Timothy Goebel Leads the Field, Johnny Weir Moves into Second

Timothy Goebel skated to "Romeo and Juliet."

The men's short program at the 2003 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships featured the usual mix of thrills and spills. Timothy Goebel finished the evening in first place. After a season of injuries and illness, Johnny Weir drew the only standing ovation of the afternoon after skating a clean program. Matt Savoie stands third and Michael Weiss is fourth.

Goebel skated early, performing his "Romeo and Juliet" program, a departure from his previous routines. The effort looked somewhat tentative given the lack of mileage for this program.

Opening the program with a quad Salchow-double toe combination, Goebel flipped out of the landing on the triple Axel. His spins were low and the positions much improved. Also noticeable was his speed on all the connecting elements.

"I was really nervous," Goebel said. "[This] is really the big event of the year. I was disappointed to have made a mistake on the [triple] Axel. I'm surprised to be in first with the program I skated. The short program is about being clean. I'm surprised, but I'm happy to be there."

Weir Makes a Surprising Move into Second

Johnny Weir snagged a first-place ordinal and a majority of third-place ordinals to capture second. His Cirque du Soleil program was packed with unique positions in both his spins and his footwork sequences. His jump combination was a triple Lutz-triple toe, and he added a triple Axel and a triple flip.

"Having the crowd support helps me get through the program," Weir said.

The crowd was definitely appreciative of Weir's efforts, applauding throughout the highlights and recognizing his unique style.

Savoie Fights Through Injury

Skating in the final group, Matt Savoie performed a steady program with a triple Axel, triple flip-double toe combination and footwork right into triple Lutz. His spins are exercises in flexibility, which is becoming a welcome trend among many of the men in the event. Savoie is competing with tendinosis in his left knee, a severe form of tendinitis that causes him pain and forced him to scale back his training significantly.

"I've had tendinits before, but this is worse," Savoie said. "I'm getting injections so I don't feel any pain. I don't feel anything!"

Fortunately for Savoie his left knee does not take the brunt of the jump landings, as he is a counter-clockwise jumper.

Weiss Misses Triple Axel

Michael Weiss landed his triple Axel on his knees and two-footed the landing of the quad toe in his quad toe-triple toe combination. He found himself in fourth after the short program.

"I thought that [program] would have been good enough to be second," Weiss said. "Some of the programs that other people are skating are things that we did as juniors. I go out and do a quad toe-triple to and miss one Axel. For the marks to be that low I thought was ridiculous.

"[Missing] he triple Axel was a surprise to me,"; he continued. "If I would have hit the triple Axel, I would've won the [short program]. Missing the triple Axel kind of put it in their (judges') hands. Putting it in their hands isn't usually a good decision. You need to make that decision for them."

However, Weiss' coach, Don Laws, told reporters he thought the marks were accurate considering the two mistakes Weiss made.

"I didn't see the other skaters, but he was marked correctly," Laws said. "We're disappointed, but they (the judges) had the proper deductions. He didn't do his best."

In fifth place is Scott Smith, who landed a big triple Axel, quad Salchow-double toe and a triple loop. His quad was not ratified by the referee, however. He took two second-place and two third-place ordinals.

Derrick Delmore had a nightmare of a short program, falling hard on the quad toe, doubling his Lutz and singling his Axel. He looked visibly ill in the kiss and cry and withdrew from the competition. Delmore has battled a right hip flexor injury since early November.

The men wrap up the competition on Saturday afternoon with the free skate, which will be aired live on ABC.

by Michelle Wojdyla