Abbott adjusts attitude for worlds in Torino

"This one's for me," says two-time U.S. champion

NBC Sports, Universal Sports and team up to deliver unprecedented coverage of the 2010 Grand Prix Series.
NBC Sports, Universal Sports and team up to deliver unprecedented coverage of the 2010 Grand Prix Series. (Getty Images)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(03/17/2010) - Keeping an eye on the prize works well for some, not so well for others.

At the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane this January, defending the title wasn't uppermost in Jeremy Abbott's thoughts; he wanted to skate well and qualify for the U.S. Olympic team. Two near-perfect programs and a quad later, he was on his way to Vancouver as the reigning U.S. champion.

Once there, Abbott said, his resolve not to focus on results came unglued. He missed two jump elements in his short program, placing 15th. Although he climbed back in the free skate to finish ninth overall, his first Olympics was a disappointment.

"Going in to nationals, I honestly wasn't concerned about the result at all. I was so focused on my performance and just putting out a good, solid program," Abbott, 25, said.

"Then I made the Olympic team and all my focus just went straight out. I was really aware of it, but I just couldn't figure out how to change my mindset. I talked to people and tried to do everything I could to change how I was viewing things, because I knew it was wrong, but I couldn't make that switch. The result obviously spoke for itself."

Last season, Abbott had his finest performance winning the 2008-2009 Grand Prix Final in December 2009. By the time worlds came around a few months later, his energy was depleted and he placed 11th.

This season, the skater said he has a lot left in the tank for worlds next week in Torino, where he will lead a U.S. men's contingent also featuring first and second U.S. alternates Ryan Bradley and Adam Rippon. (Bradley and Rippon are taking spots originally slated for Olympic champion Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir, the three-time U.S. champion who placed sixth in Vancouver.)

"My coaches [Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen] and I increased the difficulty of [my free] program after nationals, we put in the second triple Axel, so I knew there was more I could do for the Olympics," he said.

"It wasn't about the kind issue [I had at worlds] last season, when I was trying to recreate those moments I had earlier in the season, at the Grand Prix Final and at nationals. The Olympics was something I dreamed about for so long, I wanted to win so bad, and I got so wrapped up in the end result of it that I couldn't focus on the program and on just getting the job done."

Hard at work back at his training base in Detroit, Abbott said he's taking steps to help ensure his third trip to worlds -- he also placed 11th in 2008 -- is his most successful.

"I'm feeling a lot more confident and relaxed going into Torino than I did Vancouver," he said. "I'm excited to go to worlds and really just skate for myself this time, and not get so caught up in the results and the whole hype of it.

"I really learned a lot from the Olympics and going through something that immense and big and fantastic. Worlds last year was also huge. The year before was even bigger, because I wasn't even expecting to go [Abbott was named to the team when Lysacek got injured]. I'm still so excited and honored any time I compete for the U.S., but it's just not this overwhelming, huge competition it used to be. I'm really excited to go in and just be focused on the performance and not be worried by the outcome."

Abbott acknowledged that U.S. Figure Skating needs a strong finish from him to help qualify three men's spots for worlds next season. (To maintain three entries, the placements of the two top U.S. skaters cannot equal more than 13.) Still, focusing on a good result would be counterproductive, he said.

"I have a great opportunity to do well, but I'm not concerning myself with that, I just really, really want to go to Torino and end my season on a high."

After Torino, Abbott flies directly to Ft. Myers, Fla., to join the cast of Smucker's Stars on Ice, which embarks on a 41-city tour April 1st.

"I have three days of rehearsals and then we start," he said. "Like Olympics, [skating with Stars on Ice] has been something I've dreamed of since I was little. I always wanted to tour with SOI or Champions on Ice, or do a big American tour. This is a big deal for me. I'm gone from home almost until June."

Abbott, who was inspired to take up the sport as an four-year-old after his mother took him to see Robin Cousins perform in his hometown of Aspen, Colo., looks forward to connecting with current fans and, hopefully, attracting new fans to the sport.

"I love to perform, period," he said. "And if someone starts skating, partly because of me, then that would be so cool."

Abbott plans to perform to Michael Buble's "It's at this Moment," as well as a portion of his competitive free skate, in the show.

"I would have loved to have gotten something new and unique for this experience, but after the Olympics, my focus is on worlds and then I go straight to tour, so there's not enough time," he laughed.

"Actually everyone [in the cast] I believe left [for Florida] over the weekend, so they're going to be starting rehearsals this week. So I'll have three days to learn what they are doing in two weeks."

Sato, the 1994 world champion, is a long-time SOI member who will also be performing on the tour. Skater and coach have already discussed the dynamics of their relationship on tour, vs. at home.

"Yuka made it very clear: when we are on tour, she's not the coach," Abbott said. "She said, 'I'm going to be keeping an eye on you, and obviously I'll make corrections, but I'm a cast member, I have my own things to focus on."

After the tour concludes on May 30, Abbott emphasized it's back to training for next season.

"My plans are not changed; I'm still going to compete," he said. "I'm keeping an ear open for music, I'm thinking what I want to portray [next season], but not much.

"My season is not over. I still have to focus on the present. I'm really just sticking to my game plan; I'm doing this one for me."