Eclectic trio will be an Olympic threat
This is 2010, so naturally U.S. figure skating association president Patricia St. Peter couldn't just tell the skaters seated mere feet away from her that they had been officially named to the Olympic team. She told them to check their cell phones for a text message informing them they had been officially named to the Olympic team.
Isn't modern communications technology, wonderful?
It was a nice moment. As the skaters eagerly scrambled for their cell phones in front of the assembled reporters, they provided a good impression of their personalities and lifestyles. Johnny Weir, who has a reality show that debuts Monday night on the Sundance Channel, "Be Good Johnny Weir," fetched his phone from a designer handbag on one side of the rostrum. Down on the other end sat Evan Lysacek, who has costumes designed by Vera Wang, a sponsorship deal with Ralph Lauren and a modeling contract with DNA Models.
And in the middle sat Jeremy Abbott, who wore a sweatshirt with a cartoon pig on it.
Abbott doesn't have a major endorsement deal. He doesn't have his own TV show. But he does have a spot on the U.S. Olympic team as the men's national champion. Abbott blew away the competition Sunday, landing a quad at the start of his free program, hitting every jump that followed, winning by 25 points and finishing with a combined score of 263.66 that shattered the record for highest total in U.S. history under the new system.
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"That was probably the best performance I've given in my entire life, but I know I'm capable of so much more," Abbott said. "Putting out the performance I did definitely makes a statement [to the world]. I think the performances we all did puts out to the world that we're an incredibly strong team."
It is that. Abbott is ranked third in the world, Lysacek is ranked first and Weir is ranked eighth. The three will go to Vancouver, quad leaps, Vera Wang costumes, reality show, fur and all.
These will be the second Olympics for Lysacek and Weir, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively, at the 2006 Torino Games. That same year, Abbott failed to even qualify for the U.S. national championships. Missing those championships, Abbott said, "made me realize just how much I wanted it."
Abbott came back to reach nationals in 2007 and win it last year. And as he grew stronger on the ice, he also grew stronger in his mind.
"I think everyone has doubt in themselves, but I used to believe in it," Abbott admitted. "That little nagging voice in the back of my head when they told me I couldn't do something, I used to believe that I couldn't. I've learned to quiet that voice and I'm learning that I can tell it to shut up and move on and do my job."
Abbott said making the Olympic team, not defending his 2009 national title, was his main goal here, but he certainly skated like a champion Sunday. After hitting the quad, he performed jump after jump to bring the crowd to its feet.
"It was business as usual," Abbott said of his thoughts after landing the quad. "I still had seven jumping passes and eight triples left, so in no way could I celebrate at that point. I stuck to my plan and kept focused. It wasn't until the end that it hit me."
Lysacek, who finished second, fell attempting a quad at the start of his routine and Weir didn't perform the jump while finishing third. Like Abbott, both skaters insisted that winning here was not the goal.
"What happened here is absolutely no reflection of what I'm going to be like at the Olympics," Lysacek said. "That's my one and only focus that I've been working for the last four years."
"There were lots of things I could be proud of and mistakes I wish that hadn't happened," Weir said, "but deep down inside, I suppose I was saving that perfect lovely performance [for the Olympics]. And my costume looked pretty, so I'm happy about that."
Ah, yes ... the costume. As promised, Weir wore a costume trimmed with fur on the shoulders while skating to a "Fallen Angel" theme.
"It was fox fur on my costume and I think it was lovely," Weir said. "It was fluffy. I looked very special. I looked like I was dressed up for this event and that's what I wanted. And I was happy when I could see the replays because I wasn't looking at my technique because I knew what mistakes I made, I was looking at my costume and I was very happy with the way it looked, and I feel it expresses what I wanted with the performance."
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached here. His Web site is at jimcaple.net.