Jeremy Abbott: I Keep Getting Happier
(Quotes from U.S. Figure Skating Telecon, 12 Jan 2012)
Two-time former National Champion Jeremy Abbot who lost the title in 2011 to Ryan Bradley, when he placed fourth, is raring to go as the 2012 National Championships approach. "Iím really excited for the upcoming championships," he said. "I think that San Jose is going to be a fantastic venue. Iím feeling really confident and Iím just excited for this to all get going."
Abbott has two new programs this year, a swing medley for the Short Program and "Exogenesis Symphony" by Muse for the Free Skate, and he is enthusiastic about both of them.
"I absolutely do feel like have two great programs this season," he said, "and as the season progresses I feel more and more confident in them and in my abilities, and you know, I really feel this season Iíve just been Ė Iíve been very methodical about my progress, and just each day and each week itís just progressively and slowly getting better. Heading into this championships I feel great and Iím looking [forward] Ė you know, Iím looking past this to Four Continents and Worlds."
Looking to the rest of the season, which he hopes will include competing at Four Continents in Colorado Springs, and Worlds in Nice, he said, "I feel like itís the Ė that San Jose is the start to the second half of my season. I donít fell like itís a new season. Iíve been, you know I, I havenít produced amazing free programs yet, but Iím, Iím extremely ecstatic with the progress that Iíve made, and I see how things are unfolding. So like it hasnít been perfect yet, but I see the progress is continuing to move forward, and see where I am headed and Iíll end up."
At the Grand Prix Final, where he placed second in the short but sixth in the long, Abbott described his long program as a work in progress. Looking back at that performance and describing his efforts over the last month he assessed his progress saying, "You know I was extremely ecstatic with how I performed at the final. I havenít done a quad in competition since two thousand ten U.S. Championships. So for me that was a huge step, and since Iíve come back [from the Final] Iíve just been training. Iíve been, I've been putting in the mileage and Iíve been putting in the work, and I have new skates since then, and things are going well, and Iím, Iím pleased with the progress that Iíve made and that Iím continuing to make."
At the 2011 National Championships in Greensboro, NC, Abbott placed second in the Short Program, and sixth in the Free Skate, ending up fourth overall. During the awards ceremony and subsequent photo-op, never was there a more disappointed looking medallist.
Dealing with that he explained, "Last year I was extremely disappointed with how things went. You know, but, for me in hindsight, I think that Iím actually happier that I didnít go to Worlds just the way everything shook out, with the huge disaster in Japan and then having to postpone Worlds until April, and you know seeing all my training mates having to go through that kind of hell I was kind of relieved that I didnít have to do that to be honest, and I also feel that it gave me a head start for this season and, you know, I could start putting together programs while they were still training [for Worlds] and I was already like kind of coming up with the concepts for this season, and working on getting my boot situation solved, and just really making sure that everything was in place before my season started so that I could come in this year feeling, feeling comfortable."
Asked to explain a comment he made early in the season about the judges either loving or hating his new long program, he laughed.
"You know I," he said, "I picked kind of an unconventional piece of music, and we, we choreographed it in a very different manner from what anybody is doing in skating right now and, you know, I just, I had a feeling that either it was going to be received extremely well or extremely horribly just because it was such a departure from basically what I thinkís been going on in the sport recently. So, you know, everyone has opinions, and you know, everyone can say what they want, but at the end of the day what, what it came down to was that I loved what I was doing, and I loved the choreography that we did and the music that we picked, and for me that was Ė that was most important, and you know it just kind of worked out. It's been received extremely well and Iíve had nothing but positive feedback on it, and that, that just makes it all the better."
Elaborating on how it was different, he added, "You know, I think of course like the spins and the footwork are all kind of choreographed to get the points, but the rest of the program was just, it was just like a labor of love. We, we really choreographed it to the music and to how we felt, and just made a Ė just wanted to make like a strong artistic statement kind of [thing] Ė like kind of forgetting about the points and the system and this and that. Like, of course there are the elements that, that we focused on to get the levels and the points that are needed, but the rest of it is just about freedom of expression and the joy of skating."
