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Seattle stew: Abbott takes new route to consistency

U.S. champion tears down jump to build it up; Browning tells Verner to show more

Jeremy Abbott will do the quad in his short program and free skate this season.
Jeremy Abbott will do the quad in his short program and free skate this season. (Tom Briglia)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/19/2012) - Jeremy Abbott thinks he may have unlocked the key to a consistent quadruple toe loop in both of his programs: He's throwing it a curve.

"I'm jumping it on a circle as opposed to a straight line," the 27-year-old skater said Thursday after his first practice at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash. "It is much more comfortable, but it has changed the timing of the whole jump. I'm starting to do it again, but it's been a long process."

The three-time U.S. champion has included the four-revolution jump in his free skates for years, and hit it at his three biggest competitions last season: the 2011 Grand Prix Final, 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and 2012 World Figure Skating Championships in Nice, France. But he has yet to consistently do it in his short program, something he needs to do to compete for world and Olympic medals. So, beginning mid-summer, he and coach Yuka Sato took the gamble.

"I think in the long run it will be a lot more consistent, but it's kind of a slow start," Abbott said. "With 16 months out [from the 2014 Olympic Winter Games], I wanted to make sure I had all my ducks in row and [make sure] that everything is going to be as consistent as possible at that point. So we kind of took a side step; we broke down the jump and now we're rebuilding it. It's a little messy right now."

Last season, Abbott kept the quad out of his short until the 2012 International Challenge Cup, a small competition in the Netherlands he did as a warm-up for worlds. It failed him there, and he didn't try it in his short in Nice.

This season, he's taking the opposite approach.

"We're putting it in both programs," he said. "The goal is to build toward nationals and worlds. I want to be at the Grand Prix Final because it's in Sochi -- that's a huge goal -- but the bigger goal is for the future, for worlds and Olympics.

"It's not like past years, when I tried to pace myself, to not put too much [out] here or there. I'm going full out now, but it's just the first step. Every big thing starts with one step, and this is my first step."

At Skate America, Abbott will unveil two new competition programs: a short choreographed with Benji Schwimmer to Nathan Lanier's "Spy," and a free set to Les Miserables' "Bring Him Home" and self-choreographed by Abbott and Sato.

"I'm really happy with the choreography and the layout. They're going well in training," he said. "The goal here is to put the quad out in both programs but to really be solid with everything else."

One thing Abbott isn't losing any sleep over is the absence of Olympic champion Evan Lysacek, who withdrew last week due to a re-aggravation of a groin injury.

"I don't feel any difference; I'm coming here with my goals and not worrying about [how much] attention I get versus the attention Evan might get or where I rank," he said. "I came with my own personal agenda, and that's all I'm seeking to do and that's all I'm looking at. Whether he is here or not, it's no effect on me."

Browning gives Verner some tough love

Tomas Verner, who placed fourth in the world in 2007 and 2009, faded to an all-time low of 16th in Nice. So the personable Czech, who has trained in Richmond Hill, Ontario, since 2010, welcomes knowledgeable advice, especially when it comes from a four-time world champion.

"Last week Kurt Browning dropped by, and we skated together," Verner said. "It's always fun to skate with him and get inspiration from him."

Browning, the ultimate showman, told the younger skater to ramp up his entertainment value.

"He asked me what my plan was for the season and he watched my program," Verner said. "He said, 'Tomas, you are playing it very safe. It's good skating and we know you're a good skater, and it's a nice program, but get a little loose. Show them something.'

"A couple of years ago I was up here. Now I've sunk to here, and we don't need to talk about it; what is past is past. Of course, I want to be back up. So I have to get a little bit more of the feel of my show numbers [into my competitive routines], even more than I was already giving."

Verner also needs to work on his jump consistency and fight a tendency to leave points on the table, especially when it comes to his spins.

"I'm working on my spins every day, which was not the rule when I trained in Europe; there, we worked on the spins maybe 20 minutes a week," he said. "This has been a dramatic change for me because I didn't like the spins, ever. I hope, before I end my career, they will be fine."

That time may be approaching, because Verner -- who suffered from H1N1 flu during the 2009-10 season and has also had back trouble -- is feeling his age.

"I'm 26 and I don't have the body Yuzuru [Hanyu] does; he's maybe 17," he said. "No offense: I'm a man and he's a kid on the ice. It's biomechanics.

"I just saw my sports therapist a week ago because I had big trouble with my groin, and I asked how long it would take before I didn't feel any pain, and he asked my age. I said 26, and he said, 'Well, what do you want?'"