Abbott Lends Helping Hand to Skaters in Needby Laura Fawcett
Photo by Michelle Harvath
(9/21/06) - Celebrity status in figure skating usually comes after years of hard work and a string of big-time successes on the ice. At least that's the way it's supposed to work.
But that's not always the case. Some athletes' desires to make a difference make them heroes to a few well before the world knows about them.
Such is the case with 2005 U.S. junior champion Jeremy Abbott (Broadmoor SC), who will make his international season debut Oct. 6-8 at the Finlandia Trophy. He just missed qualifying for the 2006 State Farm U.S. Championships in his first year as a senior, but in the mountain town of Aspen, Colo., he'll always be a champion.
In May 2005, Abbott established a fund for boys skating competitively at the Aspen Skating Club, where Abbott began skating 19 years ago. Recently, he started a second fund to give financial aid to a wider variety of skaters in the Roaring Forks Valley community.
Aspen SC head coach Teri Hooper says it's more than the fund that makes Abbott a celebrity in Aspen.
“He's so good with the kids,” Hooper told U.S. Figure Skating Online. “He's patient and kind, and takes the time to sign autographs and talk with them. If he's in Aspen for a show, he's not hiding out in a locker room, he's in the lobby in the thick of all the sixty million or so 6 year olds. Because of that he's a celebrity. If he wasn't so kind to them all, they'd still look up to him because he's a great skater, but they love him because of his kindness.”
Abbott began skating in Aspen at the age of 2. Inspired by seeing a live performance starring Robin Cousins two years later, he joined the Aspen SC and began his competitive career with Colorado's "Funtastics" Basic Skills event. Abbott moved from Aspen to Colorado Springs in 1999 to train at the Colorado Springs World Arena.
The Aspen SC has seen tremendous growth in the last 10 years; Hooper said the club now has 80 members compared to about 15 when Abbott was in middle school. However, a lack of ice time limits the ability of the skaters to develop their skills. Hockey dominates the area, and the skating club gets just 10 hours a week of ice time during the winter.
“There's a certain level where if you're not skating enough, you can't move up,” said Hooper, who has been the head coach for eight years. “The flip side is that our skaters really have a good time. They skate because they love it.”
“Allison stepped forward to take us under her wing and make suggestions, like ‘Get Alan into skating pants, not those pants you buy at Wal-Mart,” Melisa laughed.
The Bellios live 60 miles away from Aspen, in Silt, Colo., and they own an ice cream and chocolate shop in Glenwood, 45 minutes from Aspen. The commute limits Alan's skating time, but he makes it to the rink about two or three times each week.
“Alan is a darling little boy who really likes to skate,” Hooper said. “He makes us laugh every time he's at the rink. He has such a fun personality.”
Melisa hopes what Abbott is doing will help grow skating in the area.
“What Jeremy and his mom do together, and what Jeremy wants to do for boy skaters, should be applauded,” Melisa said.
Melisa tells a great story that emphasizes the effect Abbott has had on Alan.
“After Alan first met Jeremy, we were practicing during a public skate,” she said. “Alan was jumping and spinning about. I asked him what he was doing and he said, ‘I'm practicing my Jeremy Abbott moves.'”
The second fund Abbott established is for club members that might have an undefined special need for financial help. Hooper said that this year they are using the money to pay for a portion of the Southwestern Regional entry fees for eight skaters.
One of the hopes is that Abbott's deeds will get recognized by the larger Aspen community, including surrounding towns. That notoriety could encourage more young people, especially boys, to take to the ice.
“These kids love to skate,” Abbott said after his spring show. “They just need a chance to get out and see what's out there so they can set goals for themselves.”
Hooper said that Aspen children have a wide variety of activities from which to choose, and because of that, those that skate truly love what they are doing.
“Alan will get to skate partly because of Jeremy, and Alan loves to skate,” Hooper said “Jeremy is donating back the love of skating that Aspen gave him.”