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‘JerForce’ will be with us

National champ eager to return to Spokane for Smucker’s Stars on Ice show Friday

Jeremy Abbott wrote on his Twitter what he discovered in January during the national figure skating championships: “Yes I spoCAN!”

Abbott, 24, skated to his first Olympic berth and second national title in Spokane. He returns as part of the Smucker’s Stars on Ice tour Friday at the Spokane Arena.

“I have so many great memories of Spokane in general,” he said over the phone from Los Angeles. “Out of all the nationals I’ve been to, Spokane has been the best, both times.”

At the 2010 nationals, Abbott earned the highest recorded score since the implementation of a new scoring system five years ago. Since then, he placed ninth overall in the Winter Olympics and fifth at the World Championships.

What does he look forward to about being back in Spokane?

“My family loves O’Doherty’s. We went in 2007 (during the national championships) and again in 2010,” he said of the downtown restaurant.

The Aspen, Colo. native has a notorious group of followers, the “JerForce” comprised of family and his fans.

The JerForce has been out to support him in the different cities the tour has already passed through, Abbott said. His family attended the Denver performance.

His official fan site is called the Pigs Can Fly Club. The name comes from the 2005 junior championships when, speculating about his chances to win, Abbott said “stranger things could happen; pigs could fly.”

He won, and since then and he and his family have sold pig memorabilia to raise money for young male skaters in Aspen who can’t afford to compete.

Abbott started skating when he was 2 years old. “I’ve wanted to perform with Stars on Ice since I was little,” he said.

He found out that he was invited to the tour while he was in Vancouver for the Olympics.

Skaters invited to tour are picked based on their talent, said producer Byron Allen.

“We try to get the best skaters available who want to do the tour,” Allen said.

For skaters who are done competing on the world circuit, it’s one of the few touring opportunities available. But for skaters who continue competing, Allen said, it’s “an opportunity to grow as performers and therefore skaters.”

Skaters spend two weeks in Fort Meyers, Fla., rehearsing for the program. Abbott was competing at the World Championships during training, so he only had a few days to learn the routines before the tour began.

In the performance he skates two solos, three group numbers with the entire cast and one additional small group routine.

“It’s a young show, most of us just came off of competition,” Abbott said.

The show features top-notch talent such as 2009 World Champion and 2010 Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek; 2010 pairs gold medalists and three-time world champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo; world champion and six-time national champ Todd Eldredge; and former Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen, among others.

Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton founded Stars on Ice in 1986 and continues to serve as producer. The tour donates a portion of proceeds to the Boys and Girls Club to fund literacy programs, Allen said.

Friday will be the third to last show for this year’s Stars on Ice.

“Spokane has been a wonderful host of nationals,” Allen said. “Our young skaters have fond memories of Spokane and nationals that led them to the Olympics.”

After the tour ends May 30, Abbott plans to take a 10-day vacation before his training for next season commences:

“I plan to take a real vacation, not see any skates, and just relax.”



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