Its gold for Weir; 2 ' names' stumble

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ST. LOUIS --The flamboyant Johnny Weir didnt need a bird in the hand to win his third consecutive national figure skating title.

The skater who wore a single red glove to represent a swans beak in the short program of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, finished third in the long program yesterday, but he had enough of a lead to hold off world bronze medalist Evan Lysacek, who finished less than one point back.

Matt Savoie, 25, an aspiring lawyer, surprised the field with a spirited performance that earned him a standing ovation from the crowd, third place from the judges and a trip to the Olympics with Weir and Lysacek.

Two former Olympians Michael Weiss and Timothy Goebel skated error-prone routines to finish fourth and seventh, respectively.

The retirement of Todd Eldredge after the 2002 Winter Games and the failure of Weiss and Goebel means the U.S. will field its first mens team without Olympic experience since 1976.

Goebel, 25, left the ice in tears and Weiss, 29, hoping to make his third Olympic team, said he was in shock.

I dont know. I dont know whats wrong with me, said Goebel, the 2001 national champion and 2002 Olympic bronze medalist. I wasted four years of my life. I dont know what Im going to do now.

A grim-faced Weiss, who trains in Laurel, left the ice and told his coach, Well, thats it.

Later, he said, I can still do it. Tonight just wasnt my night. I was planning on training for the Olympics and now Im not.

Even Weir, who skated a near-perfect short program to Camille Saint-SaenM-5s The Swan, on Thursday, was strangely subdued immediately after the competition

The program today wasnt up to par with my previous two wins. A lot I could have done better, said Weir, 21, who was scolded by skating officials for his eccentric comments at an earlier news conference. I was scared and thats why I had mistakes.

His season was anything but Olympic caliber. Weir had to redesign both his short and long programs to reflect the standards in the new scoring system. He suffered a sprained ankle, and his best Grand Prix finish was third in the Cup of Russia.

Lysaceks program didnt catch fire until the end, but it was nearly enough to pass Weir.

I know that I have tons of work ahead of me but its work Ive been waiting my whole life to do, said Lysacek, 20.

Millersvilles ShaunM-5 Rogers, 20, had a tough day, popping a quadruple toe loop and stepping out of his triple axel. He finished the competition in 15th place out of 17 skaters with a score of 159.67.

I was a little stiffer than I usually am, said Rogers, who finished sixth at nationals last year. I dont know if it was nerves or I wasnt warm enough.

In the womens program, most of the drama will happen behind closed doors after the competition.

A committee will decide whether to honor Michelle Kwans petition for a medical waiver and a ticket to her third Winter Games. The nine-time national champion and two-time Olympic medalist has been hobbled by hip and groin injuries and has not competed this season.

I know she will make the team, said Tara Lipinski, the 1998 Olympic gold medalist. I dont think its a tough decision.

Committee intervention is not unusual. It has approved waivers in three of the past four Olympics: for Todd Eldredge in 1992, Nancy Kerrigan in 1994 and the pair of Jenni Meno and Todd Sand in 1998.

A rule change by Turins Olympic Organizing Committee and approved by the International Olympic Committee has shifted the deadline for roster changes from Jan.30 to Feb.18 for extraordinary circumstances. That would give Kwan until three days before the womens short program to prove her fitness.

With a win, Sasha Cohen will be almost assured of the second of three spots, leaving the final spot a battle among teen-agers: Emily Hughes, in second place; Bebe Liang in third; Kimmie Meissner of Bel Air in fourth, and Alissa Czisny a half-point behind Meissner in fifth.

In 2002, I was in a very different place, said Cohen, who has a six-point cushion. I was trying to prove myself and make the team. Now, Im trying to prove myself and win a title.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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