Just two years ago, Johnny Weir withdrew after a freakish beginning to his free skate at the 2003 State Farm US Figure Skating Championships. Last year, Weir shocked the skating community by winning his first national title. This season, as the favorite, Weir struggled on the landings of his jumps in the short program, but came back to skate an emotional program to Raul di Blasio’s Otonal to capture his second straight national crown.
As the crowd rose to their feet at the end of his program, Weir covered his face with his hands and then pumped his fists to the skating gods. Weir won the championship without attempting a quadruple jump, and relied on his superior presentation and textbook jumping technique to leapfrog Timothy Goebel, who finished with the silver medal. “It is hard to come in as the defending champion,” admitted Weir. “I’m just floored and thrilled right now.”
Weir opened his program with a gorgeous triple Axel-triple toe combination, following up with a solo triple toe. In all, Weir landed eight triple jumps, including a second triple Axel to earn technical marks that ranged from 5.8-5.9. But the highlight of Weir’s freeskate was the nuance in which he presented so elegantly, every movement from the depths of his soul. Weir earned five perfect 6.0s, and a combination of 5.8s and 5.9s for presentation, utilizing footwork patterns that used edges reminiscent of Toller Cranston and John Curry. In addition, Weir’s spins rival the best in the world, using difficult edges, unusual positions, and a creative vision.
Still, to challenge for a medal at the World Championships, Weir will need to attempt a quadruple jump that he has yet to try. “The quad is a very big part of men’s skating today,” said Weir. “And I do realize that I need one. I’ll put one in when I am ready.” Weir readily admits that he will need a quad to beat current World Champ Evgeny Plushenko. Though Weir was awaiting confirmation of being named to the Four Continent’s Cup Team, he admits that he would like to try the quad at the event in Korea. “I think that it would be a good idea to go so that I can try the quad,” Weir stated. “So I have it for the first time under my belt before the World Championships.”
Though Goebel finished with the silver medal, he was somewhat disappointed in his program, as he made a couple of mistakes. Goebel opened with a triple salchow, followed immediately by a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination in which he slightly two footed the quadruple. Goebel added three more clean triple jumps, and exhibited much improved presentation in his Queen Medley program. The 24-year-old earned technical scores of 5.3-5.8 and presentation scores from 5.6-5.9. “Obviously I was a little disappointed with having made mistakes tonight,” lamented Goebel. “But I had a rough week in the beginning, and making it back to the world team… [it] makes me want to work that much harder.”
Making the podium for the first time in the Championship division, Evan Lysacek skated an entertaining dancy program to Singing in the Rain to win the bronze medal. Lysacek opened with a triple Axel-single toe combination which was meant to be a triple-triple combination. Lysacek used dance moves that would make Gene Kelly proud and made the Portland crowd, who braved a freezing rain storm to attend the competition, look on the bright side of the weather, if only for four-and-a-half minutes. “I used the audience’s excitement, and kind of fed off of that,” said Lysacek. “I am very excited to be on the world team.”
Matthew Savoie skated a program to Once Upon a Time in Mexico to remain in fourth position. Savoie opened with a triple lutz, and landed four additional triples to edge out Michael Weiss for the pewter medal. Weiss opened his program with a slightly two-footed quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination, and landed two triple Axels. But Weiss’ program to a medley of heavy metal tunes lacked artistic vision and his usual attack of each element, and the veteran had to settle for fifth place.
In sixth is newcomer Shaun Rogers, a powerful 19-year-old who bodes well for the future of US Men’s skating. Rogers opened with a failed quadruple toe loop, but landed four triple jumps in his program to The Matrix.
Honorable mention awards should go to three men who skated early in the competition, but had great skated nevertheless. Derrick Delmore landed eight clean triple jumps, including an Axel to place sixth in the freeskate, and seventh overall. Jordan Wilson landed a triple Axel-triple toe loop combination, as well as six other triple jump to bring the crowd to their feet very early in the competition. He finished 12th in the short, long, and overall. Braden Overett used the music of Michael W. Smith to captivate the audience. In addition to a huge triple Axel, Overett also landed four other triple jumps to place eighth in the freeskate and 10th overall.
Weir, Goebel, and Lysacek were immediately named to the team that will represent the United States in Moscow, Russia, at the World Championships. Earlier in the day, US Figure Skating announced that champions Katie Orscher and Lucash will be joined on the World Team by Rena Inoue and John Baldwin in pairs. The US will be represented by champions Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto as well as the team of Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov in dance. Alternates for the pairs team are the bronze medalists Marcy Hinzmann and Aaron Parchem, and for the dance team, Lydia Manon and Ryan O’Meara. The six couples will represent the US at the ISU Four Continents Cup next month in the Republic of Korea.
The dance and pairs teams were also named for the Junior Worlds Championships. Junior Champions Mariel Miller and Rockne Brubaker will lead the pairs team, with silver medalists Julia Vlassov and Drew Meekins also making the trip to Canada. Last year’s Junior World’s dance bronze medalist, Morgan Matthews and Maxim Zavozin lead the way in dance, and will be joined by Tina Pratt and Todd Gilles, the current US Junior Champions.
The competition culminates tonight with the Championship Ladies freeskate, in a battle between perennial champion Michelle Kwan, and the one always nipping at her heels, Sasha Cohen.