Michael Weiss, 31

Figure skating, finished seventh in 1998 (Nagano, Japan) and 2002 (Salt Lake City).


You become really proud like, "Okay, I'm the best that America has." And I was extremely prepared and in great shape. But the day before I left for Nagano, I did a triple axel and fell right on my hip.

At practice, I couldn't do any of my jumps. It just hurt way too much. So we decided not to practice jumps. Everyone watching me practice [was] like, "What are you doing?" It was obvious I was hurt.

In the six-minute warm-up before the short program [at the Games], I decided I at least had to warm up the jumps. I realize now that was a mistake. After, it hurt like crazy. I missed the triple axel, which put me at 13th place.

Two days later, for the long program, I didn't warm up any of the jumps. I was going into it having done three or four jumps in the past 10 days. Normally, you'd do 40 or 50 a session. When I hit the triple axel-triple toe -- the hardest combination that guys were doing at that time -- I was like, "Wow, I can't believe I did it." The momentum just carried me through. Before I knew it, seven triple jumps later, I was finishing my program. It was just an amazing sense of pride.

In 2002, I made the team again and went to Salt Lake City. It's a random draw as to the order you skate. The person who drew for me drew first for the short program. It's the kiss of death. Unless you're the clear-cut favorite, your marks will always be lower than everyone else.

I tried to do what I could with the situation. The venue wasn't even full; people were still coming in while I was skating. I skated clean but got buried. People who skated later and made mistakes got higher marks. But, for the long program, I had a good draw. I did a quad toe-triple toe-double loop -- a combination jump where you do seven rotations in, like, under a second. It was the first time it had ever been performed at the Olympics. I nailed it, and the place went crazy. Within the last 20 seconds, there was a standing ovation. I pulled up to seventh place.

That was the most competitive men's competition I've ever seen. The top three men skated flawlessly; and out of the top 12 people, there were only maybe one or two mistakes. Just to be a part of that was pretty awesome. It's one of my favorite performances ever.

Fast Forward

In 2004, Weiss founded the Michael Weiss Foundation, which gives financial aid to aspiring skaters. He retired from amateur competition in 2006 and is now a professional skater.

PHOTOS: Current Photography by Keith Barraclough, 2002 Photograph by Mike Segar/Reuters; AUDIO: Whitney Shefte WEB EDITOR: Amanda McGrath - washingtonpost.com

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