It's not hard to spot the hockey background of reigning U.S. national figure skating champion Max Aaron.
The 2010 Cheyenne Mountain High School graduate takes the same athletic, aggressive approach to each short or long program as he did each shift as a player in the U.S. national team development program.
'I didn't back down when I took on 6-foot-4 defenseman along the boards and I don't back down in my program, ' the 5-8 skater from Scottsdale, Ariz. said.
That attitude has its detractors, especially from those who prefer the more ballet-like performances of past champions.
The naysayers give Aaron, 21, an aspect to focus on as he prepares for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
'I want to show I am capable of developing my aesthetic side, ' he said.
He used Saturday's private gala at World Arena to work on that.
The fundraiser, which drew a sold-out crowd of 300, was held in conjunction with U.S. Figure Skating's annual organizational meeting, which concludes Sunday.
'You are always looking to pick up whatever experience you can, ' he said. 'I'm not used to skating under a spotlight so it's great to get that experience. This is also a good way to give back to the sport. '
His emphasis this spring and summer is preparing for next season.
A good start this fall is important. The Grand Prix events in October build toward the national championships in Boston on Jan. 5-12, 2014. That event helps determine the U.S. team for Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7-23.
Aaron's eyes are very much on that prize as he develops his long and short programs and works on his stamina.
'It's a process, ' he said. 'You evaluate as you work and figure out how to express the story in your own way. I am using my strength and power to my advantage by adding a quad jump to each program. Most can't do those at the end, which adds to the excitement and the technical score. '
He played hockey from age 4 to 16 and took up figure skating at 9 to improve his skating. He did both sports until 2008 when a fractured back kept him off the ice for a year.
'My grandfather said I could be good in two sports or great in one, ' he said.
Thanks to that focus, he is a national champ and Olympic contender.
'No one understood how ready he was, how strong a skater he is, how hard he works, ' reigning world champion Patrick Chan, who also trains with The Broadmoor Skating Club, said recently. 'I've never seen someone do so many run-throughs, so many sections. Many people have opportunities laid out in front of them and don't grasp them; he took the opportunity. '