As program's final notes die away, Weiss plans to be alive in nationals

Third U.S. title his target, then an Olympic medal

Figure Skating

January 09, 2002|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

LOS ANGELES - Michael Weiss was certain he wanted to skate his long program to music by Puccini during this Olympic season.

But he was just as certain he didn't want to finish up like Mimi, Tosca, Madame Butterfly or any other tragic character from one of the Italian's famed operas.

"We've been focusing on not only do I not die at the end, but I build," said Weiss, who hopes to win his third national title this week in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Weiss is concentrating on consistent effort. He hopes to skate with as much speed and enthusiasm at the end of his program as at the beginning.

Speaking of big finishes, these next few months cold be the conclusion of competitive skating for Weiss. He's 25, married with two toddlers and will undoubtedly have a profitable future on the touring circuit.

But for the moment, he just wants to make the Olympic team, preferably by taking gold here. Then ...

"At the Olympic Games, my goal has to be to put together two ultimate performances, two of the best in my life," he said. "Whether I'm first, second or third - which I think I would be with two great programs - I'll be satisfied.

"You learn to base your success on your skating, not on your results. I think I had the best program I've ever skated and I finished second at the 1998 nationals."

Weiss went on and finished seventh a month later in the Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Then in both 1999 and 2000, he won the U.S. title and was third in the world championships.

But in 2001 a series of injuries, including a sore back and a stress fracture in his left foot, cut down on his training time. He was fourth in the nationals after a free skate he'd like to forget and didn't make the world team.

He considers all that to actually be good fortune.

"I think if I would have won a third U.S. title in a row, I'd have been way too cocky," he said.

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