Lysacek wins his first national title
By NANCY ARMOUR, AP National Writer
Sun Jan 28, 3:27 AM ET
SPOKANE, Wash. - Evan Lysacek dropped to his knees and knelt on the ice, shaking his head in wonder as the audience roared and stuffed animals rained down around him. That national title he'd wanted so badly for so many years was finally his.
Lysacek skated the performance of a lifetime at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday, overwhelming three-time champion Johnny Weir and everybody else.
He won the title with his first jump, a quad-triple combination, then spent the next four minutes reminding everybody how spectacular skating can be when it's done right.
"That was something," he said. "It's hard to put into words how much I wanted to win this title."
Lysacek finished with 248.88 points, winning by almost 30 points. Weir, who had the misfortune of skating after Lysacek, looked dull for what might be the first time in his life. He fell on one jump, popped another and by the end of the night, had tumbled all the way to third.
He finished with 213.20 points, six points behind surprising Ryan Bradley. It was the first time since 1935 that a three-time champion been dethroned.
"Well, he beat me by 30 points," Weir said. "He didn't just beat me, he kicked my (butt)."
Lysacek made no secret this week of how badly he wanted to be the national champion. He won bronze medals at the last two world championships and finished ahead of Weir at the Olympics.
But it was Weir who won the last three U.S. titles, and those come with bragging rights topped only by Olympic gold or a world title.
Lysacek is normally a happy-go-lucky guy, but he was deadly serious Saturday, the perfect match for his slicked-back hair, all-black outfit and "Carmen" program.
"I tried to totally shut down my brain," he said. "I was trying not to think about winning, because that's kind of a curse."
His first element was the quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination, a trick he'd only tried once before and hadn't landed cleanly. This time, it was perfect.
As his blade touched the ice after the second jump, Lysacek looked skyward, his face etched with relief. All he had to do was stand up, and he'd win.
"I knew the biggest thing he was concerned about was over," said his coach, Frank Carroll, who stood by the boards clutching a medal he'd gotten from his former coach, Maribel Vinson.
The title meant too much to Lysacek, though, and he wasn't about to mail in the rest of the program. His program was loaded with technical difficulty, eight triples in addition to the quad. He skated as much with his heart as his feet, his every landing solid, his every step sure, his every spin dazzling. There was no wasted movement, no fluff.
The audience was on its feet with 10 seconds left. When Lysacek punctuated the last note of the music with a punch of his fist, the fans roared their approval. He dropped to his knees and stayed there for 20 seconds, soaking it all in.
"You don't dethrone (champions) in skating by hesitating," Lysacek said. "You go out and fight with passion."
When he got up, he pumped his fists, clapped his hands and tried to make eye contact with every person cheering for him. Enough stuffed animals to open a toy store covered the ice, and Lysacek bowed several times before skating off. When he saw his marks, he leapt to his feet and saluted the crowd again.
All the while, Weir, who was up next, was skating around the ice, trying to keep his focus.
It was impossible to do.
"Very, very difficult to go after that," Weir said. "I heard 90-something for the (technical) score, and I had never heard that before. I thought, `What did he just do?'"
The landing of Weir's opening triple axel was shaky and he two-footed his attempt at a quad. He fell down on a triple loop and popped a triple axel into a single. He didn't do a triple-triple combination.
Even more disappointing was his demeanor. Weir is one of the most lyrical, expressive skaters in the world, someone who can make tracings look artistic. But he seemed almost disinterested. Or maybe he just knew he'd been beaten.
"A bronze in the U.S. nationals isn't too shabby," Weir said. "When you compare it to a U.S. title, it's a little disappointing."
While Lysacek and Weir have programs that can match up with the best in the world, Bradley is all about entertainment. And the fans couldn't get enough, screaming like he was the second coming of Elvis.
He did do seven triples, including a triple axel-triple toe combo, but he didn't even try a quad and speed wasn't his strong point.