Skater Abbott second after short program |

Skater Abbott second after short program

Jeremy Abbott skates in the men's short program Wednesday night in Colorado Springs at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

COLORADO SPRINGS – Former Aspenite Jeremy Abbott was second after the men’s short program Wednesday night at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.A late addition when Johnny Weir decided not to attend, Abbott finished behind Canada’s Jeffrey Buttle. Ryan Bradley was third. Evan Lysacek, who won the 2007 U.S. Championships, was fourth after a flat performance. The men’s free skate will be Friday night.Lysacek executed every jump and turn in his program to perfection in a vacant hallway before he was summoned to the ice. But he couldn’t duplicate the hallway performance when it counted.Abbott had a shaky short program at the U.S. Championships, but felt more comfortable in front of his hometown crowd.”The cameras [at nationals] threw me off,” said Abbott, who watched last year’s Four Continents from the seats behind the judges. “I felt much more confident and mentally prepared with this skate.”Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo had no problems expressing themselves on the ice in taking the lead of the pairs competition after the short program Wednesday night.Off the ice is a different story.

“We’re retiring,” Shen said through an interpreter after their performance.From skating? After Four Continents? Really?After a quick huddle with their interpreter – while a buzz went around the room – they got the translation straight.”We’re taking some time off after the world championships (in March),” Shen said with a smile.Shen and Zhao lead Chinese counterparts Tong Jian and Pang Qing by 3.49 points heading into Thursday’s free skate. Not bad considering Shen and Zhao almost skipped Four Continents. Coming so soon after the Asian Winter Games and given Zhao’s superstitions about events at high altitude, the pair almost stayed home.”We’re very tired,” Shen said.Considering their recent medical maladies, world champions Tong and Pang are just happy to be skating.Tong wears a headband to hide the scar from a Jan. 1 car accident in Beijing – his head crashed through the window – and Pang can’t skate longer than an hour at a time in practice due to a kidney ailment.

However, they turned in a fairly polished short program.”Going to this competition is a high point for us,” said Tong, who had 16 stitches to close the wound to his head.Defending Four Continent champions Rena Inoue and John Baldwin landed their signature throw triple axel, but they still were in third place, 7.56 out of the lead. Brooke Castile and Benjamin Okolski, who won the U.S. Championships in January, were in seventh place after each made a mistake on side-by-side double axels.”It’s about the skate and not about the title,” Castile said. “We look at this as another experience.”Baldwin was upset with some of the marks after their performance. He thought the pair deserved higher, especially for the spiral sequence.”That’s one of our best things,” Baldwin said. “We kind of got held down on that. I’m not sure why.”I’d like to see the judges reward us a little bit more on the second mark instead of holding us back and protecting other teams. We’re trying hard things, we’re doing things no one else in the world is doing. Give us some credit for that. … Be fair to us.”

Language was no problem in ice dancing, where Ben Agosto blurted out a response before a question was asked.”Yes, I tripped in the corner,” Agosto said after his performance with Tanith Belbin in the compulsory dance Wednesday. “But it was OK because the rest of it was good.”But the stumble cost Agosto and Belbin first place heading into the original dance on Thursday, as Patrice Lauzon and partner Marie-France Dubreuil’s opening score of 38.54 led the competition. Agosto and Belbin were less than a point behind, while fellow Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White were in third place.Although Belbin and Agosto won the U.S. Championships, they wanted to jazz up their compulsory dance. They felt they held back in Spokane, Wash., and wanted more power in the routine. But Agosto stubbed his toe in the ice on the second pattern and momentarily lost his balance. It was the only hiccup in an otherwise smooth routine.”It felt really strong. I think we rose to the occasion,” Belbin said. “If I had to choose between a tentative skate without a mistake and one like that one, I would choose that one. Being less than a point behind with a major error is pretty good.”After their performance to lead off the morning, Canada’s Lauzon let Dubreuil do most of the talking. Not because he didn’t have anything to say – he couldn’t catch his breath. The altitude, combined with the exertion of the golden waltz, left him huffing and puffing a good five minutes after the performance.”It’s a pretty hard compulsory dance,” Lauzon said. “It’s not much breathing time in it. For the dance and altitude, we did pretty good.”

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