Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Abbott's Grand Prix win rewarded with Athlete of the Week honors

There had been six ISU Grand Prix of Skating preliminary events this year — Skate America, Skate Canada, Trophee Eric Bompard and others — and due to the competing skaters' varied schedules it was difficult to reward top finishers with USA TODAY's Olympic Athlete of the Week award.

But when you win the Grand Prix Finals, as Jeremy Abbott did over the weekend, the Athlete of the Week award is yours, hands down. Abbott, a 23-year-old Colorado native, won the Cup of China earlier this year, and proved it was no fluke with a win at the finals in Korea.

He placed second in the short program and won the free skate handily to win the event. He's the first American male to win the event and his overall 237.72 was the highest-ever score recorded by an American man at an ISU event. Johnny Weir earned bronze on the strength of a second in the free skate and a fourth in the short program. Abbott posted personal best scores in the short program, free skate and overall total.

At the same event, American pair Meryl Davis and Charlie White finished fifth in the original dance and third in the free dance to take third place for their first medal at the final. Their finish was just out of four final pairs since the other American combo in the final, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto had to withdraw after Agosto suffered a back injury in the original dance portion of the competition.

Also on the ice, Jennifer Rodriguez proved herself fully committed to her comeback by winning the 1,000 meters at a speedskating World Cup in Nagano, Japan. Shani Davis added to his medals this season with a gold in the men's version of the event.

In what can only be called a disappointing weekend for American skiers, Lindsey Vonn was a bright spot as she reclaimed her first-place overall standing in the FIS World Cup after losing the top spot on Saturday after a disqualification in the giant slalom. She returned to the slopes in northern Spain on Sunday and posted the second-fastest times in her two slalom runs. She's having her best slalom season ever and looks to still be improving her overall game ahead of 2010's competitions on the slopes in Whistler. On the men's side, Ted Ligety failed to reach the podium for the fifth straight time in giant slalom with a 12th place finish in the discipline in France. Bode Miller finished 24th after missing a pair of gates.

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