Barb Caffrey's Blog

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In Olympic Long Program, U.S. Figure Skater Jeremy Abbott Silences Critics

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Yesterday’s blog discussed U.S. figure skater Jeremy Abbott, who took a particularly nasty fall, laying stunned on the ice for nearly twenty seconds due to the pain, but got back up and finished his heart-felt short program to finish fifteenth.

Finishing that far back meant it would be nearly impossible for Abbott to pull up into the top ten. And indeed, he didn’t, finishing twelfth.

But what he did today was still quite impressive, as despite being in obvious pain, Abbott skated a clean long program.

After that, Abbott had a message for his critics, according to Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports:

Asked what he had to say to those who say he chokes, he first exhaled loudly, put his head back and said, “Ahhhh … I would just love…”

He turned to Barb Reichert of U.S. Figure Skating public relations.

“Sorry Barb, you’re going to kill me,” he said.

“No,” she said. “I’m not. Bring it. Bring it.”

Abbott brought it.

“I would just hold my middle finger in the air and say a big ‘F you’ to everyone who has ever said that to me because they have never stood in my shoes,” he said, the kind of direct language not commonly found in the skating hall.

Now, why did Abbott say this? Well, not every commentator is as polite as I am, not by a mile. Twitter yesterday was particularly unforgiving, and half (if not more) of the commentators never once took a look at what Abbott did after he took that hard fall.

Figure skating is one of the most difficult athletic pursuits around. Even though I can’t do it — I don’t have the balance, the strength, or the stamina, and never have — I understand skating and I understand the skater’s mentality, mostly because I’m a musician and I performed at many music competitions. And having to do your best when your reed isn’t working, or your keys are sticking, or you know you’re competing against someone who’s won the competition several times and you’re a newcomer — well, those nerves are hard to deal with.

That’s why I never faulted Abbott for having nerves, or being willing to acknowledge them. But as a commentator — even an armchair one like myself — I have to be honest about what I see.

Yesterday, I said that Abbott’s story of falling hard but getting up and finishing when he could’ve walked away without fault was inspiring. And it was.

Today, going out there when he knew he had no realistic chance for a medal and giving it his all, then skating a clean program despite being in pain from yesterday’s fall, was even more so.

Life is about how hard you try after you’ve been knocked down. It’s all about how you get up, or don’t. And that’s why I’d rather talk about Jeremy Abbott, who’s competed now in two Olympics, finishing ninth  and twelfth, than talk about 2014 Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who’s only nineteen and has not faced significant adversity on the ice as of yet (off the ice, yes, due to the tsunami a few years ago). And I definitely don’t want to talk about Olympic silver medalist Patrick Chan, who apparently felt he deserved the gold medal despite taking three falls, because that young man has way too much publicity already.

For today, this Valentine’s Day, I want you to consider the courage of a young man who’s about to retire from the sport he loves — Jeremy Abbott — at the young age of twenty-eight, because the sport is so difficult, so demanding, requires so much dedication, that his legs and back and body and mind just cannot keep doing it at the high level required to attain the Olympics.

Then consider how difficult it was for him to take that fall — look at the program in context (I’m sure it’s available on YouTube by now, or at, and see what Abbott did to get up again, then skate the rest of his program with vigor and panache.

That’s what we all need to do, in this life.

I have a lot of sympathy for Abbott.  I had it in 2010 at Vancouver, when he finished ninth by skating a brilliant program to pull way up in the standings. And I have it again today.

Because what makes an Olympic champion is not the medals.

It’s the heart.

That’s why Jeremy Abbott will forever be an Olympic champion.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 14, 2014 at 4:59 pm