Ice Spectacular keeps Aspen Olympian coming back for more
December 17, 2016
Olympic figure skater Jeremy Abbott no longer lives in Aspen, but considering he spent the first 14 years of his life there, it will always be a special place to him. And he'll jump on any chance he gets to show off his hometown to his friends — some of them fellow Olympians.
"It's been so long since I've lived here that it's surreal to come back. It's so familiar and I know the town so well, but it's weird to realize I was born here," Abbott said. "I love coming back. I love that this is my hometown. I love that I get to tell people this is my hometown. Even better, I love that I get to bring my friends and show them my hometown."
Any more, Abbott only gets to visit Aspen once a year. His family mostly lives in Colorado Springs, while his training base is just outside Detroit. Between that and the traveling he does between shows, squeezing in a few moments in the Roaring Fork Valley isn't easy.
But, four years ago he and Revolutions Skating Club's Peggy Behr got together to create the Aspen Ice Spectacular, which is more than enough reason to make an annual pilgrimage back home for Abbott. This year's show — held Saturday at Lewis Ice Arena in Aspen — featured an elite collection of skaters, including reigning world silver medalist Ashley Wagner, Olympic silver medalist Rosalynn Sumners and two-time Japanese champion and Olympian Yuka Sato.
Getting that sort of talent to Aspen was actually pretty easy, according to Abbott.
"I don't really have to work too hard," Abbott said. "They are always down to support any cause really and it's really not hard when you say you get a free trip to Aspen. People kind of want to jump on that. We live in a beautiful town and people love coming here."
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The show also is meant to be a benefit for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which strives to find a cure for Parkinson's disease. Two years ago, Abbott's own father died of the disease.
"I really wanted to find a way to raise money for Parkinson's research and do something along that avenue, because it was really hard watching my dad go through that whole decline," Abbott said. "Skating is what I'm best at; it's what I know. I think it's kind of the best of everything because we have an amazing, entertaining show that involves the local community, and we get to raise funds for a really good cause."
Abbott, 31, considers himself at somewhat of a crossroads these days. He competed in two Olympics, even winning a team bronze medal in 2014 with Wagner as one of his teammates. However, he's essentially sat out the last two seasons, putting more focus on shows and choreography as opposed to competition.
Although, with the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea inching ever so closer, Abbott won't go as far as to say his competitive career is over.
"The Olympic season is next season and I've been trying to keep in really good shape and push myself to kind of be working on those quads," Abbott said. "A quote, unquote comeback is not out of the question. I'm not certain if that's the route I want to go, but right at the moment, I'm kind of walking that line between being a full-time professional and keeping my amateur status."
One thing that is certain is Abbott is committed to continuing to grow the Aspen Ice Spectacular. While a small budget and equally small venue options might limit the show's ceiling, this year's lineup of figure skaters certainly shows what is possible.
"I want to make it bigger and better" Abbott said. "I want this to be a world-class show that raises good money for the local club and for Parkinson's research."
America's newest duo takes center stage in Aspen
Among the start-studded cast of Saturday's Aspen Ice Spectacular was the figure skating pair of Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc. The duo only came together over the summer, and since has competed five times.
The newest team for U.S. Figure Skating, each had recently been competing solo until it was suggested they become a pair.
"One day I got a call from U.S. Figure Skating and they said, 'Timothy LeDuc wants to come back to pairs, and we think you guys would be a great fit,'" said Cain, a native of Dallas. "For us, it wasn't two different people coming together. We had known each other for almost eight years. So we already knew each other and we knew each other's skating styles."
The two had competed against each other for years, and had both been part of the same junior world team. Cain stepped away from pairs in 2012 and LeDuc in 2014, until that phone call brought them together. Both have been successful at the novice and junior levels, and could be a duo to keep an eye on going forward.
"We both decided to come back to pairs this year and U.S. Skating put us together, and it was a great match from the beginning," Iowa's LeDuc said. "Synergy is such an important aspect of pairs, so for us, that came very quickly, because we had history already."