Former local takes fourth at nationals |

Former local takes fourth at nationals

Nate PetersonAspen, CO Colorado
Former Aspenite Jeremy Abbott opens his long program at the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships Jan. 27 in Spokane, Wash. Abbott took the bronze in the long program and finished fourth overall. (Courtesy Leah Adams)

SPOKANE, Wash. The TV cameras and the large crowds got the best of Jeremy Abbott at first. In his initial appearance at the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships on Thursday in Spokane, Wash., the former Aspen Skating Club standout fell on a routine triple Lutz during his short program and finished ninth.Hopes of finishing among the top three overall in the men’s senior division and earning the right to compete for the U.S. at next month’s World Championships in Tokyo were all but lost.

“I’ve never had to deal with the television cameras and everything that was going on backstage,” said Abbott, 21, who lived in Aspen until 1999, before moving to Colorado Springs to train. “I just got really distracted by it.”Two days later during the men’s long program, Abbott blocked out all the distractions and skated as if no one was watching. He opened with a perfectly executed triple toe loop, and then nailed his most difficult combination – a triple axel followed by a triple toe loop – to land on the podium in third, behind eventual overall winner Evan Lysacek and runner-up Ryan Bradley.His combined scores put him fourth overall in the senior division – making him the first alternate for the U.S. team headed to Tokyo.

Abbott’s evaluation of his first nationals was two-sided. He was ecstatic to take the bronze in the long program, but he also noted that if he hadn’t skated so poorly to start, he probably would be headed to Japan, instead of waiting for a call he doesn’t expect to come.”Everything happens for a reason,” Abbott said. “It was upsetting how poorly I skated in my short program. If I would have done slightly better, I would’ve gotten that third spot. Then again, it was my first time being at nationals, and it really was a lot to expect to be in the top three. I just missed it, but going from ninth to third was huge.”Abbott doesn’t have much time to celebrate. His showing in Spokane earned him a spot in next weekend’s Four Continents Figure Skating Championships at World Arena in Colorado Springs.

According to Abbott, the championships attract the top figure skaters from North America, Asia, Australia and Africa. Europe has its own figure skating championships.Around 90 athletes from 14 countries will compete at the event, most of whom recently won their respective national championships. The experience of competing at nationals was a good warm-up. Abbott actually beat former national champion Johnny Weir during the long program at nationals, but Weir still earned the third and final spot for World Championships because of his higher short-program score.”I’ve never competed against him before, so that was very cool,” said Abbott, who finished 13 points behind Weir overall. “It was definitely very gratifying to end up that high.”