Competing in front of a home crowd, Alex Johnson said, comes with its own brand of pressure. Being able to handle that as well as he did this week made his return to Minnesota all the sweeter.
The Minnetonka native earned his highest placement ever at the U.S. championships, finishing sixth after Sunday’s free skate at Xcel Energy Center. Johnson, 25, reprised the long program he did in 2013 — to the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” — and gave one of his finest performances, earning 168.25 points to give him a total score of 241.94. Johnson’s free-skate score was the fifth best of the day.
The performance earned Johnson a spot as third alternate for the U.S. men’s team that will compete at the upcoming world championships in Boston. Johnson also was named second alternate for the U.S. team for the Four Continents Championships Feb. 16-21 in Taipei, Taiwan.
“To do that in front of a home crowd, it means a lot,” said Johnson, who trained for many years with the Braemar-City of Lakes Skating Club before moving to Colorado Springs. “For them to see how my skating has evolved, it’s just everything coming full circle, and it really means the world to me.”
Johnson stumbled on a triple salchow but earned solid scores for both his technical elements and his artistry. Putting on that kind of performance in front of so many friends and family members, he said, strengthened his belief that he has more to give.
“To me, that is a very big boost of confidence,” he said. “And I feel like I can just step it up from here.”
Kulenkamp to 10th
Daniel Kulenkamp of Mahtomedi finished 10th, moving up from 13th after the short program. His lively skate to a Frank Sinatra medley scored 130.37 points, ninth best of the day, and gave him a total of 187.34.
Kulenkamp, who now trains in Arizona, said it was his best performance ever of his long program. Like Johnson, he expects his showing at nationals to energize his training.
“I know what I can do, and I just showed it,” said Kulenkamp, 20. “That was the most fun I’ve ever had at nationals. I’m over the moon.”
Back to work
Gracie Gold didn’t get much sleep after winning the women’s championship Saturday night, but it wasn’t because she was partying. She celebrated by watching the TV show “White Collar” — an episode about skating — then caught a short nap.
At 8:10 a.m. Sunday, she was climbing aboard a bus to Pleasant Arena, to get in a skate before Sunday’s exhibition at Xcel. “I just decided to keep busy and keep moving,” she said.
• U.S. Figure Skating officials said 46,850 spectators attended the events at Xcel from Thursday through Sunday, including the women’s, men’s, pairs and ice dance championships and Sunday night’s exhibition.
• Sunday’s exhibition program, which featured many of the top skaters at the championships, will be shown at 3 p.m. Saturday on NBC (Ch. 11).