BOSTON – Jeremy Abbott’s road to Sochi almost ended when his long program was about to start.
Abbott was taking his time trying to prepare for his free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships when fans started a countdown. He heard them calling, “Five-four-three,” and then it hit him: He had just a few seconds before he had to be in his starting position or he would have been disqualified.
“I’ve never cut it that close,” Abbott said.
When his music, “Exogenesis Symphony Part III” by Muse, began he quickly reeled off a quadruple toe loop and although the rest of the program wasn’t perfect — he doubled three of his planned triples — he was good enough to book his second trip to the Olympic Winter Games. Abbott, who has competed in these championships since 1997 when he was a junior-level skater, ended his program with an emotional goodbye to fans on the ice.
It’s a good thing there wasn’t a time limit following his program because he stood for a while on the ice just soaking every last second of his final trip to nationals. He sobbed for a bit as he waved to the crowd — the same people who allowed him to perform one last time.
“I’m just a small-town boy,” sad Abbott, a native of Aspen, Colo. “I never expected to be here.”
He was crowned U.S. champion for the fourth time and in the evening he was officially named to the U.S. Olympic Team.
“It wasn’t a perfect skate but God, I enjoyed every moment of it,” he said.
Abbott’s journey to Sochi has been a roller-coaster ride of sorts. He won the 2010 national championships but had a disastrous showing in Vancouver, placing ninth. Over the next few years he bounced up and down the standings. He finished fourth at the 2011 nationals and did not make the world team. But he never wavered from his plan to make the team in Sochi, and at age 28, that achievement was realized in Boston.
He will be joined in Sochi by a 19-year-old named Jason Brown who this year was competing in his first full season on the senior circuit.
After the Olympic nominations were announced by U.S. Figure Skating president Pat St. Peter, Abbott started thanking everyone he has ever worked with, from coaches in the past to his current coaches, Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen.
“Oh my God,” he said. “I feel like I’m at the Academy Awards.”
He wasn’t sure exactly how things were going to go for him between now and Sochi in terms of his next few weeks of training in Detroit or for his post-Olympic future but he did know he had one goal: “I want to keep pleasing the audience.”
Abbott got an opportunity to perform in front of the Boston crowd one more time Sunday night in the Smucker’s Skating Spectacular, a gala for the top finishers at nationals. He was introduced by 1988 Olympic champion Brian Boitano and skated to “Bring Him Home,” from Les Miserables.
His performance was emotional and it brought the crowd in Boston’s TD Garden to its feet.
It was the least he could do for the Boston fans. After all, they were the ones who helped him book his trip to Sochi.
Amy Rosewater is a freelance writer and editor for TeamUSA.org. A former sports reporter for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, she has covered two Olympic Games and two Olympic Winter Games. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.