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Trainer Amanda Wittenmyer helps Aaron get stretched out prior to lifting weights at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

More photos from Sarah Brannen’s photo shoot with Max Aaron appear on the

Junior Grand Prix Final in 2010 and the U.S. junior title in 2011. “I defi nitely saw potential in Max during

our fi rst lesson,” Zakrajsek said. “Max’s height, power and amplitude in his jumping are natural gifts and result from his approach speed. T e joke at the rink is that he does the 40-mph quad Sal- chow. T e international offi cials told the U.S. of- fi cials at Four Continents and Worlds that when he skates by the judges’ stand they have to hold their papers down.”

DECISION TIME “I always wanted to be a jumper,” Aaron

said. “I loved jumping. I knew that the quadruple jump was something that not many men do in general. I wanted to be part of the exclusive club. My fi rst year in senior I thought I had a great op- portunity to medal, and in the back of my head I knew that with two clean performances I would be up there with the best in the U.S.” Aaron was one of only two senior men at the 2012 U.S. Championships to land a clean qua-

druple jump (the other was the winner of the title that year, Jeremy Abbott). He landed a quad Sal- chow in the short program but fell on the jump in the free skate and fi nished in eighth place. Disappointed and discouraged, Aaron

thought that he would never get credit for his technical prowess. He also read a lot of negative comments about his skating on the Internet, which he took to heart. Rather than return to Colorado Springs, he gave his skates to his moth- er to take back and fl ew home to Arizona for some time off and soul-searching. “I was very disappointed in how I per-

formed,” he said. “Hearing all those rumors that I’ll never be good enough, I came to the point where I thought I didn’t want to do this anymore. I thought I would never make it. I decided to leave the sport.” Aaron thought about going back to college and playing hockey. He met with a sports psy- chologist to talk over his future, and his mother urged him to give fi gure skating one more year. “I said, ‘Either way we do this, it’s win- win,’” Mindy Aaron said. “Either you’ll do well

and get on the Grand Prix, or you go back to school and play hockey. In the meantime, I think that male skating was changing, the attitude was changing in the U.S.” “I never thought of myself as a quitter, and

I wanted to prove to my parents that I could do something in the sport,” Max said. “T inking it over, weighing the options, I really wanted to stand my ground. I don’t like to crumble under pressure. I wanted to show everyone I could do it.” Aaron returned to training, and he was as- signed to the inaugural U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City in September 2012. He won the title in dominant fashion, landing a quad Sal- chow and eight triple jumps in the free skate. In Omaha at the 2013 U.S. Championships,

Aaron skated a good short program and then blew the fi eld away with a two-quad, two-triple Axel, 175.87-point free skate, the second-highest score in U.S. history. “Max’s breakout season has made him hun- grier for success in every way,” Zakrajsek said. “We plan on refi ning little details and continuing



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