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Abbott looks forward to ISU World Team Trophy

Regrouping after worlds, U.S. champ says, "I'm better than 11th"

U.S. national champion Jeremy Abbott is among the top men competing at Skate Canada.
U.S. national champion Jeremy Abbott is among the top men competing at Skate Canada. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(04/05/2009) - Jeremy Abbott doesn't usually teach skating, but he's a hit at Montclair State University's Floyd Hall Arena.

"We did spirals and spins and jumps with him," Ilana Sedaka, 7, said. "And we played a game called blog, and it was fun. There was a tagger, and they tag someone, and when it's four on, you break out two."

"It was something I learned when I was little," Abbott, who took up skating in his hometown of Aspen, Colo., said. "Actually, my coach Tom [Zakrajsek] plays it occasionally with his students. When you get tagged, you hold on [to each other] up to a link of four, and then split off in twos. It's fun and it helps teaches control."

Ilana was one of 20 youngsters clamoring for the U.S. champion's attention during the on-ice seminar and following autograph session. Abbott had time for photos and a word with all, telling one young lady, "Keep working hard at it. Nothing worth doing is easy."

That's advice the champ may be giving himself these days. In March, for the second consecutive season, he placed 11th at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships. Last year, it was a more-than-respectable debut; this time around in L.A., after convincing wins at the ISU Grand Prix Final and 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships, he had hoped for more.

"I was upset with how I skated because I know I could have done so much better," Abbott said. "I proved that this season. I've been consistent and reliable."

Abbott's triple Axel let him down in L.A. His attempt in the short program was called under rotated, and he turned out of the landings of two more in his free skate. Although he thought the judges were a bit harsh, he admitted he wasn't near his all-time best, when he scored 237.72 points at the Grand Prix Final in December.

"I struggled with the Axel all week [in practice] so when it came time in competition, I just didn't have the confidence when needed," the skater explained.

"I think that it's been a really long season. I was definitely at my peak in December, January. I was skating well before worlds; after nationals, I dipped and was going up again, but it just wasn't good timing, I guess.

"I've never had to go through something like this before. I went to worlds last year [as alternate for the injured Evan Lysacek] but after Four Continents I kind of took it easy; I was training my programs, I was doing them full out, but that's not the same as when you know you're going. It's a different intensity level."

Abbott will have another chance to impress the judges. He, along with Lysacek; Rachael Flatt and Caroline Zhang; Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett; and Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, are scheduled to travel to Tokyo for the first-ever ISU World Team Trophy on April 16-19. There, they'll take on teams from Japan, France, Russia, Canada and China.

"Coming up to worlds it was a long season, and I didn't know how I felt about [the team competition]," he said. "After worlds, I'm excited to have the opportunity to show I'm better than 11th. I have a chance to redeem myself.

"I'm going to put the quad out, finally. It's a great opportunity to get in front of the judges again and show them I am a top contender for next season."

After Tokyo, Abbott will travel to Korea to appear in "Festa on Ice," another in a series of popular shows built around newly crowned world champion Yu-Na Kim. (Three-time U.S. champ Johnny Weir will also take part.) There, he'll perform his 2007/08 short program to Santana's "Treat" as well as a new routine set to an acoustic version of Daniel Bedingfield's "Gotta Get Through This," created with long-time choreographer Tom Dickson.

"There's more dance movement in this program than ice skating," he said. "It was interesting to work on. It's difficult but a lot of fun; so far, everyone who has seen it likes it."

After that, he's off to Spain for a vacation, then its back to Colorado Springs' World Arena to prepare for the Olympic season.

"We'll decide on a course of action, pick music, and start playing around with programs for next year," Abbott said.

Some skaters, including Canada's world silver medalist Patrick Chan, intend to keep one of their programs. It's something Abbott and Zakrajsek have yet to discuss.

"I've been thinking about it. It's a difficult decision. I thought I would like getting two new programs because I like the challenge myself, but at the same time, it's good to go into next season with something you're comfortable with.

"I've kept programs before, and many times I haven't, so it depends. I have to talk to Tom [Zakrajsek] and come up with a plan of action, decide the right course to take."

His plans don't include is the Liberty Summer Competition, an event to which Zakrajsek has brought his students in recent years. Instead, the skater will likely do a summer event in Denver or California.

"I'll probably start in August, so I have time to get my programs together," he said. "Summer competitions are always such a disaster for me. It will be good to start after I've had more than a week to run through my programs.

"This season ended so late. Next season, I'm going to start later, and hopefully peak at Nationals, Olympics and worlds."