Surging Abbott sets U.S. record, skates into first at U.S. Championships

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BOSTON — In a program that was giving Jeremy Abbott nightmares, he delivered a dream come true on Friday night.

The three-time national champion was waking up in a cold sweat in the nights leading up to the U.S. Championships in Boston, but skated to a 99.86 at TD Garden to not only set a new U.S. record, but also launch himself into first place in an Olympic year.

“I was having these nightmares where I was in seventh place and too far out to make the Olympic team,” Abbott explained. “I would wake up crying; it was horrifying. Every single night I had this dream where I imploded in the short program.”

Abbott broke a record that 22-year-old Richard Dornbush set earlier in the night, the California-based skater electrifying the crowd with a 92.04. Teenager Jason Brown, just 19, was third, scoring a 87.47.

Abbott had made it public that this would be his final U.S. Championships, the Nationals winner in 2009, 2010 and 2012 saying that he would hang up his skates after this season – Sochi or not.

Davis/White skate closer to historic sixth U.S. title

“This whole week has been really special for me,” the 28-year-old Abbott told reporters. “I just wanted to live in it because it’s never happening again.”

But his program will happen again and again online in the digital archive, where fans will see that he started off with a monstrous quadruple Salchow-triple toe combination that sent the crowd into roars.

Abbott, who flopped at the Vancouver Games to a ninth-place finish, has been known to slip up – literally – when he gets his big elements under his belt. But he didn’t do that in Boston, the veteran hitting a triple Lutz and then later a triple Axel, skating with a kind of vigor and energy that only a record-setting performance can contain.

“I’ll never forget this performance,” Abbott said plainly.

Nor will Dornbush his. Second in 2011, Dornbush has been up and down for the last two seasons, placing a dismal 13th in 2012 and sixth a year ago. But he delivered a career-best as just the second skater of the night, sending a “top-that” message to his competitors with a landed quadruple Salchow and then a triple-triple combination.

“I’m not really a New Year’s resolution person, but I just said, ‘You know what? I want to land more quadruple Salchows in competition,'” Dornbush told reporters.

Abbott adores the ‘underdog’ status

Crowd favorite Brown, who was beaming after his short, doesn’t have a quad in his reportoire but that didn’t seem to matter, the Chicago native saving a triple Axel early and then drawing in an admiring Boston crowd.

“Being such a crowd favorite can be such a blessing and a curse,” Brown’s coach Kori Ade told NBCOlympics.com. “This has all come so quickly this year, having this much fan support where he’s stepping onto the ice and there’s more pressure on him.”

The pressure seemed to hurt Olympic hopefuls Max Aaron, the reigning U.S. champion, and a resurgent Adam Rippon, who placed fourth and sixth, respectively.

Only two American men will be placed on the U.S. Olympic team for Sochi, presumably the top two skaters at these Championships. But the U.S. Figure Skating Association will not name its team until Sunday night, following the men’s free skate, utilizing its international panel to select the two skaters.

“That was just fun,” Abbott said, breaking into a smile. “But I still have four and a half minutes to skate, eight more triples.”

And perhaps – if he can execute it – one more dream performance.

Andre De Grasse wants to ‘spoil’ Usain Bolt’s final season

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Canadian Andre De Grasse may be the best candidate to beat Usain Bolt in the Jamaican’s final major race before retirement at the world championships in August.

De Grasse is already looking ahead to a possible 100m showdown in London.

“Usain is one hell of an athlete, and for me to be one of the best I’ve got to beat him, so I’ve got to continue to keep working hard, stay motivated, stay focused,” De Grasse said Wednesday, according to the Canadian Press. “It’s his last world championships. It’s going to be tough for me. I’ve just got to try to spoil his parade.”

De Grasse, 22, bagged three medals in Rio — silver in the 200m and bronze in the 100m and 4x100m relay. Maybe his most memorable moment came in the 200m semifinals, when he exchanged smiles with Bolt before crossing the finish line.

Neither Bolt nor De Grasse has raced individually outdoors in 2017. De Grasse is slated to debut at a Diamond League meet in Doha on May 5.

Bolt has said he will race the 100m at his final worlds but not the 200m. This means he won’t have a showdown with Olympic 400m champion and world-record holder Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa.

But De Grasse could be a difficult challenge for the 30-year-old Bolt, who has slowed at recent major championships.

Bolt clocked world records at the 2008 Olympics (9.69 seconds) and 2009 World Championships (9.58) but slowed to 9.63 at London 2012 and then 9.77 in 2013 and 9.79 in 2015 and 9.81 at the Rio Games.

De Grasse made his worlds debut in 2015, sharing bronze in 9.92 seconds and then clocking 9.91 in Rio, behind Bolt and American Justin Gatlin.

Gatlin is now 35 years old and coming off an injury-slowed 2016 after he starred in 2014 and 2015. He also has not raced individually outdoors this season but is slated for a Diamond League meet in Shanghai on May 13.

Bolt has not lost a global championship final since 2007 (excluding his 2011 Worlds 100m false start). He was asked two years ago if he would stick to his 2017 retirement plan if he was beaten in his last race.

“I don’t think I could,” Bolt said. “On my last race, my last championship, I don’t think I could.”

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Caitlyn Jenner: Olympic decathlon title one half of ‘ultimate double’

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Caitlyn Jenner says she has ultimate double — winning the 1976 Olympic decathlon and 2015 Glamour “Woman of the Year.”

Jenner sat down with Seth Meyers for an interview during a media tour for her memoir, “The Secrets of My Life,” which was released Wednesday.

She briefly mentioned her Olympic experience, winning the Montreal 1976 decathlon.

Jenner related it to her current work within the transgender community, one that she said is marginalized and misunderstood with high murder and suicide rates.

“What I’m doing today is mort important than winning the Games more than 40 years ago,” Jenner said.

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