Abbott to lead powerhouse men's squad in Vancouver

SPOKANE, Washington (Reuters) - Jeremy Abbott successfully defended his United States figure skating title on Sunday to book his ticket to the next month’s Vancouver Winter Olympics.

U.S. skater Jeremy Abbott performs during his first place during the championship men's free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, Washington January 17, 2010. Abbott successfully defended his United States figure skating title on Sunday to book his ticket to the next month's Vancouver Winter Olympics. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Led by Abbott, the U.S. will send a powerhouse men’s squad which could represent the country’s best shot at a figure skating medal.

Joining Abbott in Vancouver will be world champion Evan Lysacek, who finished a distant second and flamboyant Johnny Weir.

Lysacek and Weir just missed out on the medals at the 2006 Turin Winter Games, finishing fourth and fifth respectively.

But both know what it takes to get on the podium, Lysacek taking the world title last year and bronze medals in 2005 and 2006 while Weir took third in 2008.

While Abbott does not own the same international resume of his team mates, he showed during his free skate that he has all the weapons necessary to medal in Vancouver.

“This is the program I’ve dreamed of doing since I was four years old and started dreaming of the Olympics,” Abbott told reporters. “To do it going into the Olympics is incredible.

“I was nervous going into both programs but my training has been so good. The goal is to improve on each competition and I feel that I’ve done that.”

Abbott, leader after the short program and the last skater onto the ice, opened with a quadruple jump followed with a triple combination in a dramatic free skate combining artistry with athleticism that was rewarded with a rousing standing ovation and a mark of 263.66.

Lysacek, the first American man in 13 years to hold the world title, followed through on his promise to attempt a quadruple jump in his free skate believing he will need one in his arsenal if he is to have a chance of landing top the podium in Vancouver.

But Lysacek failed to land the high risk move and while it cost him a chance at winning the national crown it did not derail his Olympic dream.

The flamboyant Weir, wearing a bare shouldered costume trimmed in fur, delivered the artistic free skate he is known for doing, just enough to see off a challenge from Ryan Bradley.

Writing by Steve Keating in Vancouver; Editing by Alastair Himmer; To query or comment on this story email