ST. LOUIS - Johnny Weir said he had no intention of skating just well enough at the U.S. championships to make the Olympic team. Last night, he showed the form that made him a two-time national champion, posting a personal-best score to take the lead after the short program.
"It was lovely, really," Weir said breathlessly, placing his hand over his heart. "You're feeling like the lowest scum in the pond two hours ago, and go to the prettiest flower in the pond. It shows you the best andworst attributes."
Wearing perhaps themost flamboyant costume in the competition - a spangled black and white suit and one red glove - Weir landed a triple axel, triple lutz-triple toe loop and a triple flip to earn a 43.64 for technical merit and a 39.64 for the program component for a total of 83.28.
Skating a "solid, not perfect" performance, Michael Weiss finished second with a combined score of 77.55 points.
He two-footed his quad and turned a triple toe into a double, ending with scores of 39.94 for technical merit and 37.61 for his program components.
"It was a nice way to start," said Weiss, 29, who is hoping to compete at his third Olympics before retiring.
Weiss, who lives in Northern Virginia and trains in Laurel, said he lingered at center ice for amoment after the short program to enjoy the last of 13 appearances at nationals.
"I stood there for a second and found myself getting emotional," he said. "Twenty members of my family saw me skating ... My children are 7 and 6 and they can stand up and applaud now. It was good for me out there to have them here."
With just 45 second left in his program, Evan Lysacek tripped and sprawled on the ice during his straight-line footwork and saw his scores fall as well. The 20-year-old bronzemedalist at the 2005 world championships was expected to challenge Weir.
"It's uncharacteristic. It's the first element in footwork I've missed in the short program all season," he said of his third-place finish. "I felt I got a little trippy and never recovered."
The free skate is tomorrow afternoon, and the winner gets an automatic berth on the Olympic team. A 36-member selection committee will pick the other two skaters for Turin.
Timothy Goebel, the 2001 national champion, had trouble at the beginning of his program, putting his hand to the ice as he came out of his quad toe-double toe combination and then staggering out of his triple lutz.
He is in fifth place (70.27 points total) behindMatthewSavoie. "Four points is nothing," Goebel, 25, said of the gap between him and Lysacek in third. "It's certainly not over."
Weir, 21, wants to be the first man since Brian Boitano to win three titles in a row. But the spontaneous, eccentric athlete from Coatesville, Pa., would never be mistaken for Boitano or any of the other male skaters here.
He called his program, skated to "The Swan," a classical piece by Camille Saint-Saens, "very lyrical," and contrasted it to the audience favorite, "Zorba the Greek" used by Ryan Bradley.
"This one they kind of sat back and had their cognac and cigarettes and they were watching and relaxing," Weir said. "His was more like a vodka shot, let's-snortcoke kind of thing."
Shaun Rogers of Millersville got off to a rocky start, falling on his quadruple toe loop and stepping out of his triple flip. He received a technical score of 26.70 and a program component score of 27.48, with a one-point deduction. His 53.18 total left him 15th out of 17 time I'vemissed it all year in competition."
Fort Washington's Derrick Delmore hit his double combination, but fell on his triple axel attempt. He finished in 13th place, with a 26.90 technical score and a 28.68 program component score for a total of 54.58 points after a one-point deduction.
Today: Pairs free skate, free dance. TV: 10:30 p.m., ESPN2 (tape delay)
Tomorrow: Men's long program, women's long program. TV: 4 p.m., men's long program, chs. 2, 7 (tape delay); 8 p.m., women's long program, ABC (live)