GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Ryan Bradley sure knows how to give fans what they want.
Three months after putting retirement on hold thanks to a fan campaign on Twitter and Facebook, Bradley stole the show from two-time national champion Jeremy Abbott and won the short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Friday night.
And it wasn't all that close. Bradley's flawless and fabulously entertaining program to "Bugle Boy from Company B" earned him 80.39 points, putting him exactly two points ahead of Abbott. Brandon Mroz is a distant third heading into Sunday's free skate.
"When I started training again, if I wasn't prepared to make a push at the title, to have a chance of winning it, I didn't want to be here," Bradley said. "I got off the plane and I felt something in the air. I plan on staying on top."
Earlier Friday, Olympic and world silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White took a big step toward another U.S. title with a commanding win in the short dance. They're almost six points ahead of training mates Maia and Alex Shibutani, with the free dance today.
Bradley has always been a fan favorite, with playful, theatrical programs that could earn him an Oscar nomination as well as a medal. But after finishing fourth at last year's nationals and missing the Olympic team, the 27-year-old figured it was time to hang it up. He even did a backflip as he left the ice, his way of saying goodbye.
But those plans didn't hold up. First he wound up on the world championship team after Olympic champion Evan Lysacek withdrew. As he was training for worlds, he fell and broke his right foot. Bradley kept on skating and, thinking it was healed, went in for a checkup in early May.
"[I expected] them to say, 'You're great, go back to training,' " Bradley said.
Instead, they told him he needed surgery. Immediately. he ended up being off the ice the entire summer.
Dressed in an authentic military uniform -- or as close to authentic you can get in skating spandex -- Bradley opened his program with a monstrous quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination, the only quad-triple of the night. He followed with a triple axel that had so much hang time, it rivaled any pairs throw jump.