SOCHI, Russia – If the secret to an Olympic medal is a good night’s sleep and a structured schedule, American Jeremy Abbott is doing his best to make that happen.
After telling NBCOlympics.com last week that he had brought a blow-up queen-sized matters to Sochi because of sleep troubles four years ago on the athlete’s twin bed in Vancouver, the 28-year-old has moved into a hotel to maximize his comfort – and focus.
“I had to step away and think, ‘All right, I have a whole week and a half to really live this experience,’” Abbott told reporters Tuesday at a U.S. men’s figure skating press conference. “I came here to do a job and I have to stick to my business.”
Abbott elaborated, saying that his practice days were getting scattered as he re-connected with friends in Sochi’s athlete village, leading to what he called a “scattered” performance in the men’s short program in the new team event last week, where he scored a 65.65 and placed seventh. His score was his lowest recent history.
“It’s all in the preparation,” Abbott said. “We’re going to make sure that every hair is in place. There is no perfect way to prepare, but it’s all about setting me up as well as we can so that when I take to the ice everything is as organized as possible.”
Abbott skates again Thursday night in the men’s singles event alongside teenager Jason Brown. Brown skated the long program for the U.S. in the team competition, he and Abbott helping the team win the bronze in that event’s Olympic debut.
“I felt like I was a little off by staying in the village,” Abbott said. “For me, it was about realizing that I was much more mentally strong than I’ve given myself credit for.”
Abbott has had a history of hiccups at major international events, placing ninth at the Vancouver Games and never above fifth in four appearances at the World Championships (and twice placing outside of the top 10), though he is widely known to possess some of the best skating skills in the world.
Asked about his chances to medal on Tuesday, the Detroit-based skater didn’t want to set podium expectations.
“You always dream of having that perfect Olympic performance,” Abbott said, “but for me it’s about staying in the moment through the competition – one element at a time – and making some big expectation for myself. A successful Games for me would just to do my job.”
The U.S. is in jeopardy of leaving the Olympics for the first time in 76 years without a medal in men’s or ladies singles. Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner both have a legitimate – if not outside – shots at medals next week for the ladies.
Evan Lysacek won gold for the U.S. four years ago in Vancouver, though it was Abbott who had beaten him at US. Championships one month prior.
“When it goes Jeremy’s way, it’s all there,” said 1988 Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, who now coaches two medal favorites in Sochi, Spain’s Javier Fernandez and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu. “But you have to do all the tricks, that’s the bottom line.”