A Little Help From His Friends
SOCHI, Russia -- After a bad skate Thursday, Jeremy Abbott could count on the support of his teammates.
Abbott was the first U.S. competitor in the inaugural Olympic team figure skating event.
The four-time national champion had what he called a “very unfortunate day.”
Skating his short program, Abbott made a slow approach to his quad combination and fell on the jump. His triple Lutz was next, so he made it a combination, but doubled the second jump. Finally, Abbott turned a planned triple axel into a single axel.
He scored 65.65 points for seventh place in the 10-man field. Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu was the leader with 97.98, followed by Evgeny Plushenko of Russia with 91.39.
A dejected Abbott faced the other members of Team USA, who were in the cheering section at one end of the rink, as soon as he was finished.
“I got off the ice and I just apologized to them,” Abbott said. “I was like, ‘Guys, I’m so sorry.’ I just wanted to do it for them. And every single one of them is like, ‘Jeremy, we love you. It’s fine.’ They were all extremely supportive and now I’m so happy I got that out of the way.”
While Abbott got out his jitters before he competes in the individual event later in these Olympic Winter Games, he left Team USA on thin ice in the medal hunt.
Points are awarded based on 10 points for first, 9 for second and so on down to 1 point for 10th place.
Abbott scored only four points. Pairs team Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir were fifth in their short program, giving the U.S. a total of 10 points. The U.S. is tied with Germany and France.
Russia has the lead with 19, followed by Canada with 17, China with 15 and Japan with 13.
That puts some pressure on the U.S. ladies and ice dance teams Saturday night. Only the top five teams will advance to skate a long program.
The skaters will be named Friday morning, but world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White are expected to compete in ice dance and either Gracie Gold or Ashley Wagner will likely represent the women.
Davis and White are gold medal favorites, so should score nine or 10 points. If the ladies entrant gets a respectable score, that should be enough to push the U.S. into the final round.
After Abbott’s performance, Davis and White stood behind him in the “kiss and cry” area holding a U.S. flag. When his scores were announced, Abbott dropped his head into his hands.
“I think I just needed to kind of work out the rust, shake off the demons,” he said. “We all know I have a lot of demons.
“I’m torn apart that I couldn’t do this for my team and my teammates. But I really do in my heart of hearts feel like it was a very good thing for me individually. I could get that out of the way. I could say, ‘Alright, I had my Olympic disaster and now I can move on and do what I came here to do.’”
Abbott, who was ninth in the Games in Vancouver four years ago, said he was treating the team event as a run-through to prepare him for the singles competition.
“I expected a much better run-through, because I had been skating very consistently,” he said.
It is unknown if Abbott will skate the long program if the U.S. advances. Jason Brown, who was second at nationals, could be named the U.S. contender.
Abbott’s coach, Yuka Sato, said she was surprised by his performance because he had been skating well in practice.
“But I think this is what the Olympics sometimes can do to you,” said Sato, the 1994 world champion and a two-time Olympian. “He’s very lucky that he still has the individual event.
“You never know what’s a blessing and what’s a curse. But it’s happened and done with.”
Pairs team Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir had a better outing, though they muffed their side-by-side triple.
They scored 64.25 points, surpassing their previous international season best of 62.56.
“For making two mistakes in the jumps and still getting a season best and I think a personal best, we’re thrilled with that final score,” said Shnapir. “We know that we could score much, much higher with a clean program, which we’re looking to do next week when we have our individual event.”
Castelli said Abbott’s struggle didn’t affect them.
“We came into it knowing our job and knowing what we had to do,” she said. “Our goal is to skate the best we could, stay focused and still hopefully have a long program for the U.S. We have some great skaters coming up in the short, ladies and the ice dancing, and we’re really hoping to pull up.”
Castelli and Shnapir were part of the World Team Trophy last year in Tokyo, which the U.S. won. That event has a similar format to the Olympic team competition.
“It’s just so awesome to be there with your teammates,” she said.