Abbott wins 3rd US title with mesmerizing grace

By Nancy Armour

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Jan. 29 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

He's lucky he didn't get a ticket for loitering as he geared up for a triple axel-step-double toe combination, holding his edge on the entry for what seemed like forever and leaving no doubts about what was coming. Not only did he not do his planned quadruple salchow, he only did a double. A well-done double but a double nonetheless, with nowhere near the point value of a quad or even a triple.

What saved Rippon was his artistry. He has the extension of a ballet dancer, and he used every part of his body, from the tips of his toes to the top of his head, to express his music.

"It wasn't completely perfect, but I'm very proud of what I did," Rippon said.

Armin Mahbanoozadeh, a distant third after the short program, needed a strong effort to have any chance of overtaking Rippon and making the world team. He went the opposite direction, instead, dropping off the podium after taking a big splat on his quadruple toe attempt and turning out on the landings of two other jumps.

Miner took advantage, moving up a spot with a strong program that had only one error, a fall on a triple axel.

Denney and Coughlin had won the last two U.S. titles, each with a different partner. They teamed up in May and, even in a sport where couples have all the stability of Jell-O, their matchup came just three weeks after Coughlin and Caitlin Yankowskas finished sixth at the world championships.

Clearly, though, Denney and Coughlin knew what they were doing. As good as each other was with someone else, they're that much better together. Their performance Sunday was one of the best of the entire week in any discipline, any event. The highlight was their carry lift. Coughlin carried Denney three-quarters of the way around the rink, and did it with such speed and strength she looked as light as a feather pillow. Midway through, she switched positions, turning in the opposite direction of the way he was skating.

You know how tough it is to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time? Try that, times 10.

"I've been dreaming all week about doing that carry after skating clean and that feeling from the audience," Coughlin said. "Oh, I had so much fun."

Follow Nancy Armour at http://www.twitter.com/nrarmour

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