Highland Park skater 2nd at nationals
BOSTON -- Jeremy Abbott won his fourth U.S. figure skating title and all but locked up his second Olympic berth.
Highland Park teen Jason Brown was second Sunday. The Americans will send two men to the Sochi Games, and while U.S. Figure Skating officials will look at past performances in picking the team, they are unlikely to deviate from the standings.
Defending champion Max Aaron was third.
Skating last, Abbott had a cushion of nearly 13 points on Aaron after the short program, and once he landed a quadruple toe loop to open the free skate, the Olympic berth was in his grasp.
Since winning his last U.S. title two years ago, the 28-year-old Abbott had struggled as he overhauled his training regimen. But a superb short program Friday put him back on top in his last nationals before retiring.
For a skater who has turned in some brilliant performances at this event, Sunday's was far from his best -- but more than enough.
Abbott fought to land a few jumps and reduced the rotation on a couple of others; the only truly shaky moment, though, came before he even began. He got an assist from the crowd, which noticed the countdown clock was nearing zero and began chanting, "5 ... 4 ... 3 ..." Abbott hurried to the center of the ice and started his program just in time, avoiding a penalty.
When it was over, he skated slowly across the ice, sobbing.
"I knew that I was going to cry today -- good or bad," he said.
Abbott is the 11th man to win at least four U.S. championships, a list that includes Dick Button, Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano and Todd Eldredge. He beat Evan Lysacek at the 2010 nationals before the last Olympics, only to finish ninth when his countryman captured gold in Vancouver.
Now Abbott should get a chance at redemption at the Sochi Games. The U.S. men's team will be announced later Sunday.
Brown receives the rock star treatment from fans, and he certainly looks the part with his long ponytail and sequined costumes. He turned 19 less than a month ago, but he's a natural showman.
Every move was perfectly in time to his Irish stepdance music, as Brown played to the crowd the whole way. People were on their feet to give him a standing ovation before he had even completed his final spin.
"I couldn't have asked for anything more," Brown said. "I went out there, I was so trained and I was ready to fight for whatever I could. That's what I did. I enjoyed every moment. I enjoyed the crowd. They could not have been more responsive, more generous, more exciting."
He didn't try any quads. But other than under-rotating one triple axel, Brown landed all his jumps with ease.
As he waited for his marks, Brown rested his head on his coach's shoulder, overwhelmed by his performance. He squinted at his score in feigned disbelief when the number was posted, putting him temporarily in first place.
And when Richard Dornbush, second after the short program, pulled up short on several jumps, Brown was guaranteed to finish no worse than second. Dornbush fell to fifth.
The world junior silver medalist, Brown was eighth at his first senior nationals last year. A strong fall season gave notice that he was a contender for an Olympic berth.
Brown's score of 182.61 won the free skate. Abbott had a total of 274.27 points, while Brown had 270.08 and Aaron 260.44.
Aaron landed one quad Salchow and put his hand down on another, not enough to move into the top two after finishing the short program in fourth.