2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Redemption

Published: February 17, 2014, 9:36 pm, by Dalton Walker

By Gwen Abbott Asmussen

NOTE: Gwen Abbott Asmussen is the sister of Olympian Jeremy Abbott. Gwen is in Colorado Springs and didn’t make the trip to Sochi with her mother Allison Scott.

When you hear the word redemption, you think of the dictionary definition, “an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake”.  This is not the term I think of when referring to a person whom I have the upmost respect for.  I’m talking about my brother, Jeremy Abbott.  At no point in his career has he ever had to redeem a mistake or fault, his redemption came 20 seconds into his last Olympic performance.

US figure skater Jeremy Abbott leaps during his short program Thursday, February 13, 2014 at the Sochi Olympic Games. Abbott is in 15th place following the short program. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

US figure skater Jeremy Abbott leaps during his short program Thursday, February 13, 2014 at the Sochi Olympic Games. Abbott is in 15th place following the short program. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

It’s long known that I am one of his biggest fans, supporters, cheerleaders, fan girl if you will, but it’s also well known that I am very quick to come to his side during the toughest of times.  I have tried to be one the people to help make him laugh, cry and carry on through the best and worst of his days.  Some days it’s by phone or text, others by Twitter or Facebook, well mostly by Twitter or Facebook, everyone knows Jeremy’s passion for social media.  The one thing I am always there for him for, cheering him on through and yelling from the top stands in my pig hat is his shining redemption.

Jeremy Abbott skates away from competitive skating with head held high

Jeremy has long been labeled, as he and many media outlets put it, “a head case”.  But time and time again, he goes out and he proves himself to these people and to himself that he is a brilliant skater and artist.  How many competitors have gone to the Olympics with a program they choreographed themselves and skated it flawlessly, taped head to toe, battered and bruised and still come out with an international season’s best score?  How many people in the world can say they crashed to ice in front of millions of people across the world, laid there writhing in pain, picked themselves back up and continued to skate a flawless program to the end, knowing they were badly injured?  This to me is redemption.

As I watched Jeremy from home, lying on the ice, all I could say was “NO, NO, NO”!  I wanted to bust through the computer screen and hug him, help him.  And then, as I’m clutching my husband, crying, I witnessed the single most amazing feat I’ve ever seen in any sport, he grasped the top of the padding, pulled himself up and continued.  The standing ovation from the crowd proved to the world that Jeremy truly is, as many fans of his wrote on his Facebook page, a true Olympian and hero.

The outpouring of support from around the globe for Jeremy is overwhelming.  There are messages on his fan page talking about how they watched his performances and took away life lessons about courage.  There are messages from addicts who said that after watching him stand back up and continue, it has inspired them to keep fighting for themselves.  There are messages from some very sick and terminally ill people saying by watching him get up and fight till the end, it has given them the hope and strength they need to keep up their own battles.  Lastly, there are messages from teachers and parents saying thank you, thank you for showing their kid or kids how to, “display grit and determination and setting a wonderful example of why sports are important to our kids and what we all hope our kids are able to carry inside them in situations good and bad throughout their entire lives”

Redemption isn’t about having to own up to a mistake or save face for a fault created.  Redemption is personal.  It’s all in how you handle yourself and what you choose to do when faced with tough situations.  I find it only fitting that Jeremy’s free skate program is called Redemption.  Standing center ice, with nothing to lose, no regrets about what’s going to happen next, Jeremy single-handedly put forth the most redeeming program of the Olympic games.  He skated flawlessly, substituting jumps for ones he couldn’t do because of his pain level and finishing like a true champion.

In one of his post skate interviews he was asked what he would like to say to all the critics, and I couldn’t have said it better myself, “I would just hold my middle finger in the air and say a big ‘F you’ to everyone who has ever said that to me because they have never stood in my shoes. They’ve never had to do what I had to do. Nobody has to stand center ice before a million people and put an entire career on the line for eight minutes of their life when they’ve been doing it for 20-some years. And if you don’t think that that’s not hard, you’re a damn idiot.  So some people can handle it better than others, but everyone has that mental struggle, everyone goes through the same doubts. I am not alone. They just come at different times and different moments. Some people have their moment at the Olympics, and some have theirs at the national championships.  I’m proud to be standing here. I’m a four-time national champion and a two-time Olympian, and no one can take that away from me. So whatever people have to say about me, that’s their own problem because I’m freaking proud of what I’ve done and I’m not going to apologize for any of it.”

That right there is the true definition of redemption!

For me, I will always be his biggest cheerleader, supporter and above all, I will always be his sister.  I may not have been the most supportive person growing up, but I feel like I am more than making up for that now.  Jeremy has the most redeeming qualities of any athlete and human out there, and no matter where his life takes him, his road will forever be called Redemption!