Part of Abbott's difficulties last season stemmed from a series of boot problems that plagued him all of that season, an issue the casual observer of figure skating, and even some fans, have difficulty relating to. After all, they are just skates, right?
"Thatís hilarious," he laughed, "I donít know, that would be like me saying well let me cut off your feet and you try and walk. Like, you know, skates are skating. Like you canít skate without figure skates and so if there is a huge problem with your equipment then itís going to make it near impossible to skate, let alone train and try and compete at top form. They just, you know, I was just having trouble with the fit and the mounting and just kind of the overall, like make of the boot. But, you know, weíve got things resolved and we talked with the manufacturers and weíve gotten things settled and just really made sure things were strong and settled for this season. So for me at the moment that is all in the past."
In describing how he deals with boot issues, and durability he added that when needed, "I get a whole new [pair of] boot[s]. I mean last year I went, I literally went through eight or nine pairs last season just because I was having so many issues with them, and so far this season Iíve had two pairs of boots which is right on track. I usually get a pair every six months Ė and [Iím] doing good."
With this season's championships beginning in ten days, he described his attitude going into the championships saying, "Yeah, I mean each competition Iím really, Iím being aggressive and Iím trying to produce the best result for what I can at that moment. Iím not trying to peak at every competition, Iím not trying to put out my best performance at every competition, but as I said, like this season for me has been kind of a slow and steady increase and I hope to continue that at Nationals. But each time I go to compete, you know, like, I donít, Iím not thinking about it like Ďoh, Iím going to back down a little bit from this because I want to do better at the end of the season. I give it 100 percent of what I have for that moment But Iím not like, Iím not trying to over, over reach or have like too big, like you know, expect a World Championship performance at every single competition."
As he works towards achieving his ultimate free skate performance, he was asked what was needed for him to be satisfied with the free skate. "To be honest, Iím satisfied every day I skate it [the free skate]," he said. "I love this program so much. You know, itís, itís such a part of me and Iíve had such a big, like, piece of this program, and so like every day in training I enjoy it and I love it, and Iím just so proud of this whole program You know for me I just want to go out and do it justice. I want to skate it the best I can with all the jumps and the spins and the choreography and just like really show it the way it needs Ė it should be shown."
Abbott is coached by Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen, and was the first skater in their stable, which has grown with the addition of many elite skaters.
"I love the training environment here," he said. " At first, when I first came you know I really needed a 100 percent of their attention, and you know I had them on every session every day and we really were able to do a lot of work, and, and get a great result from that. Now I am extremely comfortable with their technique. I know them. I know their teaching style so I donít have to worry about that. So I donít need as much attention. You know, kind of more what I need is that energy and having these, these kids come has been a great help actually. Last year was, you know, I was struggling tremendously with all the boot problems but, like, it just kind of felt low energy all year long. I mean, Alissa [Czisny] and I would push each other but literally there were times when it was just us on the ice all the time, and itís, itís hard to kind of get motivated in such a low energy atmosphere. So to have Adam [Rippon] here and to have Alissa and Valentina Marchei and Harukimi (sp?) and Alexi Gilles and all these other very talented skaters has really brought up the energy and itís, itís made it a really fantastic training environment and Iím really happy to be part of it."
The recent addition of Adam Rippon to the Sato-Dungjen training group was a bit surprising, considering having two top skaters in the same event as training mates sometimes causes tension in a rink.
Speaking of Rippon, Abbott said, "Yeah, you know heís really Ė heís adapting well and he has been training great and heís just, heís a good person and heís someone that I enjoy skating with, and you know when they asked me if, if it was OK with me if he came here Ė when Yuka and Jason asked me if it was OK, at first I was a little hesitant cause I, you know, I knew that Adam was probably my closest competition in the U.S., and to have that every day Ė I mean I had that in Colorado Springs and it was not the reason I left but it was certainly one of the reasons that I left. You know, just to kind of have my own place to kind of do my own thing without having to compete every single day. But I feel like, you know, we get along extremely well and we push each other on the ice, and I enjoy watching him skate, and I enjoy being on the ice with him and, and working in such a close environment I think itís, itís motivating for me and itís, itís just nice to have that camaraderie."
