Eldredge Lands 5th National Title; Weiss Takes 2nd
By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 9, 1998; Page C1
Eldredge edged Fairfax's Michael Weiss, who almost became the first skater to land a quadruple Lutz in competition. Weiss completed four rotations but two-footed his landing. His performance was enough to secure him a place, along with Eldredge, on the U.S. Olympic team.
Weiss, 21, will not be the first member of his family to compete in an Olympics in Japan. This February's Games take place in Nagano. Weiss's father, Greg, competed in the 1964 Games in Tokyo as a gymnast.
"It means so much, especially to go back to the same country my dad went to in '64," Weiss said. "To represent a U.S. team like this, it couldn't be any better."
Eldredge won seven of nine first-place votes. Weiss managed two. Eldredge, contrary to statements he had made all week, also attempted a quadruple jump. He fell, however, on his toe loop attempt. Eldredge also fell on a practice attempt of the quadruple during the warmup period.
"I was inches away from landing that quad," Eldredge said. "I was happy to give it a try. I rallied with a good program after."
Weiss's performance, which contained no major flubs, was so solid that his coach, Audrey Weisiger, broke down in tears as she watched.
"I didn't see Todd skate, but from the way the audience reacted, they obviously thought I should have won," Weiss said. After all of his marks were posted, "that triggered boos from the audience. That's a great feeling."
Weiss, skating to Beethoven's piano sonata "Egmont Overture," clenched his fist in glee as soon as he came out of his quadruple attempt. To the naked eye, it was unclear whether he had two-footed it. He was attempting to become the first American to land a quadruple in competition.
"Nobody has even tried a quad Lutz before," Weiss said. "To go out and land it like that, one foot or two feet or four feet, nobody has ever done that before."
Eldredge also won U.S. titles in 1997, '95, '91, and '90. But although he was the world champion in 1996 and second to Canada's Elvis Stojko last year, Eldredge never has won an Olympic medal.
In 1994, he failed to make the U.S. Olympic team after coming down with a virus and finishing fourth at the U.S. championships. In 1992, a back injury kept him from competing at nationals, but he was given an Olympic team spot anyway. He finished 10th.
"At least this time, I made it the right way I didn't have to get a bye," Eldredge said.
Weiss was second to Eldredge after Tuesday's short program, despite having executed his first mistake-free short program at nationals in five consecutive years. Tonight, Weiss skated last of 17 skaters. Eldredge skated 15th.
Fort Washington skater Derrick Delmore, 19, the world junior champion, finished in fifth place. Scott Davis, a two-time national champion, was third, and Shepherd W. Clark, fourth.
The long program accounts for two-thirds of the total score and places more of an emphasis on artistry than does the short program. Automatic point deductions are given if certain required technical elements are skipped or performed poorly in the short program.
Weiss had a reason for confidence entering tonight. Though he lacks Eldredge's long and impressive international resume, he nearly upset Eldredge at last year's U.S. nationals despite being in fourth place after the short program.
At those championships, Weiss executed what appeared even to the judges to be a clean quadruple toe loop. Replays later revealed that Weiss two-footed it, meaning the jump didn't stand in the record books. His scores, however, did stand, and he finished first in the long program. Overall, he finished just behind Eldredge in second place.
Eldredge, 26, only recently recovered fully from a separated shoulder he suffered before competing in the long program at Skate America in November. Despite the injury, Eldredge maintained first place in that competition, but had problems in later events. Compensating for the injured shoulder caused him to aggravate his ribs. It wasn't until mid-December, Eldredge said, that he felt healthy again.
Throughout this week, Eldredge denied that he would try a quadruple in competition here, arguing that it wasn't necessary at the elite level of men's skating, even though many skaters have included them in their repertoires.
But Eldredge wordlessly worked on his footwork for the jump about 30 minutes before taking the ice. He was determined to prove that he could do the jump and he had nothing to lose, as he was all but assured an Olympic team spot.
"I hope we can go there and both skate as well as we did here and maybe a little bit better."
Weiss, who attended W.T. Woodson High, has become known in the figure skating world as something of a rebel. Last year, at the U.S. championships in Nashville, he wore a tie-dyed shirt and skated to music by the rock group Santana. He is a devotee of weightlifting, uncommon in his sport.
Weiss claims that his overall strength keeps him injury-free and allows his body to absorb the pounding caused by practicing difficult jumps.
Davis, 25, won U.S. titles in 1993 and 1994 but has had countless difficulties in recent years. He has earned a reputation for committing critical mistakes at major competitions, including the 1994 Olympic Games. He finished eighth there after falling a number of times in both his short and long program.
Tonight, he fell on his first triple-triple combination attempt, but otherwise skated a clean program.
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