ST. LOUIS - Johnny Weir, twotime national figure skating champion, knows how to make an exit. A day before the U.S. Championships begin with today’s men’s and ladies’ short programs, Weir wound up a news conference by wrapping a stylish boa around his neck and making a request Tuesday. A fan, he was told, just showed him her tattoo — his name scripted on her ankle. “If anyone of you can find out if any other skater has had a tattooed signature on somebody,” Weir called out before exiting, “I’d really appreciate it.” If Weir, 21, wasn’t so selfdeprecating, he could be pegged the court jester of figure skating, the flamboyant joker revealing truths amid the titters. Truth is, when Weir is good, he is very good. A third straight title would put Weir in elite company. He’d be the only skater to accomplish the feat since 1988 Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano, who won four straight (1985-88). A win means Weir would make his first trip to the Olympics. Weir, from Quarryville, Pa., tried ice skating at 11 on his parents’ frozen cornfield. He lists Oksana Baiul as his idol, loves his “Johnny time” when he can hang with friends and shop, and is expected to skate today’s short program wearing a “sexy swan” costume specially designed to fit the music. “People in skating are too uptight,” said 2002 Olympic bronze medalist Tim Goebel. “He’s got such a great outlook.” Weir has needed it this year to fight through injuries and undisclosed personal problems. He said he let his off-ice problems affect his skating. After finishing fourth at the 2005 world championships on an injured foot that required painkilling injections, he was fourth in a U.S. proam, sprained an ankle and was seventh at Skate Canada, an international event, and placed a distant third at the Cup of Russia, another Grand Prix. “It’s difficult to balance” life and work, Weir said, “especially when you’re in the public eye.” He said his coping with personal distress is a necessary part of being an adult. “Britney Spears, I can see her carrying teddy bears around until she’s 80 because she’s never had a chance to grow up,” he said. He had to redo his short and long programs when judges told him they weren’t up to par. At the beginning of a new season, coaches frequently invite judges to review skaters’ programs and see if elements like jumps and spins meet criteria. Said coach Priscill Hill: “He had about a week and a half before he had to compete it for the first time.” “Obviously it hasn’t been for the good of my season so far,” Weir said. “Hopefully I’ll turn it around here.” You never know what you’re going to get from Weir. But he’s talented enough to draw fans, and at prompt least one tattoo. When Weir skates “I’m never sure what exactly’s going to happen,” said TV commentator and former Olympic pairs champion Peter Carruthers, “but I’m interested.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0259 or firstname.lastname@example.org HANDICAPPING THE FIELD Who: Sasha Cohen, 21 Pros: Finished second to Michelle Kwan four times here. Now that Kwan’s out, she’s the natural choice. Cons: If it’s not the short, it’s the long — has trouble skating two good programs back-to-back. Intangibles: Had the flu. Back with coach John Nicks, and moved back home to California. Who: Alissa Czisny, 18 Pros: New judging system suits her spins, style and footwork. Cons: Jumps need work, has competed a lot this fall. Intangibles: She’s 18 but inexperienced on big stage. Who: Kimmie Meissner, 16 Pros: Third at breakthrough 2005 nationals. Cons: At 16, might need some seasoning. Intangibles: Confidence from being credited with first triple axel in competition since Tonya Harding in 1991. Who: Johnny Weir, 21 Pros: Two-time national champion knows how to pull it off. Cons: No quad. Injuries and emotional upheaval (hasn’t given details) resulted in poor season so far. Intangibles: Fluid style and athleticism can make up for mistakes. Who: Evan Lysacek, 20 Pros: 2005 world bronze medalist. Cons: Hip injury forced withdrawl from Grand Prix final, dumped “Grease” for “Carmen” late. Intangibles: Bubbly persona translates to appealing program. Who: Tim Goebel, 25 Pros: 2002 Olympic bronze medalist said he’s healthier than he’s been since 2003. Cons: Coaching changes, injuries. Intangibles: Last go-round. Retiring after season.
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