BOSTON -- Jeremy Abbott stayed on his feet Sunday throughout a challenging, jump-laden free skate that won him a fourth national championship.
Seconds afterward, though, his national career over, his second Olympics looming, he slumped to the TD Garden ice, cupped his face in his hands and bawled.
Abbott's long program, filled with more difficult jumps and elements than his competitors, was topped only by runner-up Jason Brown's. His combined score of 274.27 beat the teenage Brown's by more than four points.
The veteran and the Highland Park High (Ill.) School student, it was announced two hours after the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships concluded, will represent the United States at next month's Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Finishing third was Boston Max Aaron (260.44), the defending national champion.
"I was trying to take it all in," Abbott, 28, said of his post-routine breakdown. "There were so many things going through my head. ... I knew that I would be going to Sochi. I knew I'd made the Olympic team for a second time. This was my last national performance. The clock ran down to zero (before he began his program). I was freaking out. I knew I was going to cry and it just all came out."
The crowd that only half-filled the arena may have saved Abbott.
The clock signaling when a skater must begin his routine was running down and Abbott appeared not to notice. As fans began loudly counting down -- "seven ... six ... five ... " -- Abbott hurried to center ice and struck his starting pose just as the clock reached zero.
Early on, he landed two quadruple jumps in his program and at that point, given his big lead after the short program, the title and Olympic berth were his.
When Abbott finished the 41/2 minute program, the crowd cheered him again, but not as enthusiastically as they'd done a short while earlier for Brown.
Several seconds before the 19-year-old's program ended, fans were on their feet cheering and applauding in a wild ovation that went on for minutes. His final score was 270.08.
"They could not have been more generous, more responsive, more exciting," Brown said.
Wearing a bright green shirt and skating to traditional Irish music -- never a bad stratagem in Boston -- the ponytailed Brown turned in an effusive, fast-paced, dance-oriented routine.
Brown, who now trains in Colorado, was third entering the free skate but easily leapfrogged Richard Dornbush, who plummeted to fifth with an error-marred skate.
Abbott became the 11th American man to win at least four national titles, a list that includes Dick Button, Brian Boitano and Scott Hamilton.
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