SPOKANE - Jeremy Abbott has done this before - pull off his best performance when he needed it the most - but for some reason Sunday felt like the first time.
“For me this is my first national title,” said Abbott who blew away the field for his second national championship.
He dreamed of winning a national championship with a flawless performance when he was a kid. But last year’s national title didn’t live up to the dream because in the dream a spot in the Olympics was on the line.
That was the case Sunday and “this is exactly what I thought it would feel like,” Abbott said.
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Abbott’s 263.66 points was good enough to beat reigning world champion Evan Lysacek (238.63) by more than 25 points. Johnny Weir was third with 232.09 points.
All three are advancing to next month’s Winter Olympics where each will be a threat to medal.
“We are very strong I would say,” Lysacek said.
Abbott set the tone for what he called the best performance of his life by opening with a quadruple jump, a risk he didn’t need to take to win the national title.
Lysacek won the world championship without trying a quadruple but decided to give it a go Sunday afternoon. He couldn’t pull it off.
He said he doesn’t regret adding the element to his program because he wanted to test in competition something he might need to use at the Olympics.
Lysacek did, however, have mixed emotions about his performance.
“What happened here is absolutely no reflection on what I’m going to be like at the Olympics,” Lysacek said. “That’s my one and only focus and what I’ve been working (on) for the last four years. Pretty much from tomorrow until that day I will have tunnel vision.”
Weir, the ’06 national champ, was similarly displeased with his performance but said he’s on course to have his best Olympic performance.
So, with the most accomplished skaters in the field saying they have room to improve, it raises the question: “Did Abbott peak too soon?”
It wouldn’t be the first time.
After winning nationals last season he finished 11th at the World Championships. He also finished 11th at worlds in 2008 after finishing fourth at nationals.
However, last year he said he was exhausted at this point in the season. This year the 24-year-old from Aspen, Colo., said, “I feel extremely charged . … I feel very strongly that will not happen again.”
With a new coach, new music and new program, he’s also developed a new attitude.
“Everybody has doubt, but I used to believe it,” Abbott said. “That little nagging voice in the back of my head when it told me I couldn’t do it, I would believe that I couldn’t.
“I’m learning that I can quiet that voice and I can tell it to shut up and I can move on and do my job.”
Claiming the fourth-place pewter medal was crowd-favorite Ryan Bradley. The swashbuckling leaper started his program with two quadruple jumps, a feat NBC commentator and ’84 gold medalist Scott Hamilton called “superhuman.”
The fans roared their approval and laughed and cheered at his showmanship.
“The crowd is everything to me,” Bradley said. “I wanted to go out there and do that for them. What’s the worst that can happen? I could fall farther off the Olympic team?”
The championships continue this week with novice and junior competitions. The senior level competitions for Olympic spots resume Thursday with the ladies short program and compulsory dance.
The dance finals are Friday night and the ladies finals are Saturday night. Both Olympic teams will be announced Saturday, said Scottie Bibb of U.S. Figure Skating.
Craig Hill: 253-597-8497