Figure skater Jeremy Abbott is in the final days of his Olympic career, and he knows this is his last chance to win a coveted individual medal. And so the 28-year-old has decided to leave behind the seduction of the athletes' Olympic Village in a last attempt to regain his focus.
"It is very easy to lose time and structure inside the village," he said. "There is so much going on. It felt more like summer camp than an Olympic Games. It’s kind of like Neverland, where time just doesn’t exist, and you’re a kid forever. It’s an amazing feeling, but it wasn’t very conducive to my individual needs."
You can imagine what the athletes' village is like just by seeing the athletes' Instagrams: 24-hour activity, free alcohol in many athletes' home-nation villages, and those 100,000 condoms. It'd be tough for a monk to keep focus in that environment.
Abbott, who will reside at a hotel, has had plenty of success at the national level, winning four U.S. championships, but he's struggled in international competition. He and his advisors have worked to determine why, and have zeroed in on his schedule as part of the problem. When he's off-schedule, he has difficulties on the ice. Already at Sochi, he's had a dramatic fall during team competition, though he did win a bronze medal as part of the U.S. team.
"My preparation in the days leading up was a little scattered, and I think we saw I was a little scattered on the ice," Abbott said, adding that "[lack of preparation] made for an unsteady foundation, so when I got in the pressure, it all collapsed."
Abbott's shortcomings aren't major; showing up a few minutes late to meals or missing buses aren't exactly in the "showing up drunk and shirtless in a police station" territory. But in figure skating, where the tiniest flicker of a blade can be the difference between gold and 15th place, the small hiccups were apparently enough to send Abbott pinwheeling.
Abbott first fell short in Vancouver, when he finished a disappointing ninth despite strong performances leading up to the Games. Since then, he's apparently convinced himself that he's got some sort of mental block against international competition. "I've got some big demons post-nationals and I got to meet them up close and personal and kind of shake their hand," he said. "Make peace with it and send them on their way."
He'll have his chance. The short program begins Thursday. After this season, Abbott will retire from amateur skating and turn to ice shows and other professional performances. It is, quite literally, now or never.
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