Jeremy Abbott: “I wanted to find a piece of music where I could just breathe in the program and relax into the choreography” ¬†
November 25, 2011
By Nadin Vernon, Susanne Schütz
Photos © Susanne Schütz & Tanya Drubetskaya
Abbott was in Paris last weekend (en route to Moscow), as some of his teammates
competed at the Troph√©e Eric Bompard. Having won the gold at Cup of China,
he used the time in Bercy to train for his second Grand Prix, the Rostelecom
Cup of Russia, which takes place this weekend.
When the GPs were set up, wasn't it possible to be assigned for
the same ones as your training colleagues?
Actually I asked for America and Japan or Canada and France and I ended
up with the two I didn't ask for, but timing wise it worked really well.
I mean I asked for the other ones so that I could have one Grand Prix, then
two weeks, another Grand Prix, roughly 2-3 weeks and then the final instead
of doing them back to back, but it's worked out really well.
has your training situation changed since Adam Rippon
(photo right) joined your camp, and what did you think when you first found
out he was going to train with you?
It's been much different. It's been very positive, I think. At
first I was a little reluctant, I mean I was happy to have Adam come but
I was a little reluctant just because Yuka and Jason have so many students
all at once. When I first went there it was just me and I had 100% of the
attention all the time, and then last season Alissa switched to Yuka and
Jason as well and so it was a little more split. I was still working with
Yuka and Jason every day but just a little less time and so then this season
we also got Alexe Gilles and Valentina Marchei and Haruka Imai and Adam
and a couple others and so I was just a little concerned about how it was
going to work with their time, working with all of us. And it actually has
worked very well. They still work very closely together, but it's become
a little more separated whereas I'm Yuka's main focus and Adam and
Alissa are Jason's main focus. And so I don't work with Jason every
day as I was but I still work with him regularly, 2-3 days a week and whenever
I need help I just ask him and he'll take a look at whatever I'm
doing. So in some ways I kind of miss having both of them around at all
times, but I really enjoyed having a higher level of training and energy
because the first two seasons I was there it was very quiet and now there's
a lot more energy and so the atmosphere at the rink is much more exciting
and it's nice to train in that sort of environment.
And what is it like to train with one of your main competitors every
It's funny, at first I wasn't sure how it was going to be, and
then when he came it was really motivating and now I just skate with him
every day so I don't even think about it anymore. I'd say for the
first month or two there definitely was competition and I really felt like
I had to push a little harder, and now I see him every day and he does a
good program and I'm like 'good job', give him a pat on the
back and I think it goes both ways. It's nice to see one of my closest
competitors in the US every day, because then I know what he's doing
and I think it pushes him and it pushes me but I never feel like we're
in direct competition with each other so it's not like this very aggressive
atmosphere. We're very amenable towards each other which is very nice.
great, especially considering the rivalry there is at US Nationals. How
confident are you that things will work out better this season than they
did last season?
I feel very confident in my abilities this season and I have two programs
that I believe in completely, these are very strong programs and I really
enjoy skating both of them, and for the most part we've gotten all the
equipment issues worked out that I had last season which is allowing me
to train at a much higher level. Last season was so hard because I was trying
to train like I had before and really push hard, but because of the issues
I was having with my equipment I couldn't. So I felt like a hamster
on a wheel running as fast as I could and getting nowhere, and now I feel
like I'm able to really put a lot into my training. I'm not where
I want to be yet, I feel like I got set back a little bit with everything
that happened last year. I had a couple of similar issues this year, but
we got them resolved really quickly and I feel like I am where I should
be, I'm not where I want to be but I definitely think that I'm headed
in the right direction going towards Nationals and Worlds. I feel very confident
about my chances of being in the Worlds team this season. I think that last
season I didn't skate great at our National Championships, but I definitely
don't think I should have been left off of that team. And I know that
a lot of people in US figure skating and the ISU felt that way as well.
Why do you think you were left off last season?
The rules are not that the top three of our nation go, so I don't know.
We have a committee that meets after Nationals to decide the team and I
don't know what happened in those meetings. The Champion is the only
one that's guaranteed a spot and then after that it's based on that
Nationals results, and then the previous World Championships and then the
previous Nationals and then the International season from that year.
you placed 5th at Worlds that year.
I was 5th at Worlds and I was the previous National Champion and I was
the highest ranked on the Grand Prix, so I don't know what happened.
I definitely didn't deserve to be top three at our Nationals but I definitely
felt that I deserved to be on that World team and was very upset that I
was left off it. But you know, actually in hindsight, I'm very happy
because of what happened and the way Worlds was pushed back, it was frustrating
at the time to feel like I didn't have full support, but I'm actually
grateful that that happened because I got more time to rest and more time
to really plan out this season and make sure that everything is set properly
and that I'm doing the things that I need to be doing. So, on the one
hand it wasn't really good, on the other hand it was really good. I
definitely feel that everything happens for a reason and so now I feel like
I'm on the right track for the season and I'm excited to see where
talk a little bit about your programs, starting with the short. Why swing?
