Johnny Weir Collects a Perfect 6.0 and Claims Gold

by Sal Zanca, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Johnny Weir
Photo by Paul Harvath

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Senior Men's Free Skate Results

Senior Men's Short Program Photos

Johnny Weir Press Conference Video (4.4 MB)

(1/10/04) — Johnny Weir (SC of New York) had something to prove after the crazy men's free skate at last year's State Farm U.S. Championships.

"I'm very pleased that I could come back and really shut everyone up that wanted to count me out," Weir said Saturday night.

If they call him something now, they can call him 2004 U.S. men's champion.

"Amazing ... it hasn't quite sunk in yet," Weir said. "I think it probably will next week when I am at home. It was just an amazing experience."

To emphasize his delight with his program, he kissed his hand and pounded the ice as he reveled in the crowd's ovation, even before he got the marks.

"I was very thankful at that point, and I was thanking the ice in Atlanta for letting me do my best," Weir said.

Weir, 19, is the youngest men's champion since Todd Eldredge won in 1991 at the age of 19. Weir completed eight triples in a graceful routine to music from "Dr. Zhivago" and earned marks of 5.8 and 5.9 with one 6.0 for  presentation.

The 6.0 was significant - it was the first 6.0 by a men's competitor at the U.S. Championships since Michael Weiss received one for presentation in 2000.

Compared to the 2003 U.S. Championships, this year's version of the men's final was full of solid skating, both technically and artistically. The final six skaters earned six standing ovations in various ways.

"It's nice to see a competition where all the men skated well," said Weiss (Washington FSC). "I was proud of myself and proud of everybody for putting out a good show today."

The three-time U.S. champion didn't give up his title easily, doing nine triple jumps to finish second. He was fourth after the short program after missing a triple Axel, which hurt his chances at winning the overall title.

"Johnny skated two good programs, and I figured that is what it would take," Weiss said. "I said at the beginning of the week it would take two clean programs to win nationals and he went out and did that."

Weiss' program to an American patriotic medley was superb as well. He chose not to do any quads.

"They didn't feel right in the warmup so I decided to go out and do a clean program and skate well and try to win the long program," Weiss said.

After last year's final, which included a stop in Matt Savoie's program due to an equipment issue, and the stop, restart and stop again of Weir's program, it was time for some good skating.

"It was nice to see everybody make up for last year," Weiss said. "The guys really went out and all skated very good programs."

Weir's program was elegant throughout, and he didn't miss anything, including a triple Axel-triple toe combination and a triple Lutz-triple toe combination.

"I think I was being really tentative so I wouldn't make a mistake, and it ended up getting me to a point where I could let myself go," Weir said. "I have always had trouble going last, and me being in first on top of that ... it was crazy to come out and skate as well as I did."

It was especially difficult after Weiss skated so well just before him. Weiss, 27, plans to have the quads back in his program at the World Championships in Dortmund, Germany, where he knows he will need them. Weir, who will be making his first trip to the World Championships, also knows he needs the quad.

"I have been landing quads all week in practice so I will be able to put it in at Worlds," Weir said. "For nationals I just wanted to go safe and clean. I was taking nationals as just a stepping stone and learning how to come back from huge setbacks last season."

Coming back from setbacks is nothing new for Matt Savoie (Illinois Valley FSC) who regained a spot on the World Team. He came in third after a rhythmic performance to music from "Ragtime" that had the crowd clapping along. He had knee surgery last April and just started jumping again in September.

Savoie hit six good triples and had slight turnouts on both triple Axels. The musical quality of his program, along with excellent spins, was good enough to keep him among the top three.

Savoie made the World Team in 2002 as a substitute when Todd Eldredge retired after the Olympics. He finished12th in Nagano, Japan that year.

However competing with tendinosis in his left knee, Savoie finished in fifth place at the 2003 State Farm U.S. Championships and then opted to have a knee operation.

"I am just trying to keep it in perspective," said Savoie, 23. "I have been out for a while and I really wasn't trained as well as I should have been coming here, basically because I am still recovering. Whatever I did here, I still have to keep that in context in my recovery. I am going to get as healthy as I can."

Ryan Jahnke (Broadmoor FSC) was fourth, using Brazilian music and including seven clean triples. He had to hop around to keep from falling on a triple Lutz-triple loop, but he got the crowd out of their seats. He actually finished third in the free skate, but his sixth-place finish in the short program kept him off of the podium. His performance helped earn him a trip to the Four Continents Championships in Hamilton,Ontario, Jan. 21-26, when Weiss decided not to go.

"I have a previous  engagement that I had already committed to before the dates of the Four Continents came out," Weiss said.

Evan Lysacek (DuPage FSC) dropped to fifth, but he did finish with six triples. However he had a fall on his opening jump - the only fall of the final six skaters - and that probably sealed his fate.

Ryan Bradley (Broadmoor FSC) had the crowd stomping along with his Southern music routine to come in sixth.