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Abbott captures short with cloak and swagger

Miner sits 3.11 points behind in second place; Farris shocked to be third

Jeremy Abbott decided against the quad, and it paid off for him in the men's short program.
Jeremy Abbott decided against the quad, and it paid off for him in the men's short program. (Jay Adeff)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/26/2013) - Most spies don't play it safe, but Jeremy Abbott's secret agent man won the day by being cautious.

Abbott's short program, choreographed by Benji Schwimmer to Nathan Lanier's "Spy," had edgy choreography, tight spins and interesting steps. What it didn't have was a quad, a maneuver six other men at the 2013 U.S. Championships tried, and three fully rotated and landed.

"The quad came out a couple of weeks ago," Abbott, 27, said. "I had some setbacks early on with my back, and we tried tinkering with the technique on the quad, and finally it's starting to come back into place. I just wanted to do two solid programs here and then go full out at worlds."

Abbott's plan might have gone awry on his opening triple flip-triple toe combination, which looked a bit tentative, but it paid off with the rest of his program, including sharp, stylized movements done with matchless performance quality. He earned 84.10 points to take a 3.11-point lead over Ross Miner.

"I had to work my butt off," said Abbott, who trains at the Detroit Skating Club under Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen. "From that opening triple flip, I missed my tap a little bit and I had to fight for that landing. The triple Axel went up a little slow, so I kind of had to squeak that out as well.

"But the rest of the program, I had a lot of fun with," he continued. "You know, I've been saying I came to these championships really bearing the weight of being the current champion, so I really feel like I have a huge target on my back. Everyone's kind of gunning for me."

Delays in choosing choreographers, as well as some indecision on music choices, gave Abbott his late start. Seeking greater consistency with his quad toe, he temporarily changed from a straight-line entrance to a circular approach. His troubles were compounded when he was diagnosed with a compressed back disc at Skate America in October.

"I came into this championships knowing this would be more work than in past seasons," Abbott said. "For me, my focus was to do the best I could for now, and move on to London[, Ontario,] and make some magic happen there."

With a solid lead entering Sunday's free skate, Abbott seems confident his play-it-safe strategy will pay off, and he will get the chance to up the ante at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario, this March. He plans to include a quad toe in his free skate to "Bring Him Home" from Les Misérables.

"There's a lot of good guys," he said. "I don't need to be perfect. But I need to be good. I need to be able to work the program. I need to be able to do my jumps and just do what I do at home. This program is always something special for me to perform.

Miner, who turned 22 earlier this week, has included a quad Salchow in every one of his competitive programs this season, and he stuck with that strategy here. It cost him when the jump was judged under-rotated by the technical panel and gained just 6.26 points.

The rest of his program, including a solid triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe combination, was speedy and stylish, and he earned 80.99 points.

"Tonight was a little bit tentative for me, but I was really happy I went out there and did a pretty solid program and got the quad Salchow done in the short," Miner said. "I had to remember to skate for myself, and to also not protect anything and to attack everything."

"For him to pull [the quad] in and stand up in the short was a big step for us. That was the first time he did it in the short," said Peter Johansson, who coaches Miner at Skating Club of Boston. "The rest was obviously a lot better."

The skater's other coach, Mark Mitchell, confirmed that Miner would include a quad in his free skate Sunday.

"We have a plan A and a plan A," he said.

Joshua Farris, the reigning world junior silver medalist, sits third after a clean, elegant program to a Yo-Yo Ma cello selection. The 18-year-old hit a strong opening triple Axel, and although his triple Lutz-triple toe combination was a bit tentative, he made up for it with Level 4 spins and steps. He earned 79.78 points.

"Skating internationally, my best score was 75," Farris said. "So, getting 79, my mind was blown. I'm a little petrified being up here right now, but I'm so happy."

Farris' coaches, Damon Allen and Christy Krall, think their skater is ready to step it up in Sunday's free skate.

"Just the way he's been training this season, we will reiterate [to him] how trained he is, how well-prepared he is," said Allen, who trains Farris in Colorado Springs. "He is where he belongs."

The first skater of the event, Max Aaron, hit the only quad combination, a quad Salchow-triple toe worth 15.74 points. Although he also landed a solid triple Lutz and triple Axel, he lost ground on his program components score. Still, he is well within striking distance with 79.13 points.

Richard Dornbush, the 2011 U.S. silver medalist, hit his opening quad toe, but put a hand down on an under-rotated triple Axel. He is fifth with 77.66 points.

Last season's silver medalist, Adam Rippon, skated a sensitive, lyrical program to "Nessun Dorma," including a stunning closing combination spin, but fell on the second jump of his triple flip-triple toe combination. He placed sixth with 76.65.