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US Figure Skating: Abbott lands his third title

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Good thing Jeremy Abbott was the final skater.

There was no way anyone could have topped this performance.

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Needing only to stay on his feet to win his third title at the US Figure Skating Championships yesterday, Abbott performed with elegance and superior skill that was simply bewitching. The audience was so spellbound you could hear his blades carving the ice, and it wasn’t until the final notes of his music faded that fans erupted in applause.

“I skate to give a performance like that and so I felt really good,’’ Abbott said. “I was really nervous when I started, I was shaking a little bit. But from the second I set for the quad I was like, ‘I’m going to do this.’ ’’

His final score of 273.58 was the highest ever at the US championships, and puts him within striking distance of world champion Patrick Chan. It was about 12 points better than 2006 Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko scored in winning his seventh European title Saturday.

Adam Rippon, a two-time junior world champion, was second. Ross Miner finished third for a second straight year.

Earlier, Caydee Denney and John Coughlin won their first pairs title together after winning the previous two years with other partners.

Abbott is one of the most technically sound skaters in the world, with beautiful edges that carve the ice like a master craftsman and perfect body control. He’s also one of the few skaters who has managed to maintain the balance between the performance quality that makes figure skating so entertaining and the tough physical tricks the system now demands.

But he’s had a tendency to fall apart on the big stage, flopping at the 2009 world championships and again at the Vancouver Olympics. When it happened again last year when a third US title was his for the taking, Abbott decided he’d had enough. He no longer cares what anyone thinks about him, much less any nasty things that are said. He’s skating for himself and his own enjoyment, concerned only with achieving the goals he’s set.

Abbott believes he can contend with the best in the world and, after this performance, there is little doubt he can. He landed the only quadruple jump of the day, and his spins were so tight and perfectly centered that coaches will no doubt be asking for a DVD of them.

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