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Jeremy Abbott retires from figure skating

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Jeremy Abbott, a four-time U.S. champion and two-time Olympian, has ended his competitive figure skating career.

The 32-year-old Abbott will not come out of a two-year break from competition in a bid to make a third straight Olympic team next year.

“It took a lot of time. It took a lot of conversations with a lot of people. It took a lot of tears and a lot of red wine, to be honest,” Abbott said on the Ice Talk podcast, adding that he will continue to perform in ice shows. “Most of my reasoning for wanting to come back was very superficial. The goals that I was kind of setting for myself, I could still accomplish as a professional. So it was silly for me to come back. My goals weren’t substantial enough, and they weren’t necessary for me to accomplish what I want to accomplish as a skater moving forward.”

Abbott excelled at the U.S. Championships, matching Olympic champions Scott Hamilton and Brian Boitano with four crowns. He beat Evan Lysacek in 2009 and 2010, seasons where Lysacek won world and Olympic gold medals.

Abbott struggled at the Olympics. He was ninth in Vancouver and 12th in Sochi after entering both Winter Games as the national champion. He grabbed a bronze medal in the first Olympic team event in Sochi, but only after erring on all three jumping passes and crashing into the boards.

Abbott originally planned to retire after the 2014 Olympic season, but a career-best-tying fifth-place finish at the 2014 World Championships motivated him to skate on.

He also finished fifth in his last three competitions — Skate America, NHK Trophy and the U.S. Championships (two weeks after his father’s death) in the 2014-15 season — and did not make that world team.

Making the 2018 Olympic team would have been a tall ask.

Even in his heyday, Abbott did not have the technical firepower to compete with current U.S. teen phenoms Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, who can land six and three quadruple jumps in their respective free skates.

The U.S. Olympic team of three men will be chosen after nationals in January. Past U.S. champions Adam Rippon and Jason Brown are also in contention.

“After watching nationals this year, it became very clear I’m not going to win a fifth title, and second is even reaching for the stars,” Abbott said. “But we have three spots … and I really felt like I could be a contender for a third spot for a third Olympic team.”

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THANK YOU!!! I have so much that I want to say. I've written and rewritten this a hundred times, but nothing I say seems to articulate how I truly feel. I competed for 25 years and I honestly never thought in a million that I would have gotten to do ANY of what I actually did! It has been BEYOND a joy and a privilege to represent @usfigureskating and @teamusa for 8 international seasons at 3 Grand Prix Finals, 4 Four Continents, 5 World Championships, and 2 Olympic Games! But more than anything it was my pleasure and complete honor to share my love, my dedication, my journey, and every ounce of my heart and emotion with all of you!!! You all are the reason I love what I do more than anything, you all are the reason I was able to get up at the Olympics when I wasn't sure if I could continue, and you all are the reason I will continue to perform until I can no longer stand! Skating has been the love of my life since I was two years old and I can't believe I got to share it all with you! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart! I will miss competing more than you know, BUT I'm not going anywhere!!! I will be on the ice and a part of this sport for a loooooooong time to come! ❤️❤️❤️

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Olympian Tasha Schwikert says she is a Larry Nassar survivor, speaks out on Steve Penny

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Tasha Schwikert is at least the ninth Olympian to come forward as a Larry Nassar survivor.

“After months of grappling with the decision, I have decided to come forward as a victim of Larry Nassar,” was tweeted from the 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Schwikert’s account. “I want to join my former teammates and fellow survivors to help enact REAL change at @USAGym and @TeamUSA. #MeToo.

“I refuse to remain a victim. It is time for @USAGym and @TeamUSA to come clean and be held accountable for the toxic environment that enabled Nassar’s abuse. Only then will we see REAL change.”

Schwikert, now 33, was the youngest woman on the 2000 Olympic team across all sports, the U.S. all-around champion in 2001 and 2002, the 2003 World champion team captain and an alternate for the 2004 Olympic team.

Schwikert also said that ex-USA Gymnastics president and CEO Steve Penny pressed her to publicly support USA Gymnastics at the height of the Nassar scandal, according to ABC’s “World News Tonight.”

