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FIGURE SKATING

Weir leads Lysacek in men's competition

January 26, 2008|Philip Hersh | Special to The Times

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Johnny Weir knew what Evan Lysacek would be going through.

When Lysacek found out, he was left with immense respect for Weir.

They could not be more different as people and skaters, but now they have a common bond few others can claim.

"I hope Evan can get over the nerves of trying to repeat as national champion," Weir said after he finished his short program Friday night at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. "I've had to deal with it, and it's hard."

Much harder, it turned out, than reigning champion Lysacek ever could have imagined.

He was frazzled all day. He fell hard twice on quadruple jump attempts in the warmup. He was shaking while getting ready to take the ice 10 minutes after Weir.

"I hopes he makes it interesting and throws all his cards on the table and skates well," said Weir, champion from 2004 through 2006.

Lysacek did all that, somehow staying upright with a two-footed landing on the quad that opened his combination and skating well -- but not quite as well as Weir, who gained a slim lead going into Sunday's free skate final.

"Amazing props for Johnny," Lysacek said. "I don't know how he has done this three times. I'm learning it's extremely tough coming in as the champion instead of the challenger."

Lysacek, who scored 82.05 to Weir's 83.40, needs to go after the title the way he did a year ago, turning a small short-program lead into a rout with one of the most dazzling free skates in national meet history.

"I'm going to try and be more relaxed Sunday," Lysacek said.

Reigning world junior champion Stephen Carriere was third (76.66).

--

Philip Hersh covers Olympic sports for The Times and the Chicago Tribune.

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