Abbott puts on dream short program

BOSTON -- We all have anxiety dreams. Nightmares, actually.

It's the final day of school and we haven't attended a science class all year and now we're going to flunk and have to explain to our parents why we won't graduate. Or we not only show up hours late for a crucial job interview, we show up wearing only our underwear. Or we need to get somewhere very quickly, but our feet and legs move so slowly, it's as if we are one of baseball's Molina brothers.

These anxiety dreams don't just plague the average person, though. The best at what they do also wake up sweating. Or worse.

Take three-time U.S. champion and 2010 Olympian Jeremy Abbott, who prepared for his final appearance at the national championships by going to bed and having the exact same miserable dream every night.

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Jeremy Abbott is trying to secure one of two spots for the U.S. Olympic men's figure skating team.

"I was having nightmares coming into this event -- only about the short program – and every time I was in seventh place and I was too far out to make the Olympics and I would wake up crying," Abbott said. "It was just horrifying. It was like every single night for the last three weeks, I was having this dream where I just imploded in the short program. But we got that out of the way."

Did he ever. After a couple down years, Abbott rose back to the top with a brilliant performance Friday night, executing every jump and move for a score of 99.86, the highest for an American in the short routine.

"I wouldn't say [Friday's performance] was a dream because I was very in it, very focused and very aware of what I was doing through the entire program, and that's why it was as good as it was," Abbott said. "That was fun. That was just fun. I love to figure skate, and when you hit all the technical stuff and you do all the athletic parts, that's when you can really enjoy the performance. ...

"I heard people chanting behind me 100 and 99.86 is pretty close. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks."

Abbott is 28 and this is his last season -- "I ache and I'm sore and I'm tired and I'm old" -- but he said he will be leaving the sport in the hands of a rising new generation. That new group hasn't competed so well in the past year or so, but it turned in some excellent performances Friday.

Richard Dornbush, 22, was second with a 92.04. Ponytailed 19-year-old Jason Brown was third (87.47) and 21-year-old former hockey player Max Aaron was fourth (86.95).

"With the way the men were skating today, it just sends a message that whoever our men are who represent the U.S. in Sochi, we're going to make a big impact," Aaron said. "No matter who it is, no matter where we are, we're probably going to come out of the team event with a big win and really represent the U.S. well."

Abbott represented the U.S. at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but his short routine there was so disappointing that he left a post-skate interview to go sit in a corner and cry. Perhaps that outing is what provoked the recent short routine nightmares.

And perhaps this week will provoke far better dreams. Abbott was so happy after his performance Friday that, upon finishing, he immediately turned around and started hopping across the ice and raising his arms in joy as the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Of course, Abbott is an emotional sort of guy. He said that just taking the ice for his first practice routine this week sent tears flowing down his cheeks.

"I knew this was it [the end]," he said. "I love the U.S. championships. I love this event and I freaking love skating! It just kind of all hit me. It just washed all over me."

Abbott has the lead, but he can't get too carried away. There are only two Olympic spots for the U.S. men, and there is still the matter of Sunday's long program before anyone punches their ticket for Sochi.

"My foot is not on the plane yet." Abbott said. "I still have four minutes and 40 seconds to go [in the long routine]. I have eight jumping passes, 13 jumps, three spins and two footworks left, so I'm really only a third of the way there. I have a toe, maybe, over the threshold of the jetway, but I still have a job to do."

Cross fingers he sleeps well.

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