Weir Shows Perfection To Capture Second U.S. Title

by Michelle Wojdyla, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Johnny Weir
Photo by Paul Harvath

Senior Men's Free Skate and Final Results
Senior Men's Free Skate Photos
All Event, Results, Photos and Video

(1/15/05) — The men's free skate Saturday afternoon at the 2005 Skate Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships had something for everyone. Classic rock … check. Classic movie musicals … yup. New blockbuster soundtracks … affirmative. Quad-triple combinations … oh yeah. Personal bests … that's for sure, just ask Jordan Wilson. Oh, and 6.0s — yes, those, too.

Johnny Weir (SC of New York) added to this week's 6.0 haul with five perfect scores for presentation in his “Otonal” free skate. Straight first-place ordinals made it clear that he has become the American skater to beat.

“I'm really pleased with the way I did business today,” Weir said. “I was very nervous coming in to this because as much as I try not to let it affect me, it is harder coming in as the defending champion. I'm just completely floored and thrilled because I was able to harness my nerves and perform the best I could. It was so much pressure and so difficult to wait backstage. I was thinking about how hard I've trained for this and how I won't let it go to waste. That's really what pushed me through the program. It isn't the best I could have skated it, but it's the best for today. Giving that performance, really giving it my all, of course I'm proud of that. It was a great experience.”

Weir's program, save for a weak landing on his final jump, a triple flip, looked effortless. While the best ice dancers look as though they are on a ballroom floor, Weir skates as if he is suspended in air. A fluid lightness and grace encompasses all facets of his performance, whether it is a triple Axel-triple toe combination, a circular footwork sequence with turns in both directions, or a combination spin that would make famous Swiss spinner Lucinda Ruh proud.

Weir acknowledges that he is missing one vital piece of the World champion puzzle.

“A quad is a very big part of men's skating today and I do realize I need one,” Weir said.” I will put one in when I'm ready to.”

His artistry, however, is becoming Weir's signature strength. The judging panel in Portland agreed.

“6.0s are great. They are very cool,” Weir said. “As far as the artistic side of the program, I know I could have performed it better. But if the judges wanted to give me 6.0s, that was their choice. Since this was the last competition where we'll have 6.0s, I was of course excited to get a few. Getting 6.0s were like getting a cherry on top of a sundae.”

One year removed from withdrawing after the short program in Atlanta, Timothy Goebel (Winterhurst FSC) proved he is back and a force to be reckoned with. After placing first in the short program on Thursday, Goebel gave another strong outing with his symphonic Queen medley. Although he lacked a perfect quad (his quad toe in the quad-triple toe combination was slightly two-footed) and had some struggles on nailing the landing of his two triple Axels, the noticeable improvement in Goebel's skating is his transitions and posture. His rotations, both in the air and on the ice, are straighter and less labored. His flow in and out of jumps is more graceful and his concentration is improved.

“Obviously I was a little disappointed with having made some mistakes,” Goebel said. “It's been a really rough week for me. Making it back to the World Team considering I didn't finish last year, I feel like it was a success overall. I'm just going to go home and train that much harder for Worlds.”

Early in the warm-up for the final group of skaters, Goebel and Michael Weiss (Washington FSC) collided, sending both men to the ice. Weiss stayed down for a while but then shook it off and finished the competition apparently unscathed. He finished fifth in the free skate and fifth overall.

Johnny Weir and coach, Priscilla Hill, pose with the State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championship Trophy,
photo by U.S. Figure Skating Online
“It made for an exciting warm-up, that's for sure,” Goebel said. “It didn't affect me. In a six-minute warm-up all of us have so much to do. The last thing we're thinking about is our relationship to other people on the ice. Actually, I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often.”

Both Goebel and Weir have made strong comebacks after withdrawing mid-event in the past. Goebel pulled out after a disastrous short program in Atlanta last year. Weir was unable to finish his free skate in 2003 after two early falls resulted in injury. Asked if their comeback successes would lead them to recommend this course to other skaters, both men laughed.

“Absolutely not!” Goebel said. “It was a great learning experience and a great character builder, but I certainly think it's the harder road to take.”

“I agree,” Weir said. “It creates a lot of pressure. In fact I have bad skin this week because of that. It did help me build up the kind of person I am and I would recommend it for that sort of thing. If you can be on all the time and finish every competition and be perfect at all times, which is pretty much impossible, then go for it. In a way, the Dallas nationals experience was something that helped me because I had to come back stronger and it made me a better person.”

Evan Lysacek (DuPage FSC) placed third in the free skate to take bronze, his first U.S. senior medal. His program to “Singin' in the Rain” is a great vehicle to show his personality. Lysacek skates for the audience, making eye contact and bringing people into his performance. His technical elements were not perfect, but both triple Axels were big and well controlled, although he only managed a single toe in combination on the first. A spiral into triple flip-double toe and his straight-line step sequences were highlights of the four and a half minutes.

“Tonight I faced a couple of challenges,” Lysacek said. “First of all, having to go last, having to wait after the warmup. It was hard for me once I got on the ice to try to build up that energy, but once Johnny's marks came up — obviously he skated wonderfully — I kind of used the audience's excitement and was able to feed off that a little bit. The audience really helped me get into character with the happiness and lightness of the program. Technically, I had a couple of bobbles, but for the most part I'm really pleased and very excited about being on the World Team. I want to congratulate both these guys, (especially) Tim on a great comeback.”

Matt Savoie finished fourth after landing two triple Axels in his program to "Exotica" and "Once Upon a Time in Mexico." Once again he showed excellent spins and footwork.

And what about Jordan Wilson (Santa Rosa FSC)? There's always a gem in the men's free skate that the TV audience never gets to see. 2005 belong to Wilson, the Pacific Coast Sectional bronze medalists, who earned a standing ovation early in the competition for his free skate to "Phantom of the Opera." Although some of his landings were scratchy, Wilson landed eight triples, including two triple-triple combinations and a fabulous triple Axel from a spread eagle. He finished 12th overall.

Weir, Goebel and Lysacek have been named to the 2005 World Team.