On the ice, Jeremy Abbott, 22, combines artistry and athleticism into breathless moments of perfection.
He is a creator, a dancer, a sportsman and a performer all wrapped up
into one package that has found a home on the ice and among the most
talented skaters in the world.
I had the pleasure of watching Abbott skate on Saturday during a
performance with the Aspen Skating Club, and like every other gaping
audience member, I was amazed. He twisted, twirled and lifted his lithe
frame into moments of prodigious acrobatic excellence.
His technique was a flawless assembly of what the body can do when
trained for years and years — his skates were sharp but delicate, his
motions limber but powerful. In moments, he transformed the ice — a
slippery nightmare to most of us — into a canvas upon which he could
paint his flare and reflect his sheen.
In one sense, Abbott's performance on Saturday was just another day of
practice. But in another sense, it was the homecoming for one of
Aspen's most accomplished athletes whom you might never have even heard
Aspen on Ice
At only 22 years old, Abbott has already accomplished more in the world
of figure skating than many could hope to achieve in a full career. He
has had top finishes in the national championships, been a member of
the United States World Team, and is now closing in on competing in the
2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Yet in all of his accomplishments, Abbott is quick to mention and
praise his hometown of Aspen, and what an important role it has played
in his career.
“It was great growing up in Aspen,” Abbott said. “I had so much
support from my coaches and the community. I can still remember my
first years going to the rink with my mom and walking along the sides.”
What Abbott didn't mention was that he was only 2 years old when he
took his first lap around the rink, and 4 years old when he won his
Abbott calls up another memory from his early years on the ice, and one that shaped the trajectory of his career.
“I must have been three or four years old at the time,” he said. “But I
can still remember watching the 1980 champion, Robin Cousins, skate in
Aspen; and I remember telling my mom that that is what I wanted to do.”
Sharpening the skills
By 12 years old, Abbott had a difficult decision to make. He was
excelling swiftly on the ice, but was no longer sure whether staying in
Aspen would be helpful or inimical to making progress in his career due
to limited facilities and coaching options.
It was at the point that Abbott's coach, Peggy Behr, advised him to move to a place that would be beneficial to his skating.
“I was rising up through the ranks,” Abbott said, “and eventually my
coach told me to move on so that being in Aspen wouldn't hold me back.”
Abbott took this advice and moved to Colorado Springs, home to U.S. Olympic training facilities and world-class coaches.
Although he was ebullient about the opportunities Colorado Springs provided, that transition certainly wasn't easy.
“That was a very hard transition for me,” he said. “I had to live with
a host family and change to a new school. But even during the hard
times, I knew that is was worth it for my skating. I have never
regretted my decision.”
The move and strife paid off for Abbott.
By the age of 16 — only two years after moving to Colorado Springs — he
qualified for the novice division of the U.S. National Figure Skating
Championships, and finished in sixth place.
By 18, he finished seventh in the junior division of the national
championships, not bad considering that earlier that year Abbott had
sustained a stress fracture in his back.
But even with all of his early success, he was not satisfied.
Bump in the ice
In every athlete's career, there comes a point in which he must ask
himself how good he wants to be, and devise a plan to reach that goal.
This point came when Abbott was 20 years old. He had just missed
skating in the senior division of the National Championships by one
spot, and was ready to put it all on the line to reach the next level.
“I was really dissatisfied,” he said. “I knew that I would have to make
some changes in my skating, so I sat down with my coaches and began
looking closely at my training in order to fix some things. I also
decided to set my goals much higher and give it everything I had.”
That juncture in Abbott's career would turn out to be the turning point for his later successes.
In 2007, when he was 21 years old, he progressed to the senior division
of the National Championships and finished in fourth place.
In 2008, he finished fourth again, but also qualified for the U.S.
World Team, an assembly of the best American skaters who are chosen to
travel abroad and compete in the World Championships. Abbott would
ultimately finish in eleventh place at the World Championships,
solidifying his position among the best skaters in the world.
“I definitely could have done better,” he said, “but it was still a great experience, and I can't wait to do it again.”
If there is one thing that stands out about Jeremy Abbott, it is his
determination to be the best. And while he is obviously happy with all
of his accomplishments to date, he is continuously asking more of
“I want to be the Olympic and world champion,” he said. “I think I am
close, but I also know that it is going to take hard work and patience.
It is definitely attainable.”
Whether this means that we'll see Abbott skating in the 2010 Vancouver
winter games is a question that will remain unanswered, for now.
But what is certain is that he has a bright future ahead of him, and
for the time being, he will continue to follow his passion to the very
“I just love skating and everything about it,” he said. “ It is both
technical and artistic, and I just feel as if I can express myself on
the ice. That is what makes it all worth it to me.”