Former local qualifies for skating nationals | AspenTimes.com

Former local qualifies for skating nationals

Nate Peterson

Former Aspen local Jeremy Abbott was the top male skater at the U.S. Figure Skating Midwestern Section Championhips in Birmingham, Ala., last weekend. (Courtesy Allison Scott)

Sometimes it’s best to come up short. It makes you realize how bad you want that for which you are striving. It makes you push harder, focus more and be slower to give in.

Jeremy Abbott knows as much. He can tell you all about coming up short. Three points is all that separated him from earning a spot at the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships last year. That’s one botched landing on one jump.

“I learned a lot from having such a horrible experience last year,” said Abbott, who trained with the Aspen Skating Club until 1999 before he moved to Colorado Springs. “I knew I was good enough to make it to nation­als, and that just motivated me to work so much harder to prove that I could this year.”

Abbott, 21, is headed to nationals in Spokane, Wash., in January, and not by a slim margin. He was the top skater in the senior men’s field at last weekend’s Midwestern sectionals in Birmingham, Ala. ” redeeming himself for his dis­appointing showing last year at the same competition.

The four best men’s skaters from Birmingham will compete in Spokane with the eight other top skaters from the country’s other two sections ( Eastern and Pacific Coast). Five other elite skaters who have earned a bye into the competition because of their finish at last year’s nationals will also be in Spokane.

If Abbott is to finish among the top three, that would mean a berth into March’s world championships in Tokyo.

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“I’ve worked really hard for this sea­son, so I knew it was going to turn out well at sectionals,” said Abbott, who trains at World Arena in Colorado Springs, home to U.S. Hockey. “I didn’t know I was going to win, but I felt very confident that I’d make it to nationals.”

The reigning men’s national champi­on is Johnny Weir, the outspoken star of U. S. skating who finished fifth at the Olympics in February. Weir has won the last three national titles, and fin­ished seventh at last year’s worlds.

In figure skating circles, the world championships are arguably more important than the Olympics. The opportunity to compete against Weir and possibly advance to Tokyo has Abbott more focused than he’s ever been.

“I gain a lot of confidence from how I train on the ice,” Abbott said. “It’s just about setting goals and wanting to achieve them. Just knowing how hard I’ve worked, and how much I’ve put into every­thing has given me that confidence.

“It just keeps building each month, week and day.”

Abbott’s season got a jump-start in October when he won the prestigious Finlandia Trophy in Helsinki, Fin­land ” becoming just the third American to ever do so. Defending Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen was the last American to win the award, in 2001.

Abbott topped a field that included some top young skaters from Russia, finishing three points ahead of Alexander Uspenski.

Abbott was surprised to get an assignment to the competition from U.S. Figure Skating, considering the national governing body doesn’t typically send skaters to international competitions who have yet to compete at nationals.

Because he came in without any expectations, it was easy to remain loose and skate with nothing to lose, Abbott said.

“I had no idea what to expect,” he said. “I was just really well prepared and wanted to skate my best.”

As for his mentality heading into nationals, Abbott said he feels he’s in a similar situation.

“I do get nervous, but it’s a matter of being nervous in a good way, not scared,” he said. “I just really rely on my training. I just go out and do everything the same I would every day ” the thoughts, movements, every­thing the way I’ve done it in practice.”

Before he heads off to nationals, Abbott plans to make his yearly return to Aspen.

He is slated to skate to the Nutcracker with another U.S. team member, Erica Archambault, and members of the Aspen Skating Club at the Grand Hyatt’s Silver Cir­cle outdoor rink Dec. 6.

Last Spring, Abbott returned to Aspen to raise money for Aspen Skating Club members who are competing this week at the Southwestern Regional Championships in Arvada. Twelve members of the club received fund­ing from a silent auction set up by Abbott and his fami­ly; the fundraiser garnered approximately $3,000 for the cause.

In addition, Abbott donated money from his shows and exhibitions in support of an additional fund that helps encourage boys to skate competitively. Currently, two young ASC members have benefited.

While he has lived in Colorado Springs for the last seven years, Aspen is still a place that’s dear to his heart, Abbott said.

“I always look forward to coming up and skating with members of the club,” he said. “I wish I could go skiing, but as a competitive athlete I can’t take that risk.”

Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspen­times.com

The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.

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