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Triple crown! Abbott caps third U.S. title in landslide

Training partner Rippon stays second; Miner repeats as bronze medalist

After dominating at the U.S. championships, Jeremy Abbott will try to surpass Patrick Chan.
After dominating at the U.S. championships, Jeremy Abbott will try to surpass Patrick Chan. (Jay Adeff)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/29/2012) - All season long, Jeremy Abbott has said people will either love, or hate, his free program.

On Sunday in San Jose, the audience and nine members of the judging panel loved it, awarding it 183.35 points, a new U.S. record.

"It feels great to be a three-time national champion," Abbott, 26, said. "I felt good going out there. I perform that way in practice every day, and I just stuck to my plan and went through the program methodically until the end, when I had a little mistake [doubling] the Salchow."

Abbott's sensitive, exquisitely paced performance to "Exogenesis Symphony Part 3" by Muse far outpaced the field, and as the last man to take the ice, he knew he didn't need a quad to win. Still, he opened with a glorious quad toe loop, worth 12.44 points, and went on to land five triples, including two triple Axels; a triple loop was judged under-rotated.

The highlight of the program, an enthralling circular step sequence combining fine edges with elegantly controlled arm and body movements, gained Level 4 and straight +3s from the judges. Abbott ended with 273.58 points, also a new record.

"It's been my plan all season," Abbott said of the quad. "Regardless of what everyone else did, it was our plan, and we weren't going to change it.

"I wanted to do something lyrical this year, to breath and really get into the ice, enjoy the flow of the edge and everything that comes with it."

The skater's performance was all the more remarkable considering the commotion caused by spectators jumping up and alerting ushers to a medical emergency in one of the lower seating sections. Abbott's stepfather, Allen Scott, 64, was stricken, and Abbott's sister, Gwen, ran to alert ushers.

"My step dad is in the hospital; apparently when I was skating he blacked out and started convulsing," Abbott said. "He is in the hospital, [but] his heart rate is down, he's coherent, they have to run tests but he's okay. My whole family is with him."

Abbott didn't notice the excitement, although it occurred within 30 feet of the ice.

"I was just so focused on my program, I was actually surprised I wasn't distracted by the commotion," he said.

Abbott's training partner at Detroit Skating Club (DSC), two-time world junior champion Adam Rippon, looked a bit tight during his free skate to Bach selections, turning out of his first triple Axel and fighting for the landing of a triple Lutz-triple Salchow sequence. He intended to open the program with a quad Salchow, but doubled the attempt.

Still, he hit six triple jumps, including a triple Axel, a triple flip-triple toe, and his trademark "Rippon" triple Lutz, done with both arms overhead. It was more than enough to win silver and his second trip to the world championships. He took second in the free and second overall with 240.87 points.

"I'm very proud of what I was able to do today," Rippon, 22, said. "I fought through the entire performance.

"I definitely feel like a changed skater for this competition. I feel more mature and I'm glad it paid off at this championship. I would assume I am back on the world team and I am very excited to be there being assigned a spot, and not being an alternate [as in 2010]."

Yuka Sato, who with husband Jason Dungjen coaches both skaters at the Detroit Skating Club, thinks having the two skaters in the same practice sessions each day sharpens their competitive edge.

"I think it's tremendously helpful for both of them, and I actually think it's helpful they respect each other and they also push each other," she said. "Of course they are competition with each other, so they come in and try to do the best they can. Some days they are a little tired and not sure, but the other one is doing the same thing, and one says, 'I can do it.' And they switch gears and keep pushing each other."

Ross Miner repeated as bronze medalist with a conservative but smooth and well-skated program to music from The Untouchables that was near-flawless, save for a fall on his second triple Axel and a slight trip on some closing steps. The Skating Club of Boston skater was third in the free and gained 230.32 points overall.

"I did a good second Axel and just didn't check out," Miner said. "It would have been fine, but I let my guard down a little bit, and that kind of woke me up.

"I think I definitely worked as hard as I could at home, so I'm really proud of myself. I thought even before the competition, I'm really proud of how I worked, so it kind of takes some of the pressure off to go and skate the way I can."

Armin Mahbanoozadeh, who recently relocated to Colorado Springs to train under a group headed by Christy Krall, kicked off his free to music from Kill Bill with a game attempt at a quad toe, but fell. Although he also faltered on a triple Axel, he bounced back to land seven other triples, including a triple flip-triple toe, and placed fourth.

"The quad didn't go as I thought it would, but then I just tried to focus on the rest of the program," Mahbanoozadeh said. "A couple of small mistakes, I think, cost me a lot of points today, but I'm happy."

Douglas Razzano, 10th last season, moved up to fifth place this season. Stephen Carriere, the 2007 world junior champion who missed the last two U.S. championships with injuries, was sixth.