PORTLAND — On the outside, Johnny Weir was the picture of composed confidence. On the inside, he was all butterflies.
Weir overcame the jitters and defended his title Saturday at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships with a free skate that earned him five 6.0s for presentation.
“As much as I didn’t think it would affect me, it is harder coming in as the defending champion,” he said. “I’m just completely floored and thrilled and anything possible good because I was able to harness my nerves.”
Skating to the music “Otonal,” Weir demonstrated a full range of perfectly executed triple jumps, although he will admittedly need to include a quadruple jump to medal at worlds.
“A quad is a very big part of men’s skating today and I do realize I’ll need one,” he said. “I’ll put it in when I’m ready to.”
Timothy Goebel, a fan favorite after his emotionally charged short program, finished second and Evan Lysacek was third.
Weir landed all of his jumps with lightness and ease. His scores ranged from 5.8s and 5.9s for technical prowess, as well as the five perfect scores for artistry.
It was the most perfect scores at nationals among the men since Brian Boitano had eight 6.0s for artistry in 1988. Weir received one 6.0 for artistry in his free skate last year at nationals.
“Sixes are great. They’re very cool. But you know, as far as the artistic side of the program, I know I have skated it better in the past,” he said. “If the judges wanted to give me 6.0s, that was their choice and I’m down with that.”
Perfect scores will likely be history after nationals. The International Skating Union has adopted a points-based marking system and U.S. Figure Skating plans to follow suit, making this the last major competition with the century-old 6.0 scoring system.
Weir was the first repeat national champion since Michael Weiss in 1999 and 2000.
“It was so much pressure and so difficult to wait backstage,” Weir said. “I was thinking of how hard I trained for this and how I didn’t want it to go to waste. That’s what pushed me through.”
Goebel was deliberate and reserved for his free skate to an orchestral arrangement of Queen songs, but showed vast improvement in his artistry and edge quality from previous years.
The 2002 Olympic bronze medalist and two-time world silver medalist appeared to land a quadruple toe loop jump in a combination, but replays showed he two-footed it. None of the men successfully landed a quadruple jump in the free skate.
Goebel also stepped out of his first triple axel and turned between a triple axel-double toe combination.
“In the past, once the jumps went, the program went as well. I think that was a big step for me,” he said.
Goebel burst into tears after his first-place short program Thursday night, the day after the mother of close friend and two-time U.S. bronze medalist Angela Nikodinov was killed in a car accident on the way to the competition.
Nikodinov withdrew from the event, but watched the men’s free skate from a private suite after making a brief statement thanking the skating community and the fans for their support.
“She’s really had a rough week, but I know she’s comforted by the fact that so many people care so much for her and are comforting her,” Goebel said.
Lysacek won his first medal at nationals as a senior. Weir, Goebel and Lysacek will represent the United States at the world championships in Moscow in March. Weiss, the three-time national champion, finished fifth.
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