Jeremy Abbott of the Detroit Skating Club falls in the short program on Thursday. (Vadim Ghirda / Associated Press)
Sochi, Russia -- In this country it is acknowledged, especially by older generations, that many superstitions are so ingrained they are a traditional part of everyday life or considered simple good manners.
Birthdays are not celebrated before the actual date. Afterward is a must, if it cannot be celebrated on the day.
It is a rash act to put a glass on a table if there is any alcohol left in it.
Leaving on a long trip requires sitting in silence just before leaving home. Often enough, Russians say, the delusion is camouflaged as taking a moment to remember if anything has been forgotten.
Given what occurred at the Iceberg Skating Palace on Thursday during the men’s short program, a lot of figure skaters must have forgotten the rules.
Disaster compounded disaster.
Jeremy Abbott, who lives in Bloomfield Hills much of the year and trains at the Detroit Skating Club, fell violently again on the very same combination of jumps, at the very same juncture of his program, as he did during the team competition last weekend.
In his opening combination in that performance, a quadruple toe loop and triple toe loop, the quad was too long and he fell.
On Thursday, he plainly wavered on the way in, and the revolutions were too short.
The result? The same.
Abbott, however, is making a career of turning calamities into bright moments.
As he lay in obvious pain, a hand clamped on a battered hip, he said he had a moment of considering whether to take a penalty for beginning the program again — always a drastic step.
But the predominantly Russian crowd and a comparatively small group of flag waving, Uncle-Sam-costume-wearing Americans put a charge into the still prone Abbott.
A roll of applause rose for him.
He got up, clearly energized, and skated well enough to place 15th heading into today’s long program.
“I literally hesitated for one millisecond going into the quad and that was the result,” an alternately somber and smiling Abbott said afterward.
“But I heard the crowd and I knew I had to finish no matter what it takes. I was very confused and I was in a lot of pain. But I heard the crowd and I knew I had to do it for them.”
End of an era
Evgeny Plushenko, Russia’s the Russian’s great hope for a gold medal, withdrew amid high drama — the stuff of theater.
Taking the ice as the seventh skater of the evening, he moved around to loosen up, as is custom and practice, never taking his hands from his lower back, and appearing in some discomfort.
With all of Russia, where the sport is enormously significant, anticipating a return to figure skating splendor and a third gold medal from their golden boy after already seeing Russians get gold in the team and pairs competition, Plushenko skated to the referee at the judges table.
Never removing his hands from a back that almost ended his career some years before, and which contains a plastic disc, Plushenko was seen speaking earnestly to referee Mona Jonsson of the International Skating Union.
At the end of the conversation, the 2006 Olympic champion and two-time silver medalist, who fought valiantly for a comeback, finally removed his right hand, extended it and placed it palm down before Jonsson.
Jonsson covered it with hers.
A great Russian figure skater’s amateur career ended in that moment, before his countrymen and the world.
As excitement rumbled through the audience in anticipation of the performance from the man considered among the greatest in the history of Russian figure skaters, it was suddenly announced Plushenko had withdrawn.
The silence was immediate. The anguished disappointment will be long to fade.
As many Russian fans left, some immediately, their faces expressed an abject disappointment bordering on mourning.
Plushenko and his coach Alexei Mishin said he fell on his quad toe loop during training Wednesday and was in pain right up until the competition.
“Ín the warmup, I did the triple toe loop and triple lutz,” Plushenko said. “But after the first triple axel, I stepped out and felt terrible pain in my leg, and the second one was just a terrible landing.
“I couldn’t feel my legs after it.
“This is not how I wanted to end my career. I almost cried.”
Stumbles and successes
Kevin Reynolds, the 23-year-old Canadian, planned a program that include two quad jumps.
A stir of anticipation moved through the audience and Reynolds prepared to make the quads in two of his first three jumps.
But the first failed massively.
And even when things went pretty much as planned, unusual glitches snared two contenders for the gold.
Canadian Patrick Chan, who moved his training to the Detroit Skating Club last year, cruised through his program with characteristic swiftness and soft landings, and received nice marks to place second entering today’s free skate.
But he might well have been first if not for Japan’s of Yuzuru Hanyu. Hanyu did carry a bit too much speed through his triple lutz that required an extra stutter step to avoid losing balance. Still, he sits in first.
Chan is attempting to win the first gold for Canada in the event.
“It’s there for me to grasp,” he said in a news conference following the event.
“At the end of the day, no human being can handle that pressure. I’m trying not to let it get to me.”