Jeremy Abbott never set his sites on winning at the US Figure Skating Championships in Boston, but he did.
"My goal was literally just, it wasn't to win a fourth title, or do any of that, but it was literally just to continue on so that I could have another shot at making the podium in Sochi," said Abbott
The 28-year-old did more than win, he set a record for the American men's short program, but the biggest victory was punching his ticket to return to the Winter Olympics.
Abbott finished ninth in the 2010 games in Vancouver, Canada.
"I learned so much from going to Vancouver, I mean, for me competitively it was a disaster and a nightmare but going into this season I'm really happy I went through that because I have a lot of perspective now on how to handle the Olympics and really what the Olympics is about," said Abbott
Abbott said the only plan for the 2010 games was to get to them, but there was no plan for what happened next. In 2014 it is different, Abbott said his coaches, his nutritionist, his sports psychologist are all working together as one team.
"We have such specific goals and it's much more than just getting there, it's about how you get there and what actually happens after you get there, " said Abbott. "This time I'm aiming for more than to just be an Olympian, I want to be an Olympic medalist."
Yuka Sato is one of Abbott's coaches at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills. Sato is a 1994 world champion skater from Japan.
"He's very gifted, talented, all around. He does not have a weakness, really, on the ice. He's a good jumper, great spinner, the footwork, musicality, the expression. he hears every single note," said Sato. "He's only one of the very few people who can do a high technical elements as really to perform, to make a piece of art and that's what he really lives for."
While Abbott is originally from Colorado, he has called Detroit home for several years and feels a special connection tot he spirit of metro Detroit.
"I love that we're kind of an underdog city because I've always been an underdog myself in my own career and so I kind of carry that as a badge of pride," said Abbott.
Since the 2010 games, Abbott said his training has had to be methodical and he is very happy with his slow and steady improvement despite some setbacks along the way.
"I had some rough Grand Prixs and a rough Nationals where I ended up third and didn't make the world team, but we didn't think that anything was wrong so we just kind of stuck to everything that we had set and you know I continued to watch and with each competition it got better and better," said Abbott.
Sato said Abbott is more seasoned and experienced. She said he amazed her with his record-setting short program at the US Figure Skating Championships.
"As much as he's worried and says he's not confident on some level, I don't think the training lies. And really when he gets the grip on himself, that's when he really shines. and I can see it in his eyes, and I can see in his movement, you know, how he holds himself," said Sato.
Abbott is the first to admit this is an emotional time this year as he plans to retire from competitions after the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. At Nationals in Boston he took some extra time on the ice after his free program to take it all in.
"I knew it was going to be my last championship and I wanted to not forget that moment," said Abbott.
At the Detroit Skating Club, Abbott trains alongside Patrick Chan who is from Canada. The two will compete against each other in the Olympics.
"I don't think that I'm worse than any man that's competing, I mean I trained with Patrick, who's the three-time and current world champion. I train with him on a daily basis and I see him train every day, and I know that I'm, I'm just as good as he is," Abbott said.
Abbott calls himself an underdog and there is one thing he loves about being that person.
"I love shutting up the naysayers. There's always a lot of them, it doesn't' matter who you are, but it's always kind of fun to make them put their foot in their mouth," said Abbott. "I think I have a good shot. If I can just, if I stick to what I know and what I've been practicing and what I've been training and just keep everything kind of one step at a time and stay focused in the moment and only on one thing as it's going on I think I have a very good chance of being on the podium in Sochi."
Abbott is one of two Olympians who will represent the US Men's Figure Skating team, the other is Jason Brown. Six other metro Detroiters will be competing for US Figure Skating in ice dance. They are Meryl Davis and Charie White, Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani.
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