Posted: Thursday February 16, 2006 8:02PM; Updated: Friday February 17, 2006 10:15AM
Johnny Weir wasn't the top U.S. finisher, something he partly blamed on a late bus.
David E. Klutho/SI
People who didn't like him, Johnny told Brian Cazeneuve of Sports Illustrated, "generally are very stodgy and set in their ways and very red-state-ish," while the people who were his fans were "a blue-state crowd and may have little eccentricities." He grew up in Amish country and learned to jump in ice patches in the cornfields behind his house. He studied Kabbalah before even Madonna studied Kabbalah. He watched Desperate Housewives and The Simple Life with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, and his favorite musician was Christina Aguilera.
It was, for a few wondrous days, Johnny's world, and we were just living in it.
Then came last night, and Johnny's world collapsed. The bus schedule was changed, or perhaps he misread it, but the result was that he arrived at the arena about 20 minutes later than he'd have liked.
"I never caught up with myself," he explained after skating a bizarre free program that started well with a beautiful triple axel-triple toe loop combination and quickly went downhill from there. He doubled a planned triple axel, balked at a planned triple flip and seemed to be aimlessly making things up as he went along. Actually, he was making things up as he went along.
"The changes were on the fly," he explained. "I didn't get comfortable tonight. I'm pissed. I'm teed off. During warmups the crowd was amazing. I heard cowbells and all the different languages yelling things, and I didn't feel my inner peace. My biorhythms were off. My aura wasn't white. It was dark inside."
So the lights were turned out after all. Inside Johnny Weir. Oh, woe is me! The angst! The unfortunate point tally was good for a sixth-place in the free skate -- teammate Matt Savoie had the fifth-best free skate on the night, while Evan Lysacek, the other American, was third in the long -- dropping the flamboyant Weir off the podium and into fifth place overall. Lysacek, who'd finished 10th in the short, came all the way up to finish fourth, while Savoie finished a creditable seventh.
Any of the three Americans could have claimed the bronze, which was won by Canada's Jeffrey Buttle, if they'd put two programs together. Weir, 21, or Lysacek, 20, had the talent to take silver. But Lysacek collapsed under the pressure of the short, and Weir under the pressure of the long. Both are young enough to come back in four years and give it another try. The bad news for them -- and everyone else -- is that so is Plushenko.
"Why I should retire?" Plushenko asked the media horde, his gold medal hanging around his neck. "I'm 23 years old. Next Olympic Games I'll be 27. Not old."