Ma moved to Boston in 2020, following his coaches Aleksey Letov and Olga Ganicheva, who came from Texas to work at the new facility at the Skating Club of Boston. It took Ma a few months to feel comfortable in her new home.

“I had to really grow up and adjust to a new environment again,” said Ma. “I really got to feel comfortable in Dallas, but coming here everything is a little different. “

After Ma settled in, her skating started to reach new levels. Prior to 2021, he only had one senior-level international medal and never finished in the senior top 10 at the U.S. Championships. January brought the first sign of change, when he finished sixth in the country.

This fall showed more growth. He erupted at the new International Cranberry Cup event in Norwood, winning the silver medal and beating several national and international skaters who had beaten him before.

“At that point, I really had a chip on my shoulder,” Ma said. “It was a relief to know that it paid off. But then I knew that because of that maybe my season would be even more difficult and there would be more expectations, so it was like a night of relief.

He repeated the result a few weeks later at the US International Classic, earning a spot for another international, Skate America, where he skated the career best short program and finished fifth after consecutive years of ranking in the half. lower part of the event. Ma faltered in the Warsaw Cup, finishing 16th, but rebounded against a strong team in the Zagreb Golden Spin in December, placing third and achieving the career-best score in the long program, the facet of competition that has long been his sworn enemy.

Ma and her coaches both point to the changes in environment and state of mind as to why skating’s Mr. Inconsistent has achieved some of the best international results of the season.

“I think he has become very mature as a skater,” said Ganicheva. “He has enormous dynamism. I feel like he respects himself now as an elite athlete.

Moving to Boston, said Ma, “really allowed me to focus on what I wanted to do. What I had previously seen as setbacks now really motivated me to work even harder – go to bed early, wake up earlier, cook better food, and work harder.

Because of her past, an Olympic bid for Ma would be considered a long shot. While the rest of figure skating in the United States falters, the male realm runs deep and presents a variety of approaches to the sport.

Three-time world champion Nathan Chen, who is the favorite to win his sixth national title this week, is the jumper. 2014 Olympian Jason Brown is the performer, his spins are so well done they can outshine jumps, and his modern dance choreography is breathtaking. 2019 World Bronze Medalist and 2018 Olympian Vincent Zhou is trying to strike a balance between the two.

“They are all so unique,” said Scott Hamilton, 1984 Olympic gold medalist and longtime commentator. “It is exciting to see that the quality of American men continues to rise and rise.”

But this season has been full of surprises. Zhou upset Chen at Skate America, his first loss since the 2018 Olympics. Brown finally landed a quadruple jump after years of trying. Add to that Ma’s surprising international performances and injuries to the two skaters who finished ahead of him at last year’s championships (one of whom is Boston skater Maxim Naumov, who retired from the national championships).

Ma now finds himself in a situation that no one could have expected two years ago: in that category of top men aiming for the Olympics.

What’s most realistic for Ma is an alternate Olympic spot, a position that becomes more important than ever during COVID. He will take the ice in the men’s competition on Saturday and Sunday with this possibility, but not the goal of his coach or his trainer.

“Every coach hopes their skaters are skating their best because that’s what we can control,” said Ganicheva. “This is our hope and this is our dream.”

“I want to wear my heart on my sleeve this time,” Ma said. “I want to show them it’s Jimmy Ma.”

As the US Championships begin, Ma is not the only local skater in contention. With a surprising victory at the Golden Spin in Zagreb in mid-December, pairs skaters Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov, originally from Texas but training at the Boston Skating Club, pleaded for an Olympic bid. Their speed and improved elements score well internationally.

Brighton’s Gabriella Izzo could be the best short program skater in the United States this season, and she could emerge from a very uneven women’s field for an alternate Olympic spot. Reigning national champion and 2018 Olympian Bradie Tennell is sidelined from the national championships with a foot injury. While two-time national champion Alysa Liu has enjoyed a strong international season, a recent change of coach has sparked discontent in her camp. Karen Chen, Mariah Bell and young upstart Lindsay Thorngren will be Izzo’s biggest challengers.

US Figure Skating Championships

Or: Nashville.

When: The senior level competition takes place from Thursday to Sunday.

TV: Peacock, NBC and USA Network.

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