Since it was announced that Evgeni Plushenko would be competing at the European Championships, and most likely Worlds, many of the elite Men's skaters have been asked their thoughts about going up against Plushenko at Worlds when he will likely be one of the oldest competitors, now in the second comeback of his career. Plushenko turned 29 last November.
"I mean if he can still do it why not. But I, I donít know, I donít know what to say on this subject," he laughed. "You know Iím really Ė to be honest Iím trying to just focus on myself and not worry too much about the things that are going on around, but of course you know going into the World Championships he will be someone that Iíll have to content with but Iíve competed against him before at the Olympics, and so now like having kind of been through that whole situation I, I donít feel Ė you know, when I was coming up competing I always felt like people like this were just like such giants and, and they couldnít be toppled. But having competed against him, and having had more experience now, heís just another competitor for me and at the end of the day I just have to do my job and, you know, since weíre in a judged sport sometimes itís in my favor and sometimes itís not, so all I can do is just focus on myself and, and do the best job that I can do."
Getting back to his programs, Abbott was asked to discuss a comment he once made about being interested in working with Robin Cousins on choreography. "I would absolutely love the opportunity to have a chance to get to work with Robin," he said.
"You know I, I try to choose different pieces of music each season and I always try to kind of expand myself choreographically and artistically. So just because thatís what Iím doing this season doesnít mean that thatís what Iím going to do next Ė or it certainly doesnít mean what Iím going to do next season. Iíll try and pick something thatís very different from what I did this year and hopefully try and continue to push myself forward," explaining that even though this season his programs might not be in the style one might see from Cousins, he (Abbott) did not feel tied to a particular style and he could see himself working with other choreographers with different approaches to choreography.
In speaking of his programs for Nationals and his plans for including quads, Abbott explained, "Oh, yeah, I mean I did the quad in the free program at the Grand Prix Final. Itís in my program. I've been doing it all season Iíll do it at Nationals in the free program and weíve started to work on it in the short program, so maybe at Four Continents Iíll do it in both programs, but for, the plan for the U.S. Championships is the free program. Just the free."
In elaborating on his equipment this season, compared to last, Abbott was asked if he was still with Reidell. "Iíve been back and forth between just a few different skates," he explained, "and Iím not, Iím not sure where Iím going to end up but right now I have a pair of skates that Iím happy with and Ė yeah, weíll see what the future holds."
Pressed to say whose boots he was using he said, "I donít know Ė I donít think I can talk about it publicly at the moment, cause I havenít really talked with either manufacturer about like what the Ė you know, like what the outcome of what Iím going to be doing is. So, I just have a good pair of boots, and Iím happy with them, and I think for now thatís enough and IĎm sure you know whatever I decide Ė if, if they decide to sponsor me or whatever then (pause) weíll see."
In closing, Abbott addressed his own age, and it's impact on his competing for the next two years.. By 2014, Abbott will be four years older than Evan Lysacek was for the Olympics in Vancouver.
"You know," he said. "Iíve had a much different career path and a far different trajectory than most male skaters I think. You know, I Ė I started skating very early but I started progressing much later and I never did the Junior Grand Prix, I never competed internationally on the Junior circuit, so really for me like my career is only five years old. So I feel like Iíve gained a ton of experience at this point and Iím, Iím starting to like understand, understand myself and understand how to compete and understand how to really like deal with everything. So even though, yeah, technically like with my age Iíll be quote unquote old, I donít feel old. I feel extremely young myself, but everyone keeps telling me that Iím old for some reason, so, apparently Iíll be old but I donít feel that. I fell like Iím in good health and good shape and I feel like Iím at a great point in my career, and you know, I Ė Iím, Iím learning each year, and Iím progressing each year and I just Ė I keep getting happier."
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Copyright 2012 by George S. Rossano