Jeremy Abbott is known as a four-time national champion, a two-time Olympian and the guy who had one of the most epic falls at the 2014 Olympic Games. It was the fall seen around the world, as Jeremy slammed into the boards and laid there in pain for a full ten seconds. Then with the surprising applause and support from the Russian audience, Jeremy got back up and finished his program.
Completing every element, Jeremy Abbott displayed an amazing amount of grit and determination. It was no longer about the fall, but about what he did after the fall that was so inspiring.
“I made an Olympic moment, I have an Olympic-sized story that I can tell for the rest of my life and on top of that I skated great,” Jeremy reflected on the final night of the Stars On Ice tour. “I had one epic, epic, epic fall, it will probably go down in history, but I did everything after that. I got up and skated the rest of my short program the best I could.”
The following day, Jeremy, still in pain and realizing that he was out of medal contention, skated one of the best free skates that he has ever done in international competition. It was inspiring; it was rewarding to watch a U.S. athlete show such strength of character and perseverance. Though Jeremy has struggled with inconsistency throughout his career, his appearance at the 2014 Olympic Games was something to be proud of.
Than came the morning after his free skate. Headlines shifted and the glow of Jeremy’s accomplishment quickly faded and turned into something completely different. “Jeremy Abbott lashes out” was one of the many headlines that were unleashed that day.
Apparently after the free skate, Abbott was asked a very pointed question. It was reported that Abbott was asked what he would say to people who criticized him for constantly choking at international competitions. It was reported that Jeremy’s response was, “You know I just want to put my middle finger in the air and say a big, ‘F- you,' to everyone who's ever said that to me.”
This remark lit up the social media circuit with some reporters going so far as to call him "pathetic" and "classless." All of a sudden the focus shifted from what Jeremy had accomplished to these harsh words he released, yet it seems as if something was lost in translation.
Abbott never physically flipped anyone off and he did not use profane words, he said that he wanted to, much like the way many people want to roll down the window of their car and scream at someone who cut them off. We might imagine ourselves doing that, but many of us don’t actually do it and with Jeremy it was the same type of thing. Though he wanted to do and say those things, he chose to restrain himself from actually making the gesture. It seems he restrains himself most of the time, but in this instance he had an unfiltered moment.
Using Jeremy’s own words, it’s time to set the record straight of what Abbott said, what he was actually trying to convey and if he had any regrets about what he said. Here’s his response:
“No I don’t wish I could take it back. People want us to be human and the funny thing is that when we are human we are chastised for it. I fell down, I got up, I skated my heart out. I got an arena who wasn’t cheering for anybody but Russians to stand up for me. I did something phenomenal,” Jeremy explained. “I was asked a very pointed question and I was very human. I’m not going to take it back and I’m not going to apologize for it,” Abbott expressed.
“First of all I didn’t swear, I didn’t use any poor gestures, but I was myself,” Abbott continued. “I think basically my message at that moment was, ‘I have been bullied and I have been told who and what I am for pretty much my entire life. I’m not going to stand here after what I just did and allow anybody else to bully me.’ I took my stand and I said, ‘No! Stop bullying me, this is my moment!’”
So there it is. Some might disagree with his perspective, but when you look back and you begin to read the articles and see the criticism, it is understandable that Jeremy was feeling bullied by his critics and even by the media. It’s one thing to lay out the facts, and it is a fact that Jeremy has struggled with inconsistency, but it is a completely different thing to call him names and trash talk him, especially in a news article.
“I just stood my ground on the ice and I said, ‘this is not over.’ I stood my ground in front of other people and said, ‘This is not how you can treat me,’” Jeremy said.
One of the best things about Jeremy’s skating is the passion that he exudes and it is foolish to believe that his passion stops on the ice. He’s passionate about the sport, he’s passionate about his choreography, he’s passionate about the work he has put into his career, so doesn’t it make sense that he would be passionate about criticism?
Could he have said something more tactful? Sure, yet we all have “human” moments. The real question does not seem to be what Jeremy actually said or meant or didn’t say, but the biggest question seems to be, at what point should athletes be able to defend themselves?
WATCH: Jeremy's Abbott's short program - 2014 Winter Olympic Games (yes, the one with the epic fall)