Lysacek finally steps out of Weir's shadow -- and how
Posted: Sunday January 28, 2007 3:49PM; Updated: Monday January 29, 2007 1:10PM
The best performance, by far, by a skater at the U.S. Figure Skating championships this week was put on by the new men's champion, 21-year-old Evan Lysacek.
A two-time world bronze medalist, Lysacek, who finished fourth in last year's Olympics, had spent the last three years performing in the shadows of the flamboyant Johnny Weir at home. Weir had won the last three men's titles and in Spokane hoped to become the first American man since Brian Boitano to win four championships in a row. Lysacek, who'd beaten Weir the last three times they faced each other internationally, wanted to extend that dominance to the homefront.
It's a real rivalry, exacerbated by Weir's increasingly outlandish behavior. He recently did a photo shoot with a counterculture magazine called BlackBook in which Weir was photographed shirtless, wearing stiletto heels in one shot, and in another with a Marc Jacobs camisole half-draped across his chest. Men's skating has enough trouble with its image in this country without the three-time U.S. champion venturing into transvestite territory, but Weir poured gasoline on the fire by wearing silver loafers to his mid-week press conference and defending the photo shoot.
"It wasn't like I went into BlackBook and said, 'Oh my God, I want heels, I want fur, I want glitter, and I want to be made up totally like Amanda Lepore, he said. "I think the pictures are very interesting. They're not gaudy. They're not campy. They're just of me modeling clothes."
Actually, they were pretty campy. And they were women's clothes. But, hey, we're used to all types in the figure skating world, and scribes dutifully rushed to Google Amanda Lepore, who turns out to be the self-proclaimed No. 1 transsexual in America.
Lysacek, for some reason, seemed to take all this personally, and made it his mission to put the pants back on men's figure skating.
"If I have a chance to represent my sport, " he said, "I wouldn't take it lightly. I'd try to be the best athlete and representative I could be. What he does is his own business, and it's very different from the way I conduct myself. But I think our sport promotes individuality. We're free to be whoever we are."
Game on. Thursday's short program did little to separate the two top American men, as both Lysacek and Weir skated clean programs. Lysacek had better jumps, Weir had better footwork. When the judges scores were all tabulated Lysacek had a slim lead of .85. Still, it was a confidence-builder for the native of Naperville, Ill., since Lysacek had a history of falling so far behind in the short program that he couldn't catch up in the long.
On Saturday, because ABC/ESPN didn't want to show the men in prime time, Lysacek didn't take the ice until 9:30 local time, which was 12:30 a.m. in the East. Bad decision, that, because he put on a show for the ages, one of the most dynamic skating performances ever by an American man.
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