CLEVELAND _ Michael Weiss is the Artist currently

Associated Press Published:

CLEVELAND _ Michael Weiss is the Artist currently known as the Champion.

Let human pogo stick Timothy Goebel make history with his three quadruple jumps. Weiss got the title that matters Saturday night in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, looking almost majestic with a flowing, expressive program that earned him one 6.0 for artistry.

"I've been on both sides," said Weiss, who won his second straight U.S. title. "I was there against Todd Eldredge when I came out and I was trying quads, but he won.

"The judges have shown there's a need to skate a solid program," he said. "I went back and worked on that, and I made sure I perfected it."

One judge agreed, awarding Weiss his first-ever perfect 6.0. When the mark flashed across the scoreboard, he gasped. His wife, Lisa, jumped up and down. The crowd, which had already been on its feet for hometown favorite Goebel, rose again and started screaming.

"That was amazing," Weiss said. "I'll cherish it for the rest of my life. It was the first one I've ever received and I hope to get more in the future. It was very special to me. It just proves we've been pushing in the right direction."

Trifun Zivanovic, last year's silver medalist, finished third, but he'll have to sit out next month's world championships. The United States can send only two men.

While Goebel and his quad arsenal were the rage all week, Weiss kept insisting a skater needs more. He should know. It was only three years ago he landed the quad that wasn't and finished second to Eldredge, who didn't have Weiss' jumps, but was light years ahead artistically.

So Weiss got in touch with his artistic side. The tie-dyed shirts and Santana guitar riffs were out. Beethoven and classical-style skating were in.

"The judges have stressed that they like you to skate a solid program," Weiss said. "And I thought I did."

Skating to "Carmen," Weiss looked as if he could feel the music, drawing in the audience with his expressiveness. He didn't do a quad, opening up in midair and hanging on for the triple toe loop instead. But he didn't need it. He nailed nine triples, including four in combination.

But it was the rest of his program that won his second title. He had a flair, a passion that no one else approached. His spins were tight and precise, his footwork intricate.

While other Americans look raw, Weiss puts the finishing touches on every move he makes.

"As everyone said, it's much harder to defend, to win a second time," Weiss said. "I'm thrilled to pull it off."

The marks were relatively close _ six judges had Weiss first and three had Goebel _ but they really shouldn't have been. Weiss performed, Goebel did tricks to music.

But oh, what tricks they were. Goebel didn't just make history, he set the bar so high other skaters are going to have to pole vault over it to top him. No one had ever landed a clean quadruple jump in the nationals before. Goebel did three of them _ in a span of one minute.

His last quad, a salchow, was so high he probably could have touched the scoreboard had he put his hand up. Or thrown another turn in and made it a quintuple.

"To do this in any competition and to do it in front of so many family and friends, is very special," Goebel said, still shaking.

"This is just the most amazing thing I've ever done in my life," he added. "Once I hit the toe, I knew I'd hit all three."

Goebel is the first to admit his jumps, not his artistry, are his strength. He was the first American to land a quad, a salchow in the 1999 Junior Grand Prix finals, and he's the only man in the world to land three in a single program.

Needing a huge night to knock off Weiss, he stuck with what he knows works. About a minute into his program, he skated right in front of the judges and launched a quad salchow-triple toe loop combination. Both jumps were perfect, and Goebel tossed off the quad as effortlessly as most people take two stairs at a time.

Next up was a quadruple toe loop, and he followed that with the quadruple salchow. He did so many jumps he spent almost as much time in the air as on the ice.

"I'm not disappointed at all," Goebel said. "My goal this year was to skate a strong program and make worlds. I did both."

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