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Adam Rippon’s Free Program Has a Deeper Story Behind It

Figure skaters often try to tell stories on the ice in their programs. Whether their trying to portray the heartbreaking love story of two characters falling in and out of love or, in other cases, the idea of the soul leaving the body in “clinical death,” skaters win points for bringing these characters to life. But Adam Rippon’s free program tells a story that is a personal one for him, even though it wasn’t always the case when he first started skating to it.

During the 2016-2017 season, Rippon first skated to “Bloodstream” by Stateless, a program he premiered at his first event of the season, the 2016 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. However, after a disappointing free skate that moved him from first place to third, Rippon went back to the drawing board with his choreographer Benji Schwimmer to create a new program.

A month later, at the 2016 Skate America competition, Rippon premiered a new program featuring “Arrival of the Birds,” from the soundtrack of The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos, and “O (Fly On)” by Coldplay. After placing second in the short program, Rippon's free skate landed him in third at the end of the competition. Despite this, his new program still provided a higher score than his last one and, according to commentators Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski, and Terry Gannon, his newfound confidence helped it become successful.

“When I was skating to “O (Fly On)” by Coldplay at Stars on Ice this past spring, you know what, it just felt like something so special. And, I was like, I want to save this for the Olympic year," Rippon told Ice Talk, IceNetwork’s podcast. "And I really want to just come out and have this amazing, special program. I really liked it, I really loved it. But, in the back of my head I was always thinking about this Coldplay number."

He later revealed to Billboard that the program shares the story of “this bird that's the leader of the flock and I had this broken wing and toward the end I flew on.” Rippon would later win bronze at Trophée de France and qualify for the Grand Prix final, where he came in 6th. His next big competition was the U.S. National Championships, where he would try to defend his title.

On January 6, only a week before the U.S. National Championships were set to begin, Rippon “sprained his ankle and fractured fifth metatarsal bone," according to IceNetwork, after attempting off-ice practice jumps. He had to stay off the ice for eight to 12 weeks and couldn’t defend his title. Nathan Chen became the new national champion.

But just like the bird in the story, Adam would fly once again. He returned to competition ice at the 2017 Finlandia Trophy, where he came in third and came back with his programs from the previous season. He also won silver at both NHK Trophy and Skate America, when he dislocated his shoulder and popped it back in during his free skate, allowing him to return to the Grand Prix final where he came in fifth.

After Skate America, Rippon talked to Andrea Joyce and explained why he continued with his program, "and I said, you know what? I want my money. I want my check. I'm gonna finish this program and I'm gonna be awesome."

At the 2018 U.S. Championships, Rippon came in fourth overall placing second in the short program and fourth in the long. Due to the selection criteria for the Olympic team, Rippon's international experience put him above second place winner Ross Minor and allowed him to fulfill his goal of going to the Olympics. Adam Rippon, along with the United States Figure Skating Team, has already won bronze during the team event. He will continue to skate to his “O (Fly On)” free program along with his short program to “Let Me Think About It” by Ida Corr & Fedde Le Grande during the men’s competition, where he will try to win a second Olympic medal.

"Now when I do the program I think maybe my wing shouldn't be broken anymore," Rippon told Billboard. "So now I'm flying through the whole thing."

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