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Abbott flies high under the radar

U.S. champion heads to Vancouver full of quiet confidence

2010 U.S. men's champion Jeremy Abbott hangs out in the green room at <i>The Today Show</i>.
2010 U.S. men's champion Jeremy Abbott hangs out in the green room at The Today Show. (Lynn Rutherford)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(02/01/2010) - When The Today Show's Matt Lauer interviewed Jeremy Abbott at New York's Rockefeller Center last Friday, he made a telling observation.

"It seems you're staying just a little bit below the radar," Lauer said.

While Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir vie for headlines, magazine profiles and high-fashion pictorials, the man who defeated both at the 2010 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships, winning his second straight U.S. title and executing a perfect quad in the process, is going quietly about his business.

"I could say all I want, I could say I will be Olympic champion, but it doesn't matter unless I go out there and perform," Abbott, 24, said.

"I think Johnny's an entertainer and he's a lot of fun to be around because you never know what he's going to come up with or what's going to come out of his mouth. Evan is full of confidence. That's great. Johnny won a medal at worlds [in 2008] and Evan is the world champion."

Still, if he duplicates or betters the programs he laid down at the U.S. Championships, the understated Abbott will make quite a splash in Vancouver and could come away with a medal, perhaps gold. But that's not his focus.

"At nationals, I wanted to improve upon my performances on the Grand Prix and continue to build and peak at the right time," he said.

"It's going to be the same for Vancouver. It's a judged sport and I don't have control over my placement, I just have control over how I skate, so I just want to improve upon what I did and we'll see where I end up."

ICE: You skated a clean short and long in Spokane, including a quad toe. How can you improve for Vancouver?
JEREMY ABBOTT: I did a lot of really great things in Spokane and I took a huge step forward. But I felt that the free program was a little unpolished, I could do a little more improvement in that. And we're adding a second triple Axel where the first triple Lutz is so that's another step. Also, I didn't get all my spin levels, I think I got [Levels] 4, 3, 2, and they're all [intended to be] 4s, so just making sure the details are there for that.

The short program I was very proud of, but I thought the flip and the Lutz could have been better. These are all things that will be addressed. Just continue to train very hard and on to the next one.

ICE: Two triple Axels and a quad toe in your free skate, that's something not every top guy does these days.
ABBOTT: It's something I'm capable of, and it's something my coaches Yuka [Sato] and Jason [Dungjen] and I feel is the next step. It's kind of always been the plan, after NHK [Trophy] we backed down the program so that I could improve and do more solid performances, and I have, so now it's time to put the [second] triple Axel back in.

And there's always a back-up plan. Obviously in the moment we'll see how things are going and where things are. The plan is to do the triple Axel but if Yuka and Jason feel I don't need it then I'll do the triple Lutz.

ICE: Do you think the men on the podium in Vancouver will need quads?
ABBOTT: Yes and no. Everyone said that at the last two worlds and look what happened. But with people coming back like Stephane [Lambiel] and like [Evgeni] Plushenko and [Daisuke] Takahashi it's very important.

ICE: Do I think you have to have a quad to win?
ABBOTT: Not necessarily. Anything can happen on any given day. But I think it really sets you apart from the rest, especially if you can do it and still spin, put out a solid performance and do the rest of your jumps. It's definitely going to put you in a higher league and it will put you in a better place for that gold medal.

ICE: Taking nothing away from your time in Colorado Springs, your move to Detroit last summer seems to have rejuvenated you.
ABBOTT: Yuka and Jason are really fantastic. They say they exact same thing but they say it in two different ways so I can kind of get another way to grasp it. So if I'm not understanding one then the other will say it and I'll understand, and kind of vice versa.

They're so calm and so relaxed. They've been in these situations and when I talk to them, they're like, "You know, that's how we felt, we went through that, we did that." And it's really comforting to hear these great champions say they've been in my position. They have a very strong vision for me and when I talk to them it's very easy for me to see where they're going with every detail.

ICE: Since moving to Detroit, what's your typical day?
ABBOTT: My life is pretty boring. I wake up, I make breakfast, I go to the rink, I warm up, I skate, I have lunch, I warm up, I skate, I work out, I go home, I eat dinner, I go to bed.

I have my own apartment in Bloomfield Hills, five minutes from the rink. I loved going to IKEA and just decorating my apartment. I've really been enjoying cooking. I haven't gotten too experimental; I've learned to make gnocchi, and I've learned to make risotto, chicken and asparagus . . . living on my own and taking care of myself, it's been a lot of fun.

ICE: You've said your energy flagged after you won your first U.S. Championship last year. Is it different this time around?
ABBOTT: I don't feel like I'm running on empty at this point in the season. I'm excited to go to the Olympics and excited to go to worlds. Last year I was excited to go on vacation. [Abbott placed 11th at the 2009 worlds.] It's a little bit different. I feel much more energized. It's the Olympics, how could I not be excited? The work is done. Right now it's just polishing and keeping my body in good shape.

ICE: Have you decided to continue competing after worlds?
I would like to put in another season. I've kind of been saying that I want to skate until I really feel that I fulfilled myself. Not just medals, it doesn't matter about placements, I want to feel that I've done everything I could competitively, artistically, athletically, all of the above. If I win Olympic gold and I feel I've done all of that then maybe this will be my last season. I really feel there's more I would like to do with my skating before I retire [from] competing.

ICE: Some of your competitors have big personalities, but you seem comfortable with a low-key approach.
ABBOTT: I'm just different. Ever since I was little I've never been the type to speak out or to put myself in the center of attention by way of how I talk about myself or just how I talk in general. Now that I'm at this point I'd just much rather let my skating do the talking. Words are useless unless you produce.

I don't like tons of attention except for when I'm on the ice. I love to be the center of attention when I'm on the ice. Off the ice I'm just quiet me.