Just two years ago, the men’s event at the State Farm US Figure Skating Championships was called a disappointment by most in the skating world. Last season, the general consensus was that the US men showed promise. This year, in Portland, Oregon, the US men have arrived and are showing promise of the legacy that figure skaters have created in the United States.
Leader after the short program, Olympic and World medalist Goebel proved that he deserves his spot back on the US team that he lost last year to injury. Skating to Concerto Eleqiaque for Piano in D minor by Rachmaninov, Goebel landed a quadruple toe to double toe combination, a triple Axel, and a triple flip to earn scores ranging from 5.7 to 5.9 for technical merit and 5.6 to 5.9 for presentation.
Goebel’s presentation has noticeably improved from previous seasons, exhibiting powerful skating and bold choreography. Goebel began his short program with beautiful footwork that covered the ice from end-to-end. At the close of his program, Goebel burst into tears.
“With everything that happened yesterday, and you know with the stress of that – It was just a rough day for me,” said Goebel. His friend and former training mate, Angela Nikodinov was in an automobile accident yesterday that claimed the life of Nikodinov’s mother, and hospitalized her coach.
In a statement today, Nikodinov said, “We appreciate all the love and support that we are receiving from the skating community and others. We ask that you continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers.”
In second place is the 2004 champion, Johnny Weir, who skated an ethereal program to Rondo Capriccioso, flawed only by his wide swinging free leg on the landing of his opening triple Axel. Weir also landed a triple lutz punctuated with a triple toe, as well as an acceptable triple flip. But Weir’s forte is balletic positions and inventive spins. With willowy arms and pointed toes, he captivated the audience with his “heart on his sleeve” approach to skating. Weir’s scores ranged from 5.3 to 5.8 for technical merit, and from 5.8 to a perfect 6.0 for presentation.
“I thought it was funny,” quipped Weir, “that last year in my short program was pretty much the same except the landings of the jumps were better, and I got 4.9. This year I got like 5.6s and 5.8s.”
Skating early in the competition, Evan Lysacek electrified the crowd with a masculine program to Espana Cani. In his artistic bullfight, Lysacek brought with him an arsenal of triple jumps including a huge Axel, a lutz to toe combination, and a flip from footwork taken from a toreador’s training manual. Lysacek’s scores ranged from 5.4-5.8 for technical merit, and from 5.6 to one perfect 6.0 for presentation.
When asked about the perfect score, Lysacek beamed, “It was the first six of my career… it’s just the icing on the cake for today.”
Veteran Matt Savoie skated an introspective program to Adagio for Strings that tugged at the heartstrings of the audience in a way only this haunting music can. Savoie landed a triple Axel to open his short program, and added a triple flip-triple toe combination, and a solo triple lutz. Savoie closed his program with a simple yet spectacular circular hydroblade move that placed an exclamation point to the end of his artistic masterpiece.
Former Olympian and two-time US Champ Michael Weiss is in fifth place after falling on a quadruple toe loop, and skating an uninspired program to Henry V. Shaun Rogers of Millersville, Maryland, finished sixth.
Competition continues tonight with the Championship Ladies short program that features Michelle Kwan aiming for her 8th straight National crown, and Sasha Cohen, reigning World Silver Medalist searching for her first. The men’s competition concludes on Saturday afternoon at the Rose Garden.