After Four Continents, Yuka and I started talking a little bit about this
season and she asked if I'd had any ideas and I told her that I wanted
to do Swing. I just had this feeling that I wanted to do something up tempo,
I wanted to work with another dance choreographer, like I worked with Antonio
Najarro the previous season. I wanted to do another dance-themed program
and I wanted it to not be so serious and just be a lot of fun, and swing
and jive were the first thing that came to mind. And she loved the idea
and so contacted Kristy Yamaguchi, because she did Dancing with the Stars.
Then we were put in touch with Lacey Schwimmer whose family is really big
in the swing community and her dad Buddy agreed to work on the program.
So I went to LA and I ended up meeting Lacey's brother Benji, who was
the Season 2 winner of So you think you can Dance US, and he kind
of hopped on board of the project as well and it ended up being Buddy and
Benji who choreographed this short program. But I didn't have music
picked out when I met them, so we picked it there and they taught me some
basic swing steps off the ice and then we went on the ice to see what we
could translate. It was an interesting experience because some things definitely
worked and a lot of things didn't. It's very steppy and hoppy and
it's hard to do, to glide and to do all that, so we kind of had to fake
it a little bit but I think in working with dance choreographers you're
able to create something that's a little more special. It's a very
difficult program and it's very unique. And I think something like that
stands out very much.
what did you think when you saw some of your competitors do the suspender
action as well? It's like a trend this season (laughs all round)
It's so funny because I never know what anybody else is doing and I
always start thinking about what I want to do the next season during the
previous season. So I had the idea for swing and I went to California in
early June, and they had the idea of the suspenders as it's not been
done in figure skating at all and it's such a co-incidence that so many
people came out with these swing programs and the suspenders, and I was
like 'how did this happen'? I mean the same happened last year.
I wanted to do the Tango/Flamenco program and then everyone did it. I keep
following the trend when I'm trying to set the trend. (laughs)
Do you meet the choreographers once and that's it, or do you meet
again so they can keep an eye on how the program is developing over the
I spent almost two weeks in LA when we first choreographed the program
and then went back when I did a show in LA in August. So we had another
couple of days and then they've seen videos and given me some tips over
the phone or via text message. It's hard with everyone's schedules
to coordinate, going there, coming here, so we stay in touch in whatever
manner that we can, mainly through technology.
talk a little bit about the long program then. Did the Kerrs inspire you
to skate to this piece?
(leans in and whispers) Actually I didn't know the Kerrs had
skated to it. I found out after, I picked the music and worked with the
musician to do the guitar and then I was just youtubing, and I found their
program and I was like Ooops. Actually I did know that they had skated to
it, but I thought it was an exhibition, I didn't realise it was their
competitive program. So it didn't really register.
So what made you choose the music?
It's actually kind of funny how it came about. I've been wanting
to do a long program to Claire de Lune for a long time. Typically
female skaters skate to it and people generally think of it as very feminine
music, and so I wanted to take it and make a very masculine program to this
music that's thought of feminine and really show the contrast. But Yuka
had ended up skating to it on the Stars on Ice tour and I didn't
want to do the same piece that my coach had just skated to, and actually
I'm very happy because I think four different men in the US are skating
to it this year, so I'm glad I didn't pick that. But I wanted to
find a piece of music where I could just skate and breathe and really enjoy
the flow of the music. A piece of music that is very calm.
do you combine that with competition, because when you are nervous I can
imagine it to be quite hard to convey that calm flow over the ice?
Actually that's why I wanted to pick something that is very calming
because I get very nervous in competition and very tense, and so I wanted
to find a piece of music where I could just breathe in the program and relax
into the choreography and really just focus the choreography, on the edge
and the skating. So my next thought was to use a guitar version of Jeff
Buckley's Hallelujah, or rather have it composed as it doesn't
exist. Because I love the song and I felt that a beautiful guitar version
of that would be incredible, but it ended up becoming too much work so I
was just listening to music and came across the Exogenesis and I
loved the piano and I loved the strings and then it had a bit of a rock
n' roll edge to it. And it was actually perfect because we didn't
even need to edit it, it was already 4'40. We just had to have the middle
section composed with guitar because it's a vocal, but that was like
a minute and a half maybe, and Yuka has a friend in Canada who worked with
us to do the guitar and that's the end result.
showed the program once in competition, does it feel comfortable yet?
