January 14, 2006

Flashy Weir earns third US title and Olympic berth

By Steve Keating

ST LOUIS (Reuters) - Johnny Weir captured his third
consecutive U.S. men's title on Saturday to secure an Olympic
berth, but veterans Michael Weiss and Timothy Goebel will not
be joining him at next month's Turin Games.

While Weir was not at his best during the free skate and
only returned the third best score, the flashy skater did just
enough to defend his crown and secure a trip to his first
Olympics with a mark of 225.34.

Joining Weir on the podium and on the plane to Turin are
20-year-old Evan Lysacek, who took the silver with a mark of
224.47, and unheralded journeyman Matthew Savoie, third with

The results signal a changing of the guard in U.S. men's
figures with all three making their first Olympic appearance.

"It's going to be fun, I'm going to have a good time," Weir
told reporters.

"This is something I have dreamed about and something I
have always wanted throughout my career.

"There are no words to describe the different emotions
inside me right now.

"For now it is just pride, I get to represent my country
and walk in the opening ceremonies.

"My mom is getting drunk already and my dad is sitting at
home with dog and watching it on TV."


While Weir heads to Italy, Goebel, the bronze medallist at
the 2002 Winter Games and Weiss, a two-time Olympian, will
remain home to ponder uncertain futures.

Weiss was philosophical about his fourth place finish
saying he would take some time to decide whether he would
continue in the sport.

A crushed Goebel, however, was left in tears after placing
fifth and failing to qualify for a third Winter Games.

Sitting fourth after a poor short program, Goebel stepped
onto the Savvis Center ice in need of a brilliant free skate to
vault back into Olympic contention.

But a stumble on his quadruple toe loop and a messy
combination ended the 25-year-old's Olympic dreams.

"I don't understand what's wrong," a stunned Goebel told
reporters as he fought unsuccessfully to hold back tears.

"Physically I'm better than I have been in awhile,
everything has been fine... I just don't understand.

"I just wasted four years of my life, I don't know what I
will do now."

The colorful Weir, whose outfits are often as outrageous as
his comments, is almost certain to draw attention on and off
the ice in Turin.

The flamboyant skater drew fire from U.S. Figure Skating
officials on Thursday for drug and alcohol references he made
following his short program when he compared one skater's
fast-paced routine to a shot of vodka and snorting cocaine and
his more laid back performance to cognac and cigarettes.

"I'm me, I don't put on a face," said Weir, the 2001 world
junior champion.

"I don't make statements I don't mean. I mean every word."