Abbott Steals the Show at Four Continents Championshipsby Laura Fawcett
Photo by Matt Stockman/Getty Images
(2/7/07) - Jeremy Abbott has been through a lot in the last couple of years. In fact, no one probably understands the ups and downs of an athlete's career better than the 21-year-old.
First, he won the U.S. junior title in 2005. A year later, in his initial attempt in the senior ranks, Abbott finished fifth at the Midwestern Sectional and failed to make it to the U.S. Championships.
After a year of focused training, things began to turn around. He won the Finlandia Trophy last October. Then, not to be denied a national berth for the second year, he zipped to the Midwestern title and finished fourth at the 2007 State Farm U.S. Championships with a stellar free skate.
Now, Abbott is on top of the world at the Four Continents Championships. Despite the fact that he was the alternate to the event (replacing Johnny Weir) the Colorado Springs skater was the top American after the men's short program Wednesday night at the World Arena. The only thing standing between Abbott and the literal top is Canadian Jeff Buttle, who leads Abbott by a little more than three points, 77.72-74.34.
Abbott's personal best performance included a triple Lutz-triple toe, triple Axel and triple loop, but most of all it showed the perseverance of a rising star.
“I think I learned a lot more from my failures than I did from my successes,” Abbott said. “Having a disastrous Mids last year I think helped put me in a better spot this year. I came back with my coaches and reevaluated everything. Everything was a lot more intense and a lot more specific this year. I was much more ready for competition.”
And to think, Abbott didn't have any placement goals heading into Four Continents because it was his first ISU championship.
“This is my first major international so I don't know where I stand,” said Abbott, who had just one negative grade of execution. “I just really wanted to come in and make a good mark on the international scene.”
That he did, and until Buttle took the ice at the end of the night, it appeared that not only was he about to pull off one of the biggest figure skating surprises of the year, but he was going to do it at the top of the standings.
Buttle changed that with a superlative performance that merited all level fours from the judges. Unlike Abbott, Buttle wasn't perfect in his jumps (he stumbled out of the triple Axel), but his spins and footwork more than made up for the mistake.
The Canadian champion is competing in his first international of the year after missing about three months of training due to a back injury. He only started training again in November, but the level fours proved he made good use of the time he had.
“We consistently train with the basics until it feels good and continue to add the level of difficulty,” Buttle said. “There is no doubt, I'm very happy to compete internationally again.”
Buttle and Abbott were joined in the post-event press conference by Bradley, Abbott's Colorado Springs training-mate. The U.S. silver medalist also showcased a solid skate, landing a triple Axel, triple flip-double toe and triple Lutz. For Bradley, it was also a great experience to compete in front of his hometown fans.
Photo by Matt Stockman/Getty Images
“When I was out there it was a lot of fun,” he said. “My friends and family were just incredibly loud, and that just made it a blast. I live down the street, so it's kind of hard to get in competition mode. My coaches have really helped me adapt, and I feel like I'm at a competition, just in very familiar surroundings.”
With all the hoopla surrounding hometown heroes Abbott and Bradley, the biggest question was “What happened to Evan Lysacek?”
The newly crowned U.S. champion might have been asking himself the same thing, but he took his lackluster performance in stride. After opening with a triple Axel, he struggled with the front end of his triple Lutz combination and doubled the back end. He followed that with a double flip, something rarely seen from the two-time World bronze medalist.
“It was a very strange night for competition,” he said. “There were few people in the audience and almost a lack of energy. I usually try to feed off the energy in the crowd, but there wasn't much energy tonight.”
Lysacek also had the challenge of turning around to compete after the high of winning his first U.S. title with spectacular performance. Less than two points out of third place, Lysacek is hardly out of the running for the medals, especially considering his history of free skate triumphs.
The men's event concludes Friday with the free skate.