Shaken Goebel puts on stirring show at U.S. championships

THE BALTIMORE SUN

PORTLAND, Ore. - The easy part was the skating for Timothy Goebel, winner of last night's short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

The hard part was keeping his emotions in check as he mourned the death of the mother of skater Angela Nikodinov.

"I've certainly dealt with stressful situations before. This blows anything else out of the water," said Goebel, hands trembling and eyes filled with tears. "I was able to get through it."

Dolores Nikodinov was killed in a car accident Wednesday night on her way from the airport to her Portland hotel.

Angela Nikodinov and her father were treated at a hospital and released. Her coach, Igor Pashkevich, was treated for a concussion and kept overnight for observation.

Angela Nikodinov withdrew from the competition.

The two skaters have been friends for years and "shared a special bond," said Goebel, 24, the 2001 U.S. champion and 2002 Olympic bronze medalist. "She will be OK. She's gone through tough times before."

Goebel, who barely finished his program before bursting into tears, learned of Dolores Nikodinov's death Wednesday night and was awake for nearly 16 hours before he performed.

"Certainly by Saturday I'll be able to be a little bit more collected and probably won't be quite as tired at the end because I'm really emotionally drained," Goebel said.

"As hard as this is, I'm still here to do a job. I have the world team to make, and I have some demons to beat from last year having such a disastrous skate.

"So I'm going to take tomorrow and refocus, and I'll be back on Saturday to do my job."

Defending champion Johnny Weir, who skated after Goebel, said he knew the "Quad King" was going to be impossible to beat.

"That's the best I've ever seen him skate," said Weir, 19. "He was that on and that perfect tonight."

Goebel, skating to a Rachmaninov piano concerto, hit a quad-double toe combination and earned technical and performance scores ranging from 5.6 to 5.9.

Weir hit a triple axel and a triple lutz-triple toe combination for technical scores ranging from 5.3 to 5.8 and performance scores of 5.7 to 6.0.

For Goebel, the performance may be a signal he is ready to resume his place among skating's elite. He hasn't skated a full season in the past two years. Distracted by injuries and boot problems, he finished a surprising 10th in the short program at last year's U.S. championships and dropped out.

In November, coach Frank Carroll dumped Goebel, citing "philosophical differences." A nagging back injury forced the skater to withdraw from his last two competitions.

The men will perform their long programs tomorrow afternoon.

Skating early, Evan Lysacek set the standard and held the lead until late in the program. Performing to "Espania Cani," the lanky Chicago native took advantage of his height in his spins and transitions. He received technical scores ranging from 5.4 to 5.8, and 5.6 to 6.0 for presentation, which was good enough to hold third place.

Shaun Rogers, 19, of Millersville is in sixth place. Skating to Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5, he nailed a triple axel and performed crisp spins and transitions. His technical scores ranged from 4.4 to 5.4 and performance scores ranged from 4.6 to 5.5.

Competing in his 12th U.S. championships, three-time title holder Michael Weiss removed any suspense early when he fell heavily on his first jump: a quad toe-triple toe combination.

He recovered and completed his program without further disaster, hitting his triple axel, but the damage had been done. Weiss, 28, lives in Northern Virginia and practices at The Gardens Ice House in Laurel. The defending silver medalist ended the short program in fifth place.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

U.S. championships

Where: Rose Garden Arena, Portland, Ore.

Today's TV: 2:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., ESPN2

Tomorrow's TV: 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., chs. 2, 7

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