Patrick Chan and the Japanese can rest easy.
With just about everyone else stumbling, bumbling or worse, Jeremy Abbott’s clean but conservative short program was more than enough to give him the lead in the splatfest that was the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Friday night in Omaha, Neb. The three-time champion finished with 84.10 points, and was three points ahead of Ross Miner going into Sunday’s free skate.
Joshua Farris, the silver medalist at last year’s junior world championships, was third.
“That was a lot of work,” Abbott said. “I came into this championships knowing this would be more work than in the past. I got a late start to the season. My focus was just to do the best I could for now and move on to the world championships and make some magic happen there.”
There certainly wasn’t any magic Friday. Voodoo, maybe. Out of the 20 men, only four managed to get through their program without a major error.
Max Aaron and Farris were the first two skaters, and they got through unscathed. Impressive even, promising youngsters who could be factors in the next Olympic cycle. Farris attacked his program from the opening note, skating with the kind of fearless abandon contenders have to have.
NBA players would have approved of the height he got on his jumps, and his triple axel and triple flip were solid. The landing on the first jump in his triple lutz-triple toe loop was shaky, but he managed to hang on.
“I’m a little petrified being up here right now,” Farris said. “I’m so happy.”
After Aaron and Farris, however, there were almost three hours of splats until Abbott skated.
And the guys they weren’t necessarily botching quadruple jumps or other high-risk tricks. Former two-time junior world champ Adam Rippon fell on a triple flip-triple toe combination, jumps he can do in his sleep. Another fell out of a spin, the skating equivalent of tripping off a curb. Yet another looked as if he got lost on the way to the Olympic trials for swimming that were held here a few months back, belly-flopping onto the ice.
No wonder Olympic champion Evan Lysacek is contemplating a comeback.
Lysacek withdrew from nationals last week, saying he hadn’t had enough time to train after hernia surgery in November. Even half-trained he probably still would have done better than most of this field.
While Abbott’s program was perfectly respectable, he’s going to have to crack it up a notch — or 10 — if he wants to have any chance at the podium at the world championships in March. He took the quad out of his short program a few weeks ago because of back problems, though he didn’t need it Friday with everyone else falling.
Earlier Friday, Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the short dance with a career-best 79.02 points.
Adelina Sotnikova of Russia produced a superb performance on her debut at the European figure skating championships to lead after the women’s short program in Zagreb, Croatia.
Florent Amodio of France leads the men’s competition going into today’s free skate. The European bronze medalist won the short program on Thursday.