Yes and no. I think because Yuka and I choreographed it, it does feel like
a part of me, but it also still feels pretty new and I feel like I have
a lot of polishing to do. It still feels very raw. I think my focus this
summer was more about adjusting my technique and getting my boots fixed
and everything because of all the issues I had last year, my technique just
got changed because it had to. In order to do jumps I had to muscle it a
lot more, and use a lot more upper body because I couldn't rely on my
feet and my edges, and so this summer my focus really was to get my jumps
back. So now I'm finally starting to just train the program. I mean
I've been doing run-throughs for my stamina, but it's more about
training the detail and the intricacy. The program has been more consistent
than it was before China, I just hope that with each month and each competition
it gets better.
Let's talk a little bit about the quad. Everybody seems to be doing
it, even in the short.
In terms of men's skating right now, it's just ridiculous. It's really impressive, the level of skating. So many men are doing the quad now and there is a larger group of skaters that have really started skating and the artistry has improved and yes, I think men's skating is one of the more interesting or entertaining sides of the sport to watch, for sure. I think maybe I'm biased (laughs) over the other disciplines, but I think it's the most exciting discipline to watch. Fortunately and unfortunately (laughs), but the level of competition is incredible. Every quad has been tried at this GP series except the Axel.
As for me, whether the quad happens or not, it's just one element and
I still have seven other jumping passes, 12 other jumps to do. I think in
the past I've put too much emphasis on the quad, so if it didn't
happen my focus got really thrown off. This season I've really started
to make it one element, so if it happens it's great. If it doesn't
happen, I still have a whole four minutes and 20 seconds to go and I think
I was really happy with that in China. It wasn't a perfect program by
any means, I went down on the quad but I kept my focus together for the
rest of the program, I didn't let it affect the program and that's
really been my goal in training and for competition this season. Not to
give it so much weight in my head, it's just another element in my program.
you work with a sports psychologist at all?
Yes, I work with a sports psychologist, she's been really great. I
see her once a week, I've been trying to train my mind as much as I
try to train my body and just keep everything together.
So if we look into the future, is being in Sochi on your agenda?
I'm reluctant to say that I'm going to be going to Sochi because
who knows what's going to happen in the future, but I mean that's
definitely a goal of mine. I want to go back to the Olympics. Vancouver
was an incredible experience, maybe not so much on the ice, but just the
whole experience itself and I would love to have another chance to go to
an Olympics and be more physically and mentally prepared for that and just
go out and skate incredibly. I don't know, I mean, would I love to be
an Olympic Champion? Of course! But that's not what's driving me
to skate, that's not why I skate. If I go to another Olympics, I just
want to go out and put out something memorable. From where I'm standing
now and from where I'm looking at, my goal wouldn't be to be Olympic
Champion. Would I want that? Of course, who doesn't? But to go to another
Olympics and just have another opportunity to skate at that level and to
show something much more solid than what I did in Vancouver would be incredible.
have you thought about what may come after your competitive skating career?
I don't know, since I was little I have always known that I wanted
to be involved in skating. I'd love to choreograph, I really enjoy it.
And I love movement and I love skating and music, so I'd love to kind
of breed a new level of skater. And I'd really love to tour, unfortunately
the shows in the US are kind of non-existent now, but I'd love to continue
performing past competing. I love to perform, I love creating something
on the ice and I think exhibition gives you more freedom to do that. So
I would love to have a career like St√©phane or Yuka for that matter. She
had a fifteen-year professional career, that would be a dream come true
if I could do that.
You mentioned that there are less shows in the US now, how do you think
figure skating ranks as a popular sport these days?
I think the numbers in terms of people skating in the US has gone up, I
don't know that viewership has. I do think that a lot of it people don't
understand, so it's hard for the average viewer to just turn on the
TV and enjoy it, because they don't understand what's happening.
It's hard to get a following. I hate to say it but I do think that it's
a little antiquated and people do think of it as old-fashioned and outdated.
They're more into watching the X Games and Extreme Sports. For us involved
in the sport it's changed tremendously but I think to the outside person
watching, it's the same that it's always been just with a more complex
judging system. I don't think we need to change the sport, maybe just
the way it's marketed. I think that figure skating is an incredible
sport, first and foremost we are athletes, I used to train at the Olympic
Training Centre and we trained just as hard as any other Olympics athlete.
But I think the special thing about our sport is that it's also art.
It's very athletic and it's very competitive and it's very difficult,
but at the same time it's beautiful and artistic and people can be moved
by it and emotionally touched by it. I think that it could have the popularity
that it used to have, I don't know how, but I definitely think it could
and it should because it's an incredible sport.
On this note, I would like to thank Jeremy for his remarkable contribution to the sport, and wish him the best of luck for his Grand Prix in Russia and beyond.