On Sunday, Jeremy Abbott spun the Olympic figure skating world on its Axel. By beating reigning world champion Evan Lysacek with a stirring free-skating performance at the U.S. nationals in Spokane, the 24-year-old from Aspen, Colo., may have elevated his prospects from medal outsider to gold medal contender. With a quadruple jump and eight triples in a vibrant classical long program skated to Saint-Saens's Symphony No. 3, Abbott received 263.66 points, a robust 25.03 ahead of Lysacek, who fell on a quad toe and fudged an intended triple jump. Johnny Weir finished third and received the final men's spot for Vancouver. The title gives new life to Abbott, an admittedly nervous performer who also won the 2009 nationals before collapsing into 11th place at the world championships in Los Angeles last March. That implosion prompted him to switch coaches in May to Yuka Sato, the 1994 world champion who is based in suburban Detroit. In Spokane, Abbott said, he was fighting "that little nagging voice in the back of my head that told me I couldn't do it.... I'm learning I can quiet that voice and tell it to shut up." As Abbott gets ready for Vancouver, that voice has switched to one of encouragement.
HEINZ KLUETMEIER (ABBOTT)
NOT SO JUMPY In triumphing, an exuberant Abbott quelled his doubts.