Jeremy Abbott proved he is no one-hit wonder by skating into first at the U.S. Championships last night in Spokane, Wash. Meanwhile in the pairs 2009 U.S. silver medalists Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett were the surprise leaders.
The defending men's champion, Abbott saw himself in the underdog role heading into the event because Evan Lysacek, who finished second last night, won the 2009 World men’s title last March.
“I was very happy with my short program. I was so much more nervous here, more so than in my other competitions,” Abbott said. “I had to put that aside and focus on the job I had to do like I do in practice, When I hit that third jump, the Lutz, I just exploded and had so much fun.”
Abbott put down a stellar program. Skating to Jeff Beck's version of the Beatle's "A Day in the Life," Abbott earned a personal-best score of 87.85. His performance was entertaining technically solid.
The 2009 U.S. champion nailed a triple flip-triple toe combination, followed by a huge triple Axel and he also hit a nice triple Lutz. Meanwhile, Lysacek had a costly miscue on his opening triple Axel whe he stepped out of the jump in his program to Stravinsky's “Firebird.” Lysacek was second with a score of 83.69.
Three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir (2004, ’05, and ’06) was certainly good last night. He is in third place, just 0.18 behind Lysacek with 83.51. Adam Rippon is in fourth place with a score of 72.91.
The U.S. has three spots for the 2010 Olympic Games in the men's discipline.
In the pairs 2009 Denney and Barrett came out strongly and grabbed the lead. They scored 63.01 for their short program skated to "Variations" from the “Song and Dance” soundtrack. They nailed a huge triple Lutz twist lift and then put down beautiful side-by-side triple toes.
Another surprise couple came out the gates roaring. Relative unknowns Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin finished less than a point behind with a score of 62.09 points. Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig are in third with 58.76 points.
Both Denney and Barrett credited their hard training with helping them perform so steadily in Spokane. “We are training a lot smarter this year. We are trying to simulate competitions in our training," Barrett said. "It was nice to get out there and have all the hard work pay off.”
Denney added: "Having the crowd behind us was fun."
Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, the two-time and defending champions, are in seventh place. McLaughlin fell twice during the duo’s short program. She fell on a triple Salchow and more surprisingly on a death spiral when she leaned too far back and caught the heel of her blade on the ice.
The United States has two berths in pairs to the 2010 Olympic Games.
U.S. Figure Skating will announce the Olympic team after nationals.