Ryan Bradley tried to retire, twice, in 2010 before deciding last fall to make a skating comeback after a career filled with much promise but more disappointments.
Sunday, the 27-year-old from Colorado Springs wrapped up a most unlikely week, pulling off his first senior national title at the end of the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, N.C. Bradley couldn't come up with clean landings on either of his two quadruple jumps, but with all the other expected contenders making more mistakes, Bradley held off three surprising challengers who actually outskated him in the free program.
In fact, after the victory, the self-deprecating Bradley admitted to media that he had won with "probably the ugliest national championship program ever." Still, it made his return worth it.
He had waved goodbye to the skating world at the 2010 Nationals after finishing fourth and just missing the Olympic team. Then, after Olympic champion Evan Lysacek chose not to skate at the World Championships last March, Bradley accepted an invitation to join the U.S. World Team. But then he suffered a broken foot in training, tried to skate through it and placed a disappointing 18th at Worlds, leading to his second retirement. But after months of encouraging messages from supporters, Bradley decided to return again, even without the benefit of an offseason international competition.
Now he's heading back to Worlds, this time as champion.
Second place went to Richard Dornbush of Corona, Calif., with Ross Miner of Boston third. Then came two-time defending champion Jeremy Abbott, who bombed in his program and was lucky to salvage fourth. Brandon Mroz of Colorado Springs, who was third in the short program and took the ice Sunday with a great chance of winning a medal, made his own errors and slid to seventh. Two other Broadmoor skaters, Alexander Johnson and Joshua Farris, finished 16th and 21st.