Jeremy Abbott's family gets in shape after heart scare - Omaha.com
Published Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 12:30 am / Updated at 12:56 pm
U.S. Figure Skating Championships
Jeremy Abbott's family gets in shape after heart scare
An opportunity for free tickets!
Organizers of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships are offering the chance to win free passes to Sunday night's Skating Spectacular, an exhibition show featuring the competition's medalists.

Entries can be dropped off at a table across from the FanFest area, located on the convention center side of the facility. Drawings will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

FanFest is free to visitors, as is entry in the drawing for tickets. The Skating Spectacular runs from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

This time, they'll see it all.

When Jeremy Abbott takes the ice Sunday night to skate for his fourth national title, his mother and stepfather, Allison and Allen Scott, will be watching every jump, every spin, every turn.

They won't be thinking about what happened last year, when they settled in to watch Abbott's free skate at nationals in San Jose, Calif.

There won't be that moment, about a minute into the program, when Allison realized she wasn't hearing Allen's booming, radio-announcer voice cheering for their son. Or the one when her daughter started screaming, begging the fans and photographers sitting nearby to call 911.

A year after the 4-minute skate that brought Abbott a gold medal and sent the rest of his family racing to a hospital — Allen had suffered an atrial fibrillation, which caused him to lose consciousness — it's time to do it again. But this time, the skating is all the drama they want.

Both of the Scotts used the year to get healthy. Between them, they lost a collective 105 pounds (or, as Allison puts it, the equivalent of a female pairs skater). When they came to Omaha, they wanted to be fit for their most important role in Abbott's career: as his biggest supporters.

“(My health) was a little concerning for Jeremy,” Allen said. “He wanted to ... be assured that I'm OK. The last thing he needs is more distractions or to be concerned about me.”



Reporter Erin Golden, left, and photojournalist Rebecca S. Gratz are leading our coverage team. Erin and Rebecca have been tracking U.S. skating developments since attending the 2012 championships in San Jose, Calif.

Go to Omaha.com/skating for full coverage of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, including athlete profiles and ticket information.



The Scotts have good reason to want Abbott free of distractions.

At 27, he's a skating veteran who probably won't compete for more than another couple of years. But at the moment, he's still among the best of the best. He could be among the country's top hopes for a medal at next year's Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

If he secures a fourth national championship in Omaha, he'll join an elite group of skaters that includes big names like Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano and Todd Eldredge.

But more than that, he's their kid.

Abbott was skating almost as soon as he could walk, competing by elementary school.

Growing up in a resort town like Aspen, Colo., Allison said, it's just what you do.

His big sister, Gwen, was just as active. Later, she'd become a top skier and X-Games competitor.

By eighth grade, Jeremy Abbott was advanced enough that his coach made a rare gesture: She told his parents he had outgrown her. If he wanted to keep getting better, he'd need to work with someone else.

The family had a problem. The coaches Jeremy needed were in Colorado Springs, more than 250 miles away, and both Allison and Allen had good jobs in Aspen.

They made the difficult decision to send their son to live with another family in Colorado Springs, at least for a while, until they could find jobs there and join him.

With Jeremy's sister and stepbrother already in college, the Scotts knew they wouldn't be able to fund a budding skating career without more money coming in. So the sacrifices began.

Allen, working full time as a general manager at a radio station, started picking up shifts at the United Express ticket counter at the airport — specifically so the family could get travel passes for skating competitions around the world.

At some points, both Scotts were working two or three jobs.

“I think it's the same commitment we have with all of our kids,” Allen said. “We basically have always told our kids to follow your heart, and we can support them based on what they wanted to do, and pretty much, we've done that. The thing is, with Jeremy, it's a much larger commitment.”

“We always teased that skating was going to be 22 years of college,” Allison said. “And it has been. It's like 22 years of going to an Ivy League college.”

So for more than two decades, they've followed their skater to small competitions and big ones. They've been to Europe and Asia and to the biggest sports show of all: the Olympics. (At the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Abbott placed ninth.) They've developed their own set of traditions, from the pig-shaped knitted hat Gwen wears to competitions to Allen's tradition of surprising fans in the nosebleed seats with a few extra tickets in a better spot.

“I'll walk up to them saying, 'So, who's your favorite skater?'” he said. “They'll throw out names, and if they say 'Jeremy Abbott,' that's it.”

And in Omaha, they'll do it all again. They were there for Abbott's short program Friday, cheering him on as he turned in one of the most commanding performances of the night. With the first part of the competition done, he's again in the lead.

As for the free skate, the one that brought joy and disaster, the Scotts said they'll be thinking about the good parts, not the bad.

After all, the program they missed in all the confusion, with medics racing toward them and their son skating on, may have been Abbott's most important skate.

“I realized at that point in my life that I have a lot to live for,” Allen said.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1543, erin.golden@owh.com

Contact the writer: Erin Golden

erin.golden@owh.com    |   402-444-1543    |  

Erin covers the Omaha City Council and the Mayor's Office.

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