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Lysacek, Abbott early leaders in men's figure skating

January 23, 2009 |  8:11 pm

Abbott_300CLEVELAND -- The men's competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships has been the Johnny Weir-Evan Lysacek show the last five seasons, with one of those two winning the title each year.

On Friday, Jeremy Abbott (pictured at left during his short program) signaled that he's ready to end the duo's domination, skating a dynamic short program to take the lead after the first group.

Abbott, a surprise winner of this season's Grand Prix final, earned 86.40 points for his performance, which included a triple flip-triple toe loop combination jump and a masterful triple axel. Lysacek, who trains in El Segundo and has won the last two U.S. titles, had a scratchy landing on one jump and didn't center his spins. He was left with 83.59 points.

Both broke the previous U.S. championships record of 83.40, which isn't a huge achievement because this scoring system hasn't been in effect very long.

But for Abbott, who finished fourth in the previous two U.S. championships, breaking the stranglehold of Lysacek and Weir was significant.

"I feel like the national championships is always a little about Evan and Johnny," said Abbott, who is from Aspen, Colo., and trains in Colorado Springs. "I came in and my goal was just to do the best I could and maybe break through that, but I wasn't focused on that. I was really just focused on myself and whatever comes of that, comes of that."

What came was a strong performane to "Adagio" by Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni.

"I felt nervous going out. Coming in here as the Grand Prix final champion I put a lot of pressure on myself to almost be perfect, and I struggled a little bit with my training," Abbott said. "But I really just put all that aside and I focused on myself and I focused on relaxing and letting my performance just come out of me. "

Lysacek said he was satisfied with his performance to "Bolero."

"I think it went well," he said. "I said this last year, defending the title is probably the most difficult thing I go through in the season."

More later.

-- Helene Elliott

Photo credit: Amy Sancetta / Associated Press