Four Minutes

5 Mar

A first-person account of Jeremy Abbott’s free skate at the 2012 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships

By Gwen Abbott Asmussen

What started out simply as the men’s free skate at the 2012 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships quickly turned into the longest four minutes and 40 seconds of our lives.

As my brother, Jeremy Abbott, was taking the ice Sunday to start his program, my family and I stood, hands trembling, nerves on edge, all waiting for Jeremy to replicate his flawless performance from the previous night. As Jeremy began his program, we sat on the edges of our seats, nervously anticipating his opening jump, a quadruple toe loop. Up-up-up-up and touch-down.

We jumped up screaming and cheering as Jeremy landed a perfect quad! As he was setting up for his next jump, my stepfather, Allen Scott, wasn’t cheering. Instead he sat quietly in his seat.

“Allen! Allen!” we called out, but there was no response.

His left fist was clenched, his eyes were closed and he was rocking back and forth in his seat. This isn’t Allen’s normal response to Jeremy landing a quad.

I quickly shouted out “Call 911!” Those seated around us turned and looked at me. “Call 911! I’m not kidding! Anyone — I don’t care — please call 911!”

Many people grabbed their cell phones to help. At that moment, Jeremy was on the ice right in front of us and landed a beautiful triple Axel.

It was 50 seconds into Jeremy’s program.

Helpful fans seated near us assured me that 911 had been called and that help was on the way. As Jeremy skated to the other end of the ice, Allen regained consciousness but was still not okay. A nurse attending as a fan quickly rushed down to offer help while I headed over to the railing to see if an EMT was on the way.

One of Jeremy’s friends rushed up to offer help. I told her to please send the medics to our section. Then a physician came down and offered assistance. I told him to please look at my step dad.

It was 1:30 seconds into Jeremy program.

Nervously, I looked out onto the ice to make sure that none of our commotion was distracting Jeremy. Two minutes in and he was still executing a flawless free skate. As I looked at crowd, I could see our entire section was watching my family, not Jeremy. I felt bad knowing the drama of our situation had taken away from their watching my brother’s skate.

Then, applause filled the entire arena. I glanced toward the ice long enough to know that my brother had just landed the last of his triple jumps.

It was four minutes into Jeremy’s program.

At that moment, a nurse was checking Allen’s pulse. A physician was asking him questions. Two paramedics were rushing down the aisle toward him. And Jeremy continued to skate.

I hadn’t heard any of Jeremy’s music nor seen any of his brilliant skate, but I slowly began to grasp what was going on around me. With 10 seconds left in my brother’s performance, the crowd was already on its feet.

I turned to face the ice and watched my brother complete a near-perfect performance that not only won him his third national title but again set the highest scoring record at a U.S. Championships.

While Jeremy’s scores came up, Allen was taken downstairs and then rushed to the hospital.

Jeremy, thankfully, was oblivious to the situation. For four minutes and 40 seconds, he was focused on his performance. For those same four minutes and 40 seconds, our attention was split.

With the help of Jeremy’s agent Yuki Saegusa and his coach Jason Dungjen, I made my way backstage. I hugged my brother tightly.

“I have so many emotions running through me right now,” I told him. “I am not sure which one is coming out, so I’ll just go with it.”

I was ecstatic and scared, elated and petrified, honored and embarrassed, proud and timid — all at the same time.  I explained to Jeremy what had happened and told him Allen was going to be fine. I encouraged him to go out and skate the exhibition as beautifully as he had skated the entire weekend, which he did.

We have never had a longer four minutes in our lives. While an entire arena and international television audience watched my brother take home another well-deserved title, we saw nothing.

Thank you to all the fans and everyone at the arena who helped our family. Thank you to the paramedics, the arena staff and the staff at the hospital for getting us where we needed to go and the help we needed to get there!

And, I’m pleased to report; Allen is back home in Colorado Springs and doing well.

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2 Responses to “Four Minutes”

  1. Deborah Sumner March 5, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    A beautifully written account of a harrowing emotional experience. And one with a happy ending.

  2. Carol Makela March 8, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    We were sitting a few rows up from Jeremy’s family when someone came running up the stairs shouting “call 911.” From that point on my thoughts were divided as I prayed that the person in trouble would be okay and at the same time prayed that Jeremy would not realize what was happening and get distracted from his wonderful program. I had no idea it was his stepfather who needed assistance until I read the article in Skating Magazine. I’m so glad that Allen is okay and that Jeremy was able to have the skate of his life.

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