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Life as a Skater Mom

The day before Allison Scott left Colorado for Sochi to cheer on her son Jeremy Abbott, a figure skater for the U.S. Olympic team, she spoke to mom.me about what life is like for a mom of an Olympian. Abbott competed at Vancouver four years ago for the U.S. Olympic men’s skating team, he's a four-time U.S. National Champion, and despite taking a devastating fall during his singles routine, Abbott and the men's team brought home the Olympic bronze medal.

Scott calls herself a skater mom. Any parent whose son or daughter competes at a high level in sports knows that supporting your athlete requires quite a bit of stamina. Since Jeremy is 28 years old, his competitive-skating career is coming to an end. His mother shared with us some of their story from 24 years in competitive sports.

You said that Sochi is not a destination, it’s another stop along the way. How many stops have there been for your family?

We’ve had a lot over 24 years. It’s definitely been interesting, but the point of the matter is that everything is a step. The hardest thing to deal with this time, frankly, was that the life of competition will be over after this. [The national qualifier in] Boston was very difficult for that reason. It was difficult for all of us, but it was cathartic in many ways because you reach a point where you have to look ahead. … That is probably the scariest thing for all of us. … What we have seen in this very narrow track of our lives since the time Jeremy stepped on the ice at age 2 and started competing at age 4 to age 28 and being four-time national champion, which only five men have achieved—you don’t think about that until all of a sudden you have all of these people, legends in the sport saying something to you about what they hope he’s going to bring to the sport moving forward. That was the point at which I realized that everything he’s put into this, he will reap on the other side.

MORE: Kristi Yamaguchi Talks Motherhood and Sports at Sochi

It’s amazing to hear that with four national championships and two Olympic runs, you seem to be hoping for the same thing that many parents hope for their sports-loving kids. Did you do your best? Are you happy with that?

It’s very hard to be a male skater. I love the guys. They work so hard. They skate because they want to skate, because they love to skate, because they need to skate. They don’t skate because mommy or daddy has told them that this is what you’re going to do with your life. That doesn’t happen in North America. I think that when you see somebody overcome all of the teasing, all of the bullying, we always knew that success would be his best revenge. When you see all of that happen and you see your child, no longer a child, but somebody who can deal with all of that, somebody who’s become extremely comfortable in his own skin—what more can you ask for?

When your child goes through competition, you learn as a parent what to do and what not to do. What did you do to encourage your son?

We didn’t travel with him everywhere he went. There are certain givens that he expects. One is that about an hour or so before competition, I would text a pinky swing to him. And that my husband [Jeremy's stepfather] would text him what he is notorious for—which is he would text, “Go Alexander!” Those are the two things when we’re not there that he would expect.

Was there a moment when you knew? You just knew this kid was going to go really, really far in the sport?

You know, it’s a process. I think every parent goes through the ups and downs of wondering if their kid has talent. When he was 12, his Aspen, [Colorado], coach who had been coaching him since he was 7, just looked at us one day and she goes, "I’ve taken him as far as I can, and he needs to move to a training center if he’s going to do something." That was the watershed moment of looking at each other and asking if we’re going to change the life that we’ve known in the Aspen area. Are we going to take that leap? And the answer was yes because we were prepared to try this. We decided to make the commitment. Does that mean success? Absolutely not. We knew that we needed to get him where he could train and spend a year or so to see what could be done with this raw talent. I think that was really the turning point.

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