BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 10: Jeremy Abbott skates in the short program during the Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at TD Garden on January 10, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
BOSTON - Ricky Dornbush rocked the house with a record-breaking score early. But three-time national champion Jeremy Abbott regained his own magic - and took back that record - to win the men's short program Friday night at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
The competition is on for the 2014 U.S. title and the two men's berths for the USA in the Sochi Olympics.
"That was fun. That was just fun," said Abbott, 28, of Aspen, Colo., who is making a run for his second Olympics in his final competitive season.
"This is a night I'm never going to forget. That's pretty fantastic. I heard some people behind me chanting 100. (His actual score of) 99.86 is pretty darn close. I'm pretty happy. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks."
Dornbush, 22, of Corona, Calif., skated second in the first group at TD Garden. His score of 92.04 was a record (for a while) for the men's short program at nationals. The previous mark of 90.23 was set in 2012 by Abbott en route to his third title.
Skating to Sons of Italy by Henry Mancini, Dornbush opened with a lightly landed quadruple salchow. He also landed a triple axel and a triple lutz-triple toe loop combo.
The pressure was on when Abbott opened the final group. He's struggled since his last national title, but skating to "Lillies of the Valley" by Jun Miyake, he put it all together from his first difficult combination, a quadruple toe loop/ triple toe loop. He also cleanly landed a triple lutz and triple axel.
Fans pelted the ice with stuffed tributes when Abbott's score of 99.86 was announced.
The world record for international competitions is 99.84 points. It was set by Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan in December at the Grand Prix final.
Scoring is done in two segments: technical and component. The technical score includes such elements as jumps and spins. The component score is based on presentation and artistry such as skating and transition. The smooth-skating Abbott won the short with his advantage in the component number.
In the technical score, Abbott scored 53.90 points to 52.11 for Dornbush. Abbott padded his winning margin in the component score. He scored 45.96 points to 39.93 by Dornbush.
Jason Brown, a 19-year-old from Highland Park, Ill., didn't have a quadruple jump in his program. But he hit his four triple jumps (including a triple flip/triple toe combo) smoothly and earned a score of 87.47 points for third.
In fourth with 86.95 points was defending national champion Max Aaron, 21, of Scottsdale, Ariz.
Abbott was third last year at nationals. He's struggled otherwise since winning his 2012 U.S. title. Where's he been?
"Slowly putting in the work," said Abbott. "After the 2012 season, we kind of revamped everything ... putting all the cogs in place and making sure all the mechanisms around me were working properly and they were all working in sync. ... When things didn't work at competition, I believed in what we had done, and I just kept plugging at it and it paid off tonight.''
Yuka Sato, Abbott's coach, on his performance Friday night: "I think it was pretty magical. ... In this moment, when it really counted, he was able to do it, and I'm very, very proud of him."
The points that count now will be in the free skate Sunday.
"We're not done yet," said Sato. "For today, I know he was very nervous for this short program. He feels a little bit relieved now that this nationals has started. One down, one to go."
Though Abbott overtook him with the component score, Dornbush was elated with his technical score (52.11).
"I was so excited. First thing I looked at was the technical. Anything over 50 is huge for a SP (short program) so that's what I was most excited about," said Dornbush. "My goal was to get that tech over 50 and then hope that the components will come up to match it at some point, though it's impossible for the components to match. Still, it was really awesome."
The USA will have two spots in the men's competition in Sochi instead of the maximum three. Allotments are based on finishes at the 2013 world championships, where Aaron was seventh and Ross Miner was 14th for the USA.
Aaron said prospects are looking good for Sochi.
"The men are going to make a big impact and really represent the U.S. well," said Aaron.
(Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY)