ADLER -- Given his many Olympic struggles and his frequent talk about personal demons and lingering doubts, it was no surprise that Jeremy Abbott fell in the men's short routine Thursday. Although perhaps the virtual face-plant was a little worse than expected.
What was impressive, however, was the way he picked himself up and continued anyway.
Attempting his routine-opening quad toe, Abbott didn't jump quite high enough, caught his skate on the landing and fell front-first onto the ice, painfully banging his right hip and sliding into the padded wall. He lay there for about 10-20 seconds, a span that seemed so long that his coach, Yuka Sato, attempted to go onto the ice to help him, but she couldn't get the rink door open.
Abbott said the fall didn't knock the wind out of him physically, but did so mentally. He lay there in both pain and shock. "I didn't know what to think at first,'' he said. "Then it was, 'How much pain am I in? Do I keep going? Do I go to the referee? What do I do?' I wasn't sure what to do.''
But then Abbott stood up and heard the sound of the crowd shouting and clapping and screaming. Inspired by that support, the U.S. national champion told himself, "F--- it all! I'm finishing this program!''
"I don't care if I'm two minutes late,'' he summarized his thoughts to reporters later. "I don't care what happens with the rest of this. I'm going start to finish. I'm not going to give up this moment.''
So he continued. Despite being significantly behind, he cut steps here, sped up there, and landed all his remaining jumps and required elements. Despite the horrible fall, he skated the remaining program marvelously. When he finished, he smiled and waved while taking in thunderous applause from the crowd.
"I have to thank the support of the audience and all the international fans in the arena,'' he said. "Because it's because of them that I finished the program.''
Abbott's short program at the Vancouver Games four years ago was so bad he broke down and cried when talking to reporters. But not Thursday. He held an ice pack on his hip as he spoke in the mixed zone and said his hip was beginning to ache now that the adrenaline was wearing off. But he said he will skate the free program Friday no matter how much pain there is.
"I'm sure I'll be fine,'' he said. "I've skated with stress fractures in my back. I've skated with compressed discs, with pulled muscles, with all sorts of things. So nothing will keep me from competing tomorrow.''
"I'm really proud of Jeremy going out there and fighting,'' U.S. teammate Jason Brown said. "His recovery is something we all should be inspired by and look up to, because it was incredible.''
Abbott is in 15th place, too far to back to have a chance at winning a medal (which was a considerable long shot anyway). But his score of 72.58 was higher than his routine in the team competition, when he fell twice. And though he fell Thursday, at least he was able to get back up to compete, unlike Russian star Evgeni Plushenko, who withdrew due to injury. Plus, Abbott has a bronze medal from the team event.
"As much as a disappointment this is, I'm not ashamed,'' Abbott said. "I'm not the least bit ashamed. I stood up and I finished that program, and I'm proud of my effort and what I did under the circumstances.''
Abbott's recovery in the short routine was impressive. It will be better, though, if there is no need to recover in the free program.