Weir Wins Third Men's Title

Times Staff Writer

If Johnny Weir was cautious on Saturday, he had a good reason.

"I was scared out of my mind," he said of the prospect of winning his third straight U.S. men's figure skating title and a spot on the Turin Olympic team.

"This is something I have dreamed about and always wanted. There are no words to really express the different emotions inside me."

Weir's long program to selections from Croatian pianist Maksim Mrvica was neither gripping nor perfect. Evan Lysacek had the top long-program score, and Matt Savoie's score was higher, too; six skaters had higher technical scores than Weir's 63.36.

But the lead Weir built with a fine short program propped him up, allowing the Quarryville, Pa., native to edge Lysacek for the title, 225.34 points to 224.47. Savoie, who stumbled on his footwork, pulled up from fourth to third with 222.36 points and joined the top two on the Turin team.

Two-time Olympian Michael Weiss dropped from second to fourth with a lackluster effort, and Salt Lake City bronze medalist Tim Goebel, fifth after the short program, flailed to a seventh-place finish.

"I wasted four years of my life," a tearful Goebel said. "I don't know what's wrong with me."

All three Turin nominees will be Olympic rookies, the first such U.S. men's team since 1976. Among them, they have one World Championships medal: the bronze won last year by Lysacek, a Chicagoan who trains in El Segundo. Weir was fourth at the 2005 World Championships and fifth in 2004. Savoie, who lives in Peoria, Ill., and deferred law school to train full-time this year, was 16th in the world in 2004 and 12th in 2002.

"As my program stands, my technical score will be in the high 70s and the component score in the 70s," Weir said, comparable to world champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland and silver medalist Jeffrey Buttle of Canada. He said he's "not gunning for" three-time world champion Evgeni Plushenko, the 2002 silver medalist. "Just a medal at the Olympics would be phenomenal," he said.

Weir added that he'd been reprimanded by U.S. Figure Skating officials after he described a rival's lively program as a "vodka-shot, let's-snort-coke kind of thing." He said he won't be silenced, though he might find other analogies.

"There are young people that watch the sport, and I don't want to offend anybody that might give some money to the federation or the sport," he said.

Lysacek, third after the short program, lost technical points for touching his hand to the ice on a triple salchow and doing a triple-single jump combination. But he had the top score of 79.08 for program components, which are skating skills, transitions, performance/execution, choreography and interpretation.

"I've been strangely calm this whole week. It hit me five minutes before, what was on the line," said Lysacek, who's coached by Frank Carroll and Ken Congemi. "I knew Johnny had skated really well. It's such a pressure-filled week and season before the Olympics."

Savoie, 25, is five years older than Lysacek and four years older than Weir. Living outside the skating loop he'd become a forgotten man, but his performance to "The Mission" was his best of the season.

"It was waiting for me," he said. "I'm just really pleased to have skated so well."

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