Eldredge and Weiss gain berths Weiss misses on attempt at quad Lutz

videotape shows jump two-footed

January 09, 1998|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- Michael Weiss made history and stole the spotlight last night here at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. But he didn't quite land his biggest jump or his biggest prize.

Weiss became the first male skater to attempt a quad Lutz at a major championship and, just as he did on his quad toe loop at last year's nationals, narrowly missed making a clean jump.

This time, videotape replays weren't needed to see that Weiss two-footed the jump. But they were used anyway to just make sure. Even Weiss knew it.

"I knew it was flawed," Weiss said after finishing his long program at the CoreStates Center and finishing second to Todd Eldredge overall. "I knew it was close. My other foot touched the ice."

Weiss, 21, also later missed on one of his combination jumps. Though his scores were booed by the crowd, Weiss was diplomatic about the judging and complimentary of Eldredge.

And why not?

While Eldredge was winning his fifth U.S. championship -- equaling a record set by Dick Button in 1952 -- Weiss had secured his first Olympic invitation.

Eldredge and Weiss will represent the United States next month Nagano, Japan.

"I came very close to getting the national championship," said Weiss, who finished second behind Eldredge at the nationals for the second straight year. "Todd is a five-time champion. He's a tremendous athlete."

Asked about being an Olympian, Weiss said, "It feels great to be going back to the same country my Dad was in. [Greg Weiss was a gymnast at the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo.]"

Weiss' attempt at a quad Lutz came in the first 45 seconds of his five-minute program. After completing the four revolutions, his touchdown to the ice touched off a roar from the crowd. Most believed he had landed it cleanly.

But even from his seat close to the ice, chief referee Dick Fitzpatrick knew Weiss had double-footed the jump.

"It was an absolutely excellent attempt but you could see snow come from the area of the second foot," said Fitzpatrick. "The program itself was tremendous."

Fitzpatrick said that considering its historic significance, he checked the videotape just to confirm what he believed all along. Weiss wound up receiving five 5.8s and four 5.9s for technical merit and four 5.7s, two 5.8s and two 5.9s for presentation.

It was not enough to beat Eldredge, who fell on a previously unscheduled quad toe loop at the beginning of his long program but wound up hitting six other triple jumps. With the victory, Eldredge will now go to Nagano with his confidence renewed and his status as his country's top male medal hope secure.

"I've had a tough year, but I think I'm in pretty good shape going into the Olympics," said Eldredge, 26.

Asked if he added a quad to his program in preparation for what he might face in Japan, both from foreign competition as well as from Weiss, Eldredge said, "It was more a personal thing. I just wanted to see if I could do it."

Eldredge watched to see if Weiss landed his quad Lutz, considered a much more difficult jump than the quad toe.

"Anyone who tries a quad, it's a great effort," said Eldredge. "He came really close."

NOTE: Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow closed in on their fifth national title yesterday, adding the original dance to their victory in compulsories. They figure to capture their third straight championship tomorrow in the free dance. Punsalan and Swallow could equal the U.S. record of five crowns. Judy Schwomeyer and James Sladky (1968-72) and Judy Blumberg and Michael Seibert (1981-85) also did it, but consecutively. Punsalan-Swallow won in 1991, '94 and the last two years.

Pub Date: 1/09/98

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