Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Archive for February 13th, 2014

U.S. Figure Skater Jeremy Abbott Falls Hard, Wins Big (at Life)

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Today, I witnessed something I’ve never before seen in my many years of watching figure skating. Reigning United States men’s champion Jeremy Abbott, who’s had his share of troubles in the Olympics already, took a very hard fall in the Olympic men’s short program at Sochi, lay on the ice for nearly twenty seconds . . . then got up and skated the rest of his program cleanly and with energy.

This was a big win for Abbott, even though it wasn’t reflected in the score column overmuch.

You see, Abbott, over the years, has had many problems with his nerves. They are well-documented, they are pervasive, and while they are also completely understandable (I doubt many of us would do well under so much scrutiny), they’ve kept him from attaining his immense potential — at least at the international level.

Martin Rogers of Yahoo Sports quoted Abbott afterward as saying:

“First thing, I was in a lot of pain and I was laying there kind of shocked and I didn’t know what to think,” Abbott said. “I was waiting for the music to stop. The audience was screaming, and I was, like, ‘Forget it all, I am going to finish this program.’

“As much of a disappointment as this is, I am not in the least bit ashamed. I stood up and finished this program, and I am proud of what I did in the circumstances.”

Abbott scored a 72.58, good for fifteenth place out of thirty, but what he achieved goes far beyond any scorecard.


What Abbott achieved was the ultimate triumph of dedication, focus, and persistence. He refused to let a terrible fall — one that could still, potentially, knock him out of the competition — stop him from completing his short program. And in so doing, he won the respect of his competitors and the Russian crowd’s vociferous support, which wasn’t altogether easy as their lone entrant into the men’s program, Evgeny Plushenko, had abruptly retired directly before he was supposed to skate in the short.

I don’t doubt that Plushenko was injured — he clutched his back and looked like he could barely stand upright when he skated over to the judges in order to withdraw — and I also don’t doubt that Plushenko did the right thing in withdrawing, no matter how abrupt it turned out to be.

But what Abbott did in getting up from one of the worst falls I’ve ever seen and skating the rest of his program with vigor, energy, and even brilliance was as inspirational an effort as I’ve ever seen.

As Rogers put it in his headline, “Jeremy Abbott Loses Marks for Ugly Fall, Wins Hearts for Finishing Short Program.”

As I’ve been critical over the years of Abbott — much though I adore his skating — I felt it imperative to point this out: Jeremy Abbott has the heart of a true champion.

Whether he can skate the long program after a night of stiffening up and soreness, and possibly some bone breaks as well (as a hairline fracture can be hard to spot, especially right after an injury due to the inflammation incurred) is immaterial.

What Abbott did today in refusing to give up on himself is far, far more important than any marks could ever be. In or out of the Olympics.

You see, Jeremy Abbott proved today why he’s as big a winner at life as anyone I’ve ever seen.

And that, my friends, is extremely impressive.