As the Olympic Games get closer, athletes like figure skater Jeremy Abbott are working hard to make Team USA. The three-time U.S. champion and Aspen native has yet to deliver on the world stage. Abbott wants 2014 to be the year he takes a medal. With only two spots open on the U.S. men’s figure skating team, the competition is tough. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen reports.
Figure skater Jeremy Abbott tugs hard on the laces of his brand new, black ice skates.
"I need the support. When you’re jumping triple and quad jumps, you need a lot of ankle support."
In the locker room, he warms up his muscles, stretches out and loosens up his joints before he starts skating.
"I do the same routine before I get on the ice for every session I skate, usually three hours a day, so I do the same routine three times a day," he says as he stretches his legs.
Today Abbott is training where it all started. At age two, he made his way onto the ice at the Aspen Ice Garden, a few blocks from downtown. He began competing at age four.
The 28-year-old’s now a three time national champion and he competed in the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, where he took ninth place.
Abbott points to family as one of the reasons for his success. When he was young, they moved from Aspen to Colorado Springs, where he could train. He says the training was not cheap.
"They refinanced the house multiple times and they really did whatever they could so that I could follow this dream and I’m so grateful for that."
Realizing the expense of the sport, Abbott and his family started a fund to help up and coming skaters pay for training. Fans from around the world have donated.
Right now, Abbott is practicing for the U.S. championships in Boston in early January. It’s the Olympic qualifier. If he does well there he’ll land one of just two spots on the men’s Olympic team. He’s perfecting a routine that he’s already performed. It’s set to a song by the band Muse.
"I always say Jeremy has happy feet. He has feet that just connect with the ice and it’s just a natural gift for him," says Aspen resident Peggy Behr.
She was Jeremy’s coach for seven years. She says she knew he was talented the first time she saw him skate.
"We walked into the rink, my husband and I before we moved here, and Jeremy was out there skating and even my husband who doesn’t have an eye for that, for skating, but he could see the talent," she says.
Out on the ice, Abbott practices moves like a Triple Lutz and a Triple flip. Behr’s daughter Sari watches closely. At 14 years old, she’s a burgeoning figure skater herself and she looks up to Abbott.
"I mean he’s an amazing skater and he’s also a great person and he’s kind of like a big brother to me," she says.
She already has her sights set on similar goals.
"I hope I can go to the Olympics someday, just like him."
After practice, Abbott cools down in the locker room. He says his broad range of abilities give him an edge over the competition.
"I can do the tricks and I can skate, I have great skating skills and artistry and well-choreographed programs. For me, the biggest obstacle is just bringing it all together."
He’s been training for the Olympics for nearly a decade and he has his sights set on Sochi.
"The goal for me is the Olympics, it’s Sochi, and doing my best there and my best has the potential to be on the podium and that’s what I’m working towards and that’s what I’m looking for."
If he makes it to the Olympics, he could perform three times, for his short and long programs and for a new discipline this Olympics, the team event.