Quadruple jumper Weiss has his feet firmly on ground

Wife, baby girl sweeten joy of U.S. title, 3rd in worlds

April 09, 1999|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Michael Weiss is talking on the phone as he zooms along Interstate 95 in his Dodge Viper with its 450-horsepower engine.

The goateed figure skater, who became the U.S. champion in February and the bronze-medal winner at the world championships last month, has just been asked what moment in his life has been most special.

There is a slight pause.

"A lot of people would think it would be something that happened on the ice," said Weiss, 22. "But, for me, it's something that happened after I was finished skating.

"At Salt Lake, I won my first U.S. title, then I went out for the awards ceremony and took my 6-month-old daughter, Annie Mae, with me. I held her over my head and skated around the rink. It was very, very special.

"My life is so intertwined. The birth of my daughter, and marriage to my wife, my skating. There are so many things I enjoy in life."

Having a rare opportunity to skate near home will likely be one of those things. It happens tonight at the Baltimore Arena, when Weiss appears in the John Hancock Champions on Ice 1999 Summer Tour, the first stop in a 45-city tour.

"I grew up in Silver Spring," said Weiss, who now lives in Fairfax, Va. "I've created a strong fan base here. Many of them come to watch me skate in practice, and I see this as a payback for them, a chance for me to let them see me skate a real program in person."

Tonight, Weiss will be joined by a distinguished cast that includes world champion and Olympic silver medalist Michelle Kwan; world champion Todd Eldredge; Olympic champions Brian Boitano, Oksana Baiul, and Victor Petrenko; U.S. champions Rudy Galindo and Nicole Bobek; and U.S. dance champions Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow, among others.

"I'm not very good at watching skating," he admitted. "But I'll be watching this, because this show allows us to be more personal. Instead of doing my world routines, I'll be doing a humorous, fun program to a medley of music by K.C. and the Sunshine Band."

In the stands will be his wife, Lisa Thornton, who choreographs half of his programs, including this one, and Annie Mae, who accompanies her parents to most events.

With all the excitement that surrounds becoming a new father, it might have been expected that Weiss' concentration would slip this year. But it seems just the opposite has happened.

On March 25 in Helsinki, Weiss emerged as the surprise winner of the bronze, and skating experts began calling him "America's brightest new male star."

"It's a lot of pressure," Weiss said. "This year I looked at practice, each competition, as if it was a steppingstone to the worlds. I needed to focus, and I have."

Ten years ago, the favored veterans would win the medals despite falls.

But now, says Weiss, competition is so deep in the men's event, even favorites have to perform near-perfect routines to stay on top.

"At the worlds, I've been improving every year -- eighth, seventh, sixth," Weiss said. "So when the opportunity came, I was able to skate a strong program and be rewarded."

When three-time world champion Elvis Stojko of Canada faltered and opened the door for someone else to come through, Weiss made the move. And the move was an exhilarating quadruple jump followed by seven triples.

For Weiss, completing the quad brought as much relief as joy. In both the 1997 and 1998 nationals, Weiss had a quad disallowed after reviews by instant replay.

"This time, when I landed I knew it was good," he said.

A versatile performer, the 5-foot-8, 160-pound Weiss says the audience should look for him to do back flips and other "dangerous" stunts not allowed in competition.

"I guess if I have a motto, it would be `Go for it,' " he said. "I've never been one to hold anything back. And if I have a philosophy, it's that family is important. My parents supported me in everything I tried to do and I plan to do the same for my kids."

Kids?

Yes. The Weisses are hoping for two more, and Annie Mae's dad guesses he'll be retired from skating in 10 years and driving the carpool.

Probably in something other than that Dodge Viper.

Champions on Ice

What: Figure skating exhibition

Where: Baltimore Arena

When: Tonight, 8

Tickets: Available at Ticketmaster outlets, the Arena box office and by charge by calling 410-727-7811

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