For Jeremy Abbott it was the skate of a lifetime as he gave a spectacular performance to win the men’s title— his second straight — at the 2010 U.S. Championships in Spokane, Wash.
In the process he punched his ticket to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. Likely joining him will be the competition’s silver medalist, Evan Lysacek, and bronze medalist Johnny Weir. The official announcement will be made later tonight, but it seems unlikely U.S. Figure Skating officials will deviate from the final standings.
UPDATE: U.S. Figure Skating President Patricia St. Peter made it official during the press conferences when she told the men's medalists to look at their cell phones to which congratulatory messages announcing their selections to the U.S. Olympic team had been sent. Then she added: "We are ready to take on the world; great job."
Skating last, Abbott notched 175.81 for his free skate to to “Symphony No. 3 in C minor" by Camille Saint-Saens and an overall mark of 263.66 points. Abbott skated with grace, speed and technical prowess tonight. He landed a quadruple toe early, a triple Axel-triple toe combination and a three-jump combo later in the program. All looked effortless.
"I am speechless. I am so happy," Abbott said to open the press conference. When asked how he felt after hitting his opening quad, Abbott responded: "It was business as usual. I still had seven jumping passes and six triples left. There was no way I could celebrate at that point."
The crowd rose to its feet as Abbott finished his performance with a scratch spin. He pumped his fist in excitement a second later. The Olympic Games in February will be his first.
Lysacek took a risk by putting a quad into his free skate to "Scheherazade" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for the first time this season. The two-time U.S. champion (2007, ’08) paid for it. He fell hard on the move but picked himself up and delivered a solid program with one other very notable miscue, a very shaky landing of his triple Axel-double toe combo. He scored 154.94 for the program, the third best score of the night.
Lysacek was 25 points behind Abbott for the competition, but the reigning World champion claimed silver in Spokane with 238.63. "I made several changes to my free skate. I'm glad and happy to have the opportunity to try them out. Not everything went the way I wanted it to, obviously," he said. "I have a lot of work to do. I have mixed feelings right now. ... I am so honored to be part of a second Olympic team I am saving my Olympic skate for than right moment."
After the short program, Weir had a 10-point lead over Adam Rippon who placed fourth in short skate. But it was Ryan Bradley that put down a stellar free skate to shake things up and leave the ending up in the air until Abbott completed his program.
But in the end, Weir (who went into the free skate 13 points ahead of Bradley) did enough to claim the third spot with an overall score of 232.09. Skating to a program named "Fallen Angels" (by various musical artists), he hit a triple-Axel in combination early but popped his second planned triple Axel. A three-time U.S. champion (2004, ’05 and ’06), Weir held it together, though, and gave, if somewhat tame, a graceful performance. He scored 148.58 points for the program, good enough to put him six points ahead of Bradley overall who placed fourth with 225.97 points.
"I agree with Evan. I have mixed feelings too about my performance tonight, I have lots of things to be proud of and lots of things I wished hadn't happen," Weir said. I suppose deep down inside I am saving that clean, amazing and perfect program for a certain time. Buy my costume looked pretty and did is happy about that."
Lysacek and Weir were Olympians in 2006. Lysacek placed fourth and Weir fifth in Torino. (Check out Weir's reality TV series on Sundance Mondays, starting Jan. 18, at 10:30 p.m.)
Bradley gave a very entertaining performance to Baroque era chamber music and nailed two quads. But he left off one revolution off of what was a planned triple Axel, his only error. He placed second in the free skate with a score of 155.34 and could not climb far enough back from his sixth-place standing after the short program to land in the top 3.
Rippon, who looks to be the future of U.S. figure skating, gave a graceful and solid performance but he just didn’t have enough technical merit to get by the top guns. He was fourth in the free skate with 152.16 points and fifth overall (225.07).
The U.S. Championships are now just half over. Next weekend, the ladies and ice dance events will be held at the Spokane Arena.