Coatesville's Weir takes advantage of stumbles His strong performance was aided by others' poor showings.

Posted: January 10, 2004

While renowned figure skater Michelle Kwan chases Sasha Cohen and a place in history, up-and-comer Johnny Weir hopes history won't repeat itself in the men's event.

Weir, the figure skater from Coatesville who trains in Newark, Del., is leading the men's competition entering today's second phase of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Atlanta.

Weir hopes for better results than a year ago, when he was second after the short program but quit the long program after he fell twice, twisting his back and wrenching his knee.

"This year I'm focusing on not thinking about figure skating," he told the Los Angeles Times after competing Thursday at Phillips Arena. "I'm on vacation in Atlanta and there happens to be a figure skating event going on."

Both the men's and women's free skates, worth two-thirds of the final score, are today.

In competition yesterday and last night, Christopher Toland won the junior men's competition and Morgan Matthews and Maxim Zavozin won their second straight title in junior ice dance. Also, Rena Inoue and John Baldwin Jr. won their first pairs title last night, a win made possible when Philip Dulebohn and Tiffany Scott, the defending national champions, bobbled and wobbled their way through the free skate so badly they dropped to third, and are likely off the world team.

As for Weir, he is leading thanks to his strong "Valse Trise" routine and stumbles by Olympic bronze medalist Tim Goebel and defending champion Michael Weiss, who are 10th and fourth, respectively. Matt Savoie is second and Evan Lysacek is third.

Last night, the field thinned as Goebel withdrew from the competition, citing an unspecified medical problem. A foot ailment had hindered him all year.

A doctor who examined Goebel yesterday found "distinct changes to my anatomical structure," the skater said in a statement. "I have decided that I can no longer compete this season in the shape that I am currently in."

Weir, whose marks ranged from 4.9 to 5.7 for required elements and 5.0 to 5.8 for presentation, addressed the pratfalls suffered by the likes of Goebel in round one, saying: "Regardless of who people expected to be in the top three, it's a sport and people mess up, obviously."


As for the women, Cohen, delighted by her new collaboration with coach Robin Wagner, performed an engaging short program to "Malaguena" Thursday and led after the first phase of the women's competition.

"I've had a lot of joy brought back to my skating, a lot of the joy I had when I was 8 years old and sliding around on the ice," Cohen said.

Kwan, vying for a record seventh consecutive title and eighth overall, finished with an expression of grim acceptance. She over-rotated the landing of her first jump, a required double axel, and lost 10ths off her required element marks, which were four 5.6s (out of 6.0), four 5.7s and one 5.8. She got one first-place vote and is second going into today's long program.

Meanwhile, Nancy Kerrigan, the skater who was whacked on the knee by associates of a rival skater, Tonya Harding, 10 years ago, was to be inducted into U.S. Figure Skating's Hall of Fame last night.

U.S. Figure Skating


4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

today (Ch. 6)

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