Earlier today, Ross Miner finished competing in the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Moscow – the first worlds of Miner’s career. The senior rookie finished an impressive 11th place overall thanks to his personal season best scores he pulled out in both his programs.
Miner has a lot to be proud of considering this is his first season as a senior and no one, including himself, expected he would be named to the world team this season. He finished 13th in the short program with a score of 70.40 and 11th in the long with 147.53 points.
Miner’s short programs on this season’s Grand Prix circuit scored 64.85 at NHK Trophy, where he finished ninth out of 10, and 67.10 at Cup of China, landing in seventh of 10. It was those mediocre performances in Japan and China this past fall that changed the trajectory of his career and earned him one of three spots at worlds.
The 20-year-old remembers sitting down in a Laundromat in China with his coach, four-time Swedish national champion Peter Johansson, and realizing it was time to make a change from his bottom-of-the-pack international status.
“I don’t like being ninth, it’s not a fun place,” Miner said. “I want to be at the top and I really hadn’t trained to be at the top, I was sort of training to be okay.
“I gave up a social life and a lot of other things and my parents have made huge sacrifices so I could do this. It’s time to take it seriously and treat it like a business like all of the people who are doing really well are.”
Though it was scary for Miner to evaluate himself, it also made him feel empowered to figure out how to work harder, set new standards and bring his skating to a new level. He went back to the Skating Club of Boston with a new mindset, drive and purpose.
He found the fire within.
The new attitude paid off tremendously for Miner at the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, N.C., Jan. 22-30, his first nationals as a senior. The 2010 championships was supposed to be Miner’s senior debut but he had to withdraw due to a sprained ankle.
Miner was not thrilled with his short program in Greensboro, which put him in sixth place, because he downgraded one of his jumps when he knew he could have landed the higher skill. Instead of getting discouraged like the old Miner would have done, he focused on executing a clean long program. Two days after the short, Miner fulfilled – and surpassed – his goals.
Miner and his coaches, Johansson and 1993 U.S. silver medalist Mark Mitchell, had a points goal of 220 in mind for nationals. Despite his faulty short program, Miner’s solid long program brought his total to 224.35.
“As I got off the ice I remember saying to Mark, ‘I don’t care how the points are, I’m so happy I skated like that,’” Miner said. “Of course once I realized I could get a medal I was like, ‘Okay I care now!’”
Indeed he did get a medal. The performance put him ahead of two-time national champion Jeremy Abbott to take the bronze and also earned him his first standing ovation of his career.
“As a coach you always hope that you’ll get those kinds of performances out of your skaters,” Mitchell said. “I feel like I’ve had a few of those where my skaters have done the best they can possibly do and they get off the ice you say, ‘You couldn’t have done anything better.’ Ross has had that twice now.”
The first time was two years earlier at the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland. It was Miner’s first, and, as it would turn out, only, year as a junior after winning the novice silver medal the year before. His near-perfect short program at junior nationals helped him win the title of U.S. junior champion. Miner won with a 6.86-point lead over silver medalist Keegan Messing.
Just like his senior national bronze medal this year, his win two years ago was a huge surprise to himself and his coaches.
“Two surprises in three years is kind of a lot,” Mitchell pointed out. “Things come in threes though so I wonder if there’s one more on the horizon.”
Mitchell describes the younger Miner, who moved from Burlington, Vt., eight years ago to train with Johansson and Mitchell, as an elastic band that had to be unwound to erase bad habits before his skating could start moving in the right direction.
After the initial straightening out, coaching Miner did not get any easier.
“As a kid he had problems focusing so it took a lot to get him to focus and get the job done,” Mitchell said. “Typical Ross – I love him to death but it’s never an instant change, it’s a constant reminder till you get where you need to be.”
Since earning a spot on the world team, along with U.S. champion Ryan Bradley and silver medalist Richard Dornbush, Miner has proven to himself and the rest of the world what he is capable of and has put an end to “typical Ross.”
“He’s been much more on top of himself, which is great,” Mitchell said. “He’s taken a step forward towards being more mature and taking responsibility for his own skating which is what I think will really help him.”
Miner has been ready for worlds since the beginning of March, as it was originally scheduled for March 21-27 in Tokyo. When Japan suffered the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami on March 11 that left more than 14,000 people dead, the competition was postponed indefinitely and Miner continued training, unsure of if there would ever be a worlds and if so when and where.
“Every time I did my program it was like it could be the last time I do my program because tomorrow they could announce worlds isn’t happening so I want to do it as good as I can do it because I want to have a good ending,” Miner said.
Once again Miner’s new mindset paid off when the ISU announced Moscow would host the ISU World Figure Skating Championships nearly five weeks after they were originally scheduled, pushing the Miner’s typical season end from February to the end of April.
Using his newfound inner fire, Miner has been able to successfully stay at a competition-ready level for the past five-plus weeks.
“It’s a long season for everyone but I’m certainly very hungry so it’s not been too hard to train,” Miner said. “It’s a nice feeling to know that it was almost taken away and now we get the opportunity to compete.”
“Ross wanted to go compete so badly because this is his first time on the world team and he is young in the sense that he was eager to just get the chance to go compete,” Johansson said.
“When the decision was made he bounced back pretty quickly and said, ‘Okay I have five weeks, I know I can do this. It’s gonna be long but I know I can do this.’”
As Mitchell said, the second big surprise of Miner’s career was his long program at nationals. It is safe to say there are more well-deserved surprises on the horizon for Miner as he works toward his ultimate goal: the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.