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Abbott on future: 'I have a lot still to offer the sport'

Four-time U.S. champion considers legacy, finances in making decision
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Buoyed by his inspired showing in Saitama, Japan, Jeremy Abbott is thinking about continuing his competitive career. -Getty Images

Strong performances at the 2014 World Figure Skating Championships, plus an adoring response from the 18,000-strong crowd in Saitama, Japan, has Jeremy Abbott asking: "Should I stay or should I go?"

"It kind of rekindled my love of competition," Abbott said at Figure Skating in Harlem's annual "Skating with the Stars" gala at Central Park's Trump Rink on Monday. "All of worlds was fantastic, and the audience was absolutely magical. I'm thinking, 'I could maybe do this again.'"

It's a big change of tune for the 28-year-old skater, who long planned for the 2013-14 season to be his final rodeo.

"I ache and I'm sore and I'm tired and I'm old," he told reporters at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston, where he skated the best short program of his life and won his fourth U.S. title.

But now, the aches have eased, and Abbott is considering putting his most recent Olympic and worlds experiences to work in another season of competition.

"Leading up to nationals and during nationals, I definitely thought that was the end," he said. "All through nationals, I was so emotional, because I thought, 'If I don't make it, it's definitely the end,' and if I do, then it's winding down."

"I think the biggest thing is that I learned so much about myself as a person and as a competitor this year, more than I have in the rest of my career," he continued. "I really feel like I want another chance to utilize that knowledge and give it another go."

It's been a bittersweet season for Abbott. His team and individual short programs at the Sochi Olympics did not approach his spectacular program in Boston, but he fought back from a bone-crushing fall on the opening quad toe in his individual short to execute the remaining six elements cleanly. The next day, he coped with the pain of a bruised hip to skate a solid free and finish 12th.

Abbott's fifth-place showing in Saitama, combined with Max Aaron's eighth-place finish, gained the U.S. three men's spots at the 2015 World Championships.

"I look at my season, and it was probably one of the most consistent seasons I've had," he said. "Obviously, my placements weren't the best, but at NHK [Trophy], I had two mistakes. At nationals, I had one mistake. Olympics, in the individual event, I had one mistake. Worlds, I had one mistake.

"So I look at that and [think], 'OK, I had one mistake out of each of three competitions; that's better than I've done, ever.' That was really kind of important to look at, and I think there's potentially more in store."

Abbott's team at the Detroit Skating Club, headed by primary coach Yuka Sato, is supportive.

"Ultimately, it's my decision, but Yuka told me when we were still in Japan, 'Don't make a decision now. ... Really just think about it. Regardless of what you do, I will support it, but take your time,'" Abbott said.

"And that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to get through [the Stars on Ice] tour and then take three to four weeks off to just rest my body and recover from this long, long season, and then really think about what I want to do."

The decision also involves a more mundane concern: money. Last season, Abbott's team numbered not only coaches and choreographers but a strength-and-conditioning specialist, off-ice trainer and sports psychologist. Expenses are daunting.

"It's kind of crazy to think I'm a four-time national champion and Olympic bronze medalist, and I have no sponsorship to speak of," he said. "I get money from the USFS, and I get money from the USOC, which is great, but it doesn't cover even half of my expenses. It's really all on me.

"Skating is an expensive sport. It is going to come down to more than a mental and physical issue: It's also going to be a financial issue. Hopefully, I can find some support from somewhere, someone who wants to back me."

Abbott can't wait too long to decide. He has shows lined up this spring and summer. If he is to compete this fall, he must also choreograph eligible programs and train his difficult elements, including the quad. But he thinks he may have an answer to that as well.

"What I'm planning to do, I'm going to have programs made for exhibitions that could potentially be turned into competitive programs," he said. "Potentially that includes vocals, which is a new thing this year we can use."

"I'd have a long one and a shorter one, with elements more geared to performance for shows, that I would train all summer long," he continued. "If I'm strong and consistent and everything is mentally and physically there, then I'll go for it."

Whatever decision Abbott makes in the coming weeks, he's not done with skating. Not by a long shot.

"I have a lot still to offer the sport of figure skating, a lot to offer the professional world as well as the amateur world," he said. "I have a lot of knowledge I want to impart.

"I want to leave a legacy, and maybe it's not me as an Olympic champion -- that time has passed -- but I would love to find a way to imprint myself in the sport. I've learned so much from so many great people, I would love to pass that inspiration and knowledge down through future generations."

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