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Rinkside in Greensboro: Abbott states his case

"Sing, Sing, Sing" pays off big for Evora, Ladwig

Jeremy Abbott goes for his third consecutive national title in Greensboro.
Jeremy Abbott goes for his third consecutive national title in Greensboro. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/27/2011) - Jeremy Abbott is finally in the house.

There have been blizzards up and down the East Coast and Midwest, but travel delays had nothing to do with the timing of the two-time defending champion's arrival from his training base at the Detroit Skating Club.

"It was always my plan to come to Greensboro the day before," he said. "The waiting is the worst part. I'm more comfortable training at home. Plus, at internationals, you only get one day practice, so it's consistent with that. I did not want to be here, watching everybody."

The decision meant Abbott's first practice was this afternoon, right before the pairs took the ice for the short program event. He'll have another practice and warm-up before he competes his short program on Friday evening.

Abbott -- who won silver at NHK Trophy and bronze at Cup of Russia, just missing qualifying for the Grand Prix Final -- struggled with equipment issues last fall. Now he says he's back on track.

"At the beginning of the season, my boots were not right. I could not get the blades mounted [properly] and they were never quite comfortable. They were twisted or something, I can't explain it; [coach Jason Dungjen] knows more about it than I do. I lost a lot of training time.

"Two weeks before NHK, I went back to my old pair, which I wore last season and through the whole Stars on Ice tour. They were dead. I had to tape them for support and it was changing my technique. So while it was a shame I didn't qualify for the Final, the time off let me [break in] new boots."

Never one to tout himself, Abbott is playing it even more low key than usual in Greensboro, saying he "doesn't expect" the magical performances he put out at the 2010 U.S. Championships, when he handily defeated Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir. He went on to place a disappointing ninth at the Vancouver Games and fifth at worlds.

Here, qualifying for one of the three U.S. men's spots at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships in Tokyo this March is his singular goal. As of now, his tentative plan is to also compete at the 2011 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Taipei City, if he is named to the team.

"Three U.S. titles would be fantastic, but it's not my focus. I think everybody knows I tend to peak too soon. I don't see that happening this year. I hope to have a good short, a good free skate and come off the ice feeling good about what I did to this point, and then prepare for the next [competition]."

There are no big changes in either of his programs, although he still contemplates adding a quadruple toe loop to his free skate, choreographed by David Wilson to the "Life is Beautiful" soundtrack. He landed one in his first practice here.

"It's been hit or miss. I made a big adjustment to my technique [due to the boots]. It's not as consistent as it's been in the past; usually, I come to a competition with a definite strategy, but this time we're going to do what we feel is necessary for that moment. It will be something the three of us [Abbott and coaches Yuka Sato and Dungjen] discuss. It's absolutely that's the plan to do it at worlds. We'll decide whether to do it here at the last minute, depending on where we are."

"Sing, Sing, Sing" does the trick for Evora, Ladwig

Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, and their head coach Jim Peterson, liked their short program, choreographed by Peterson to music from The Mark of Zorro. But officials advised a change, and in this business you don't shrug off constructive criticism.

The U.S. pair silver medalists won their first-ever Grand Prix medal, bronze at Cup of Russia, with the short, but got feedback Zorro didn't suit their style.

"It wasn't getting the marks internationally," Peterson said. "It was my own fault; I did the edits, and it was a little hard to hit the footwork to all the beats. So we went for a program that was still exciting, but a little bit more Americana and a little more in their comfort level. There's a clear beat and it plays to Mark's strengths."

The change paid off with a clean short in Greensboro. The team stands second going in to Saturday's free skate.

"It was our first time [competing] the program so I was little nervous," Evora said. "We're quite happy with what we did. It was basically clean, but there were a few little flaws, which is a relief because we know we can improve it."

Peterson thinks it was by far the best short his team, who began competing together during the 2003/2004 season, has ever performed at the U.S. Championships.

"Getting Level 4 on the footwork is so exciting," he said. "Hopefully, we'll have the opportunity to make it even stronger, at Four Continents or worlds."