Jeremy Abbott leaves Olympic village to focus on training

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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.”

MORE: Abbott brings blow-up mattress to Sochi

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.”

Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
Getty
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

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Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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