Fit to be tied
Scoring anomaly spices up Lysacek-Weir U.S. rivalry
Posted: Sunday January 27, 2008 8:49PM; Updated: Sunday January 27, 2008 8:52PM
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Despite all the hue and cry surrounding figure skating's new scoring system, the one thing no one seemed to be worried about was whether it would lead to too many ties. After all, each of fourteen elements is marked to the hundredth decimal point. But on Sunday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, the least likely happened. Defending champion Evan Lysacek and former three-time champion Johnny Weir did the near impossible: they finished the competition with exactly 244.77 points each.
The tie was broken and the championship awarded to Lysacek because he outscored Weir in the long program 162.72 to 161.37. But the lingering feeling in the building was these two skaters were about as even as two peas in a pod. Albeit an odd pod, since they are stylistic opposites when they skate. The 22-year-old Lysacek is all sparks of energy, emotion and gangly strength. While the 23-year-old Weir tries to embody elegance, style and fragile grace. "It boils down to what you like best," says Lysacek's coach, Frank Carroll. "Pie or cake."
Neither slice was perfect on Sunday. Lysacek, who finished second to Weir in the short program, spun out between his quad toe-triple toe opening jump combination but still managed to land both. He then struggled to hold the landing of both his triple axel and triple salchow. It was an awkward start, but he righted the ship and finished strong with a straight-line step sequence that brought the crowd to its feet. Still, it was a performance that was eminently beatable.
Weir, skating last, wore another of his bifurcated black and white, rhinestone-studded costumes with plunging backline as he took the ice -- in his own words: "a sparkly onesie." He looked mah-velous. Weir let it be known after his winning short program that his favorite colored rhinestones are something called Chalk AB and that his overriding concern when selecting a costume is how it makes him feel. "I feel nice in it," he said of his outfit.
"I feel pretty in it; and that's all that matters as far as costumes go."
What athlete can't relate to that? Weir, who sometimes favors feather boas to accessorize his casual wear, sashays to the beat of his own drummer. He's true to himself. Asked about his rivalry with Lysacek, Weir said he respects him as a competitor but that he doesn't consider him a friend. "We don't sit around doing each other's hair," Weir explained.
No. Not like Brady and Manning. Too bad about that. But the point was, Johnny wanted his title back, and Lysacek stood in his way. He had a few final words with his stern Russian coach, Galina Zmievskaya, with whom he's been working this year, and glided to the center of the ice, the spotlight shimmering off his dyed jet-black hair.
His first move was a quad-toe, which he two-footed. Still, he tried it, which is unusual for Weir, who talks about the quad more often than he unleashes it. He followed that up with a fine triple axel-triple toe combination. A good triple lutz followed, then another triple axel, and it seemed at that point the title was Weir's. But the air slowly fizzled out of his program, and when he messed up the landing on his final triple flip and left out the double-toe loop that he'd planned at the back end of it, it left Weir in that tantalizing tie which enabled Lysacek to keep his crown.
"If you were scripting this deal you couldn't have done a better job," Lysacek said, freely admitting that he fought his nerves all week. "I was watching the X-Games last night and I learned that it isn't always perfect that wins. I had to fight for just about every jump tonight, but I stayed on my feet. We're trying such difficult stuff that there are rarely perfect programs. That's the name of the game right now -- fighting for every point you get."
Better make that: Every hundredth of a point.