Johnny Weir finds excuses, but no inspiration
CLEVELAND -- Seconds after Johnny Weir said he disliked the notion of ailing or injured skaters petitioning for a place on teams for which they didn't qualify, he begged to be considered for the world team despite two poor performances at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Weir, seventh after a terrible short program, improvised a long program Sunday in which he did a single axel instead of a planned quad toe-triple toe combination, doubled a planned triple loop, and fell on a triple flip. He was first after the third group, with the last group composed of the skaters ranked first through sixth after the short program.
Weir, a three-time U.S. champion, again blamed his weakness and lack of preparation on an illness that struck him over Christmas after he flew to Korea to skate in a charity show with Kim Yu-Na. Only a few weeks earlier, he had flown to Tokyo to compete in the Grand Prix final, where he finished third.
Reminded that Michael Jordan had famously played Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals for the Chicago Bulls despite a bad case of flu, Weir said there were no parallels between his situation and Jordan's.
"Michael Jordan has an entire team of people around him. I'm a single skinny, sparkly boy standing in the middle of the ice all by myself," Weir said. "Michael Jordan has the luxury of having that team, having that big forum. I see no comparison."
The U.S. men's delegation for the world championships -- to be held in March at Staples Center -- will be selected Sunday night. These world championships are especially important because the results will determine the number of entries each country will have at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
"It's hard for me to respect when people do that," he said of petitioning for a place on the world team. "I think you should fight for your place on the team. But at the same time, and not to sound like I'm double-dipping, but I hope the committee that selects the world team can look back and see what I did last season and what I've done this season. I've already pushed through sickness during events and skating problems."
He cited his accomplishment as the only U.S. man to win three medals on the Grand Prix circuit this season and his No. 4 ranking in the world. "I hope the federation and the committee will ... not overlook but understand my circumstances," he said.
Here's hoping they don't.
What do you say to skaters who performed better than Weir did, despite their own injuries or illnesses? It would make a mockery of the U.S. championships and discourage lower-ranked skaters from bothering to prepare properly. Why should they, if someone who isn't prepared can beg to circumvent the rules and get his wish granted?
-- Helene Elliott
Photo: Johnny Weir falls to the ice after missing a jump during his free skate Sunday at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland. Credit: Tony Dejak / Associated Press