His landings were soft as a cat's, his spins a blur of blue. Three judges gave Johnny Weir a 5.9 for technical mastery and five gave him a perfect 6.0 score for the presentation of his long program Saturday, but Weir was a tougher critic.
"I'd give myself a 5.6 or 5.7 on the first mark and 5.8 or 5.9 on the second," he said. "I know I skated well, but it wasn't perfect."
Perhaps not, but the 20-year-old's polished performance to "Otonal" clinched his second consecutive U.S. figure skating title and made him the first back-to-back winner since Michael Weiss in 1999 and 2000.
"If the judges want to give me 6s, that's their choice. I'm completely down with that," said Weir, who covered his face and kicked the ice in glee as the crowd of 8,972 at the Rose Garden rose to its feet.
"Considering this is the last competition where you can get a 6.0, it's the cherry on top of the sundae."
Tim Goebel, who withdrew from last year's competition because of leg problems caused by ill-fitting boots, dropped from first to second after apparently two-footing the first part of his quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination jump in his "Queen Symphony" program.
Evan Lysacek, kept off the ice most of last summer because of a stress fracture in his left hip, performed an animated routine to "Singin' in the Rain" -- a movie he said he'd seen "probably 139 times" -- to retain third place and get the final U.S. berth at the world championships in Moscow in March.
"I'm disappointed I made a few mistakes," said Goebel, who left El Segundo in November to train in Fairfax, Va., "but making it back to the world team, considering I didn't finish last year, I feel like this is a success.
"My focus coming in here was no matter what happened with the technical elements to hold the program together, and I was able to do that. In the past, once the jumps went, the whole program fell apart."
Lysacek, who trains in El Segundo with Ken Congemi and Frank Carroll, got technical marks of 5.4 to 5.6 and presentation scores of 5.7 to 5.9. "I'm thrilled," he said. "I was having trouble getting myself up after sitting for almost an hour after the warmup, and hearing Johnny's marks got me fired up."
Matt Savoie, twice a national bronze medalist, finished fourth. Weiss, a three-time champion, was fifth. Weiss said he'd injured his leg in a collision with Goebel during the warmups.
The overall quality Saturday topped the splatfests of the last few years. Whether any of the top three can unseat three-time world champion Evgeni Plushenko of Russia, though, is something else.
"It will take a quad, and he's very supported in the international skating community," said Weir, who did eight triples but no quads Saturday.
Asked if he believed Plushenko was unfairly propped up, he smiled enigmatically.
"Who can say?" he said. "I'm not sure exactly what goes on.... I'm hoping as a skater and competitor that everyone is judged on what they put out there. In the short program, I didn't skate so perfect and somehow I was in second place and had first-place [votes] and there were people below me I feel skated better than me."
On Saturday, however, no one did it better.