Penny was arrested Wednesday and indicted on charges he tampered with evidence in the Nassar sexual-assault investigation and on Thursday banned for life from USA Gymnastics. Penny’s lawyers said he is “confident that when all the facts are known it will be shown that he did nothing criminal.”

“Steve had always manipulated all of us, really, but I felt indebted to him,” Schwikert said on ABC. “Him and USA Gymnastics made me feel like if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be the person or the athlete who I was.”

She is at least the second member of the Sydney 2000 team to come forward as a Nassar survivor, joining Jamie Dantzscher, the first Olympian to do so in February 2017.

USA Gymnastics posted a statement from Schwikert on social media the night Dantzscher’s first interview aired, saying, “As a member of the national team from 1999-2004, I firmly believe USA Gymnastics always had my health and well-being top of mind. The program provided me with the resources and experiences that helped me achieve my goals.”

Penny resigned a month later.

Seven of the eight members of the 2012 or 2016 Olympic women’s artistic gymnastics teams have also come forward — Simone BilesGabby Douglas, Aly RaismanMcKayla MaroneyJordyn WieberKyla Ross and Madison Kocian. As have world championships team members among the hundreds of girls and women who said Nassar sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment when he worked for Michigan State and USA Gymnastics.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Madison Hubbell, Zach Donohue can make it 10 straight at Skate America

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If Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue ever lacked motivation in the post-Olympic summer, they needed only scan their Montreal training ice.

They would spot France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, the only ice dancers from the Olympic podium who return this season. Papadakis and Cizeron relegated the Americans to silver at March’s world championships, one month after Hubbell and Donohue were fourth in PyeongChang (the French took silver). They have trained under the same coaches in Quebec for three years.

They would also see Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, the third- and fourth-place finishers from January’s U.S. Championships. Those couples moved to the Montreal group in the spring. They are Hubbell and Donohue’s top threats to repeat as national champions in Detroit in three months, given U.S. silver medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani are also taking a break.

Practicing next to rivals is often shunned in sports. It has elevated ice dance the last several years.

Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White trained together in Michigan and split the Olympic gold and silver medals in 2010 and 2014.

When Virtue and Moir returned from a two-year break in 2016, they joined the Montreal group and went one-two with training partners Papadakis and Cizeron at every major competition through PyeongChang.

Hubbell and Donohue thrived last season, their third in Montreal, winning their first national title after six straight years of finishing third or fourth. They were in position for an Olympic medal, third after the short dance, but Donohue fell in the free dance (as he did at 2017 Worlds after they were third in the short).

Then at worlds in March, they delivered back-to-back podium-worthy performances on the global stage for the first time for that silver medal. They are the world No. 2 and the favorites at this weekend’s Skate America, with the French not in the field.

U.S. couples have won nine straight Skate Americas, more than the other three disciplines combined in the last decade.

MORE: Skate America TV/Stream Schedule

“Clearly this formula is working for them,” NBC Sports analyst and 2006 Olympic ice dance silver medalist Tanith White said. “It has proven to work for many of the greatest teams in ice dance over the last few decades. … I cannot see a drawback.”

Hubbell and Donohue (and Papadakis and Cizeron) appear to agree.

They joked back and forth at a press conference after worlds in March. Asked how they would spend the offseason, Cizeron looked straight at Hubbell and Donohue and said, jokingly, “Our goal is to get drunk together as many times as we can.”

“As much as our own personal accomplishment is pretty incredible, being on the podium with training mates and having, literally, everyone from our training center skate the best programs of their season, all at the same competition, was pretty incredible,” Donohue said last week.

Hubbell and Donohue should breeze through Skate America in Everett, Wash. Nobody else from the top nine in PyeongChang is in the field. They’re the favorites next week at Skate Canada, too.

The first real test will be at December’s Grand Prix Final, where Papadakis and Cizeron should join them. Hubbell and Donohue never outscored the French in nine head-to-head competitions and were more than 10 points adrift at worlds.

“The French, where they left off last season, I think that they are still in a category on their own based on the last time we saw those two teams go up against each other,” White said. 

Hubbell said the world silver medal showed that they had tackled their demons, fear and history of errors. If the next goal is gold, they must conquer a much more visible foe, one they see every day on the ice.

“The podium at worlds,” Hubbell said, “was the moment I was able to leave that season behind me and go into the future.”

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