SOCHI — Jeremy Abbott’s short program at the Sochi Olympics couldn’t have been more disastrous—or more inspiring. And when it was over, it stood as a fitting metaphor for an uncommonly gifted figure skater whose prodigious talent has never shown itself on the international stage.

Abbott’s body positioning went horribly awry in the air going into his opening jump combination—a planned quadruple toe loop-triple toe—and he fell with a thud on the ice. He slid hard into the boards and lay motionless for several seconds before rolling over and grabbing his ribcage.

Stunningly, Abbott got back on his feet, skated back to center ice and resumed his performance.

The Russian crowd started clapping, urging him on with approval. The 28-year-old Abbott nailed every jump that followed and was rewarded by cheers, buzzing horns and waving flags, both Russian and American.

His score, 74.58, vaulted him into first place among the 10 to that point. But with 20 skaters yet to compete, it would not hold up.

As much of a disappointment as this is, I’m not ashamed. I’m not in the least bit ashamed,” Abbott added. “I stood up, and I finished that program. And I’m proud of my effort, and I’m proud of what I did under the circumstances.”

Throughout his career, Abbott’s talent has never been question; his competitive mettle has, particularly on the Olympic stage.

The four-time and defending U.S. champion, Abbott finished a disappointing ninth at the 2010 Vancouver Games. He was brilliant last month in winning his fourth U.S. Championships. But just last week, as the first to compete on behalf of the United States for the inaugural Olympic team medal, Abbott fell twice and finished seventh among 10 competitors.

Thursday at the Iceberg Skating Palace, where the men’s individual competition got under way with the short program, Abbott reprised that short program.

Photos from Sochi Day 6

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SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13: (FRANCE OUT) Joss Christensen of USA wins the Gold medal during the Freestyle Skiing Men's Slopestyle at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

Photos from Sochi Day 6

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SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13: (FRANCE OUT) Joss Christensen of USA wins the Gold medal during the Freestyle Skiing Men's Slopestyle at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)