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Weir, Abbott finish sixth, ninth respectively

Mistakes kept both skaters off the podium

Johnny Weir had to settle for a tiara of roses after finishing sixth in Vancouver.
Johnny Weir had to settle for a tiara of roses after finishing sixth in Vancouver. (Getty Images)

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By Amy Rosewater, special to icenetwork.com
(02/19/2010) - Instead of wearing a gold medal around his neck, Johnny Weir donned a wreath of roses around his head.

"I suppose that's my gold medal,'' Weir said.

And even if the judges didn't love the program, the audience did, and that was Weir's cause for celebration.

"As Lady Gaga would say, I have all my role models out there,'' said Weir, who placed sixth. "I may not be the most decorated person in the skating world, but judging by the audience reaction at the beginning of my program and at the end, they go on my journeys with me.''

Skating second to last in a power-packed men's competition, Weir performed a smooth routine to a program called "Fallen Angel.'' Unlike the title of his program, he didn't fall, but the routine wasn't without its flaws, either. He was downgraded for the takeoff on his opening triple flip and made a costly error on a spin.

His coach, Galina Zmievskaya, grabbed him by his cheeks after the skate and gave him an earful.

"So stupid boy,'' Weir said his coach told him. "What were those little mistakes?''

Still, Weir wasn't too disappointed.

"I made myself proud,'' Weir said. "It was a damn good performance.''

Weir, who thought about quitting the sport after failing to make the world team last season, said he was glad he decided to stick it out for one more year on the competitive circuit and compete in his second Olympic Winter Games.

He didn't make it to Vancouver easily. He placed third at the U.S. Championships last month in Spokane, Wash. But he vowed to enjoy himself and the Olympic experience once he got here.

He has been living in the Olympic Village, rooming with ice dancer Tanith Belbin and spent much of the afternoon of the free skate watching Real Housewives of Atlanta on TV.

The other American in these Games was reigning U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott. He didn't shed any tears after the free skate, as he did after performing a disastrous short program Tuesday, but he wasn't totally satisfied this time around, either.

"I wanted to show that Tuesday was a fluke,'' Abbott said.

The way he started his program, however, it appeared he was headed down another bad road. Performing to "Symphony No. 3" by Camille Saint-Saens, Abbott fell on the opening quad toe loop and then popped his triple flip. After that, he took a couple of seconds to regain his focus.

"This is the moment to turn things around,'' he told himself. "This is unacceptable.''

Abbott went on to nail a triple Axel-triple toe combination and the crowd cheered him on. He continued to struggle a bit, barely hanging onto the landing of a double Axel and popping a triple toe loop in a combination.

It was good enough to improve him in the standings from 15th to ninth. Still, it was a big disappointment.

"This was not the way I had dreamed of my Olympic experience,'' Abbott said.

Afterward, he said that coach Yuka Sato said she was proud.

"She saw the fight,'' Abbott said.

As disappointing as these Games were for Abbott, he was glad his family was able to come to Vancouver and support him. Abbott made a point of thanking Procter & Gamble, which has helped cover financial costs for athletes' families to travel to these Olympics.

Abbott, 24, plans to compete next month at the World Championships in Torino and didn't rule out continuing to compete through the next Olympics in Sochi in 2014.

Abbott also defended his decision to change coaches and move from his longtime training home in Colorado Springs, Colo., to Detroit. He had worked with Tom Zakrajsek for a decade and now trains with Sato.

"I have no regrets,'' Abbott said. "Win or lose, it was the right decision for me.''