Todd Eldredge went conservative and got another championship. Michael Weiss went for U.S. history, and got it with a quad - for about an hour.
While Eldredge played it safe Saturday, he still won his fourth title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. He joins some of the elite of American skating - Dick Button, Hayes Jenkins, David Jenkins, Scott Hamilton and Brian Boitano - with at least four crowns.
One thing Eldredge never has done, however, is land a quad, a four-revolution jump that is increasingly becoming a factor in men’s skating. No American had done it in competition until Weiss appeared to nail his quadruple toe loop as the second jump of the final program in the free skate.
“That’s what everybody was saying,” Weiss, 20, of Fairfax, Va., said of being the first American to do the quad. “I didn’t even know it.”
A little while later, it was as if it never happened. After viewing a videotape of the jump, Nancy Bizzano, the referee for the men’s event, said Weiss did not make a clean one-footed landing. The U.S. Figure Skating Association said it would not give Weiss credit for a quad, even though the judges appeared to have done so with their marks.
“As far as I know, I landed it,” said Weiss, who was tracked down outside the arena and did not know of Bizzano’s decision. “As far as everybody else saw, I skated great.
“I don’t know whether it’s true or not. I don’t know what they said.”
Weiss’ father, Greg, said he wanted to look at the videotape to see why his son’s jump was not recognized.
After the monstrous jump, Weiss kept right on going. The sharp guitar riffs of Carlos Santana punctuated each of his leaps, including two massive triple axels, one in combination, and two triple lutzes, one in a jump series.
“I wanted to keep my composure,” he said. “There are a lot of other jumps left in the rest of the program.
“There was never really a doubt if I was going to go for it. I have been training very hard and was pretty consistent with it.”
When Weiss was done, the crowd rose in unison with a loud, long ovation. He punched the air in celebration, then skated off to hug coach Audrey Weisiger, who was in tears. They didn’t say a word to each other, and then they watched his marks.
The marks were superb for technical merit, with six 5.9s. He also had four 5.9s for presentation, and that was enough to give him second place, just behind Eldredge, in the free skate, worth two-thirds of the total score.
Eldredge, the current world champion who won nationals in 1990, ‘91 and ‘95, finished first with five judges to four for Weiss, who soared from fifth after the short program to second overall. The difference was one-tenth of a point in presentation from one judge.
The first quads landed in competition were by Josef Sabovcik of then-Czechoslovakia, at the 1984 Europeans and Olympics. But International Skating Union officials never gave credit for them.
The first official quad was by Kurt Browning of Canada at the 1988 world championships.
The third spot for next month’s world championships went to Dan Hollander, who rallied to edge former two-time U.S. champion Scott Davis, who was fourth for the second straight year. Hollander was 10th at last year’s worlds.
For Eldredge, 25, it was not a particularly memorable performance. On both of his early combinations, he did a double toe at the end, rather than the triple he normally attempts. He also did a double flip instead of a triple, but threw in a triple toe near the end that might have made the difference.
“I thought I skated OK,” he said. “Obviously it could have been better. I could have done the two triple-triples, but it just didn’t feel quite right today.”
Later Saturday, the women’s free skate was held, with world champion Michelle Kwan the heavy favorite.
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