SOCHI – Jeremy Abbott fell.
But he got up.
Abbott suffered a body-rattling fall early in his short program in figure skating competition at the Olympics. His body positioning was wrong as he took off on a hoped-for quadruple toe jump, and he crashed hard to the ice.
He skidded into the boards after his hip and ribcage endured a severe blow. He reclined without moving for several seconds.
The fall ended Abbott’s hopes to medal in his final Olympic appearance. Abbott, 28, has earned five American titles during his career, but has struggled during international competition.
No one will doubt his courage after this performance. He fought his way back to his feet and with the help of the crowd resumed his routine.
“I was very confused and I was in a lot of pain, but I heard the crowd and I knew I had to do it for them,” Abbott said.
The crowd joined in his effort, clapping in unison as he fought through his pain to conclude his program. When Abbott finished, he faced a crowd that was waving American and Russian flags and cheering him with abandon.
Abbott scored 72.58.
His coach Yuka Sato voiced admiration for her prize pupil.
“I’m so proud of him for getting up and finishing this program,” Sato said. “That was not easy to do, but he did it. … He’s not just skating for himself. He’s representing the United States.”
Abbott has struggled during this journey to Russia. He fell Feb. 6 in Team Skate competition, but said Tuesday he believed he had banished his troubles as he headed into individual competition. Abbott said he “shook hands” with his demons and made peace with them.
“I sent them on their way,” he said.
But his air troubles continued on Thursday. Sato said skating at the highest level requires a complicated chemistry on the ice.
“He really went after it, but it might have been too much,” she said. “It’s a fine line. You have to be relaxed, but you have to be aggressive. You have to feel the timing and all this has to happen in an absolute second all together while you’re turning four times in the air.”
Jason Brown, who trains in Monument, skated a few minutes after Abbott’s fall. He did not watch Abbott’s performance, but had heard about his teammate’s rise and fall.
“His recovery is something we should all be inspired by,” Jason Brown said. “It was truly incredible.”
Brown scored 86.00 in the short program.
“I am so excited,” Brown said of his score. ”I went out there and I wanted to skate the way I trained. … I am thrilled.”
Abbott plans to compete again Friday in the free skate. He knows continuing in the competition will not be easy.
“I’m sure I’m in for a lot of pain later tonight,” Abbott said.
Abbott lived 10 years in Colorado Springs, competing for the Broadmoor Skating Club and graduating from Cheyenne Mountain High School. He now competes for the Detroit Skating Club.