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December 19, 2014

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U.S. champion Abbott falls hard in short program

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AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson

Jeremy Abbott of the United States crashes into the boards after falling during the men’s short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.

SOCHI, Russia — Jeremy Abbott was wedged up against the boards, sprawled out in shock.

The four-time U.S. figure skating champion crashed down hard on a quadruple toe loop to open his Olympic short program Thursday, landing squarely on the bony part of his hip. His coach, Yuka Sato, started to try to come on the ice, alarmed by his stillness and a sound she had never heard before when he slammed down.

Abbott was waiting for the music to stop, wondering if he should find the referee to say he needed to restart. But as he gingerly stood up, the crowd started cheering as if a skater had just posted a huge score.

"I'm finishing this program," he recalled of his thought process. "I don't care if I'm two minutes late. I don't care what happens with the rest of this. I'm getting start to finish, and I'm not going to give up this moment."

He cut out little parts of his program as he went along to somehow make up the time lost and squeezed in all his elements, adding the triple toe loop that should have come after the quad to his triple lutz, and landing a triple axel.

"Adrenaline is an amazing anesthetic," he said.

Abbott's score of 72.58 points was actually much better than his marks in the short program in the team event a week earlier, when he also fell on the quad. He's in 15th place going into Friday's free skate, his same position after the short program at the 2010 Games from another mistake-marred performance.

He said he had the slightest hesitation going into his quad Thursday, and that caused him to pull too hard with his upper body. The jump never got enough height, Abbott said, "causing me obviously to fall on my face." He had never landed on the front of his hip like that before.

The scene has been the same over and over with Abbott in major international competitions. The 28-year-old from Colorado plans to retire after this season and won't go out with a top finish at the Olympics.

With a bag of ice on his right hip, Abbott said he expected to be OK for the long program. He's skated before with a stress fracture in his back.

Asked for a diagnosis, he replied, "I'm sure I have a nice big lump on my hip."

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