Abbott turns to Dickson, Bourne for programs

U.S. champ loves DSC; says "I made the right choice" on training change

Jeremy Abbott says moving his training base to Michigan was the right decision.
Jeremy Abbott says moving his training base to Michigan was the right decision. (Getty Images)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(06/19/2009) - Jeremy Abbott is fighting a summer cold and laryngitis but can't contain his enthusiasm for his new training digs at the Detroit Skating Club (DSC).

"I just love it," he said.

Former coach Tom Zakrajsek led the skater to the Grand Prix Final and U.S. titles last season, but in May the 24-year-old decided to make the move to Michigan. There he's trained by Yuka Sato, the 1994 world champion, with an assist from her husband, two-time U.S. pair champ (with Kyoko Ina) Jason Dungjen.

"Yuka and Jason have been so fantastic. The rink here is phenomenal. Jerod Swallow [five-time U.S. ice dance champ, with Elizabeth Punsalan] is skating director and he has been so accommodating. I'm happy with the situation and with the decision I've made." caught up with Abbott and got the scoop on his programs for the Olympic season.

So, what's the word on your free skate music?

My free will be "Jupiter" (from Gustav Holst's "The Planets Suite") and "Pines of Rome" (by Ottorino Respighi). It's music people will recognize when they hear it. I always try to use something a bit different; this season I wanted something familiar to people, but not something they heard a lot.

What did your choreographer, Tom Dickson, think of the choice?

We actually started work on a different piece I brought to him, but just with the editing and trying to get everything right, it became pretty obvious it wasn't really the right fit for me. I asked Tom what he thought about "Jupiter" from "The Planets." That floored him a bit, but then he and I worked on it and it took off in an entirely different direction.

A lot of skaters seem to be approaching their programs a bit differently this Olympic season.

I want to continue doing what I did last season, improve my skating skills, artistry and range of movement, but also make the program more accessible to a broader audience.

Does that mean we can look forward to a dramatic, straight-line step sequence that gets the crowd clapping?

Well, maybe not quite to that extent, but something not so . . . conceptual. Obviously it's still going to be a little bit introverted, because that's the kind of skater I am, but I'd like to make it more extroverted and open so a broader range of people can appreciate it. That's especially important this season since more people, not just necessarily hardcore figure skating fans, will hopefully be watching.

How about your short?

My short program is "A Day in the Life" by the Beatles, played by Jeff Beck. It's being choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne [the 2003 world ice dance champion, with Victor Kraatz].

How did you decide to work with Shae?

She has a dance team, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who split their time between Canada and DSC. I saw her when she first moved out here. It's a good situation; she's close by with her team, so I can see her a few times this season to [continue] work on the program.

I really loved Shae's work with Joannie [Rochette] and I loved her as a skater, and she was highly recommended by a lot of people. We haven't started working together yet, but I'm going up to Toronto next week to see what we can produce together.

Why "A Day in the Life?"

I know Michelle Kwan skated to it [as a short in 1999-2000]. I first thought about it two or three years ago. I always loved it; I can connect with it and feel it emotionally and physically. I have a strong sense of the music.

I had wanted to do it last year, but Cat [Lindgren] came up with the "Adagio" instead. This season I presented the idea to Shae and she loved it. All of us -- me, Shae, Yuka and Jason -- felt it was the right choice.

I understand you just signed a sponsorship deal with Züca Bags.

Yes. I'm excited to partner with them; they're definitely the coolest bags out there. They're developing a signature line for me, called "Pigs Can Fly," and the message for kids is that anybody and everybody can achieve their goals. We will be donating bags for the charities I'm involved in, for silent auctions and other fund raising.