Weiss Wins Short Program at Skate America

Friday, October 24th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

READING, Pa. (AP) _ Michael Weiss' first reaction to the marks on the scoreboard was to chuckle. His second was to wonder what they meant.

Weiss won the short program Thursday night at Skate America as figure skating's new scoring system made its debut in the Grand Prix series. Instead of 5.7s and 5.8s, he was seeing 7.45s and 7.50s as the first performer.

He also was seeing his name remain atop the leaderboard through 11 more skaters.

``They could be in the 20s or 40s. I have nothing to compare it to,'' the three-time U.S. champion said. ``I was laughing at it.

``If they gave me a 20 or a 120, I didn't know the difference. All I know is how I skate and how it feels and it felt good.''

Looked pretty good, too. Although Weiss was marked down for under-rotating a quadruple toe loop on his opening combination _ a score he questioned because he felt he rotated four times _ his 73.85 points easily put him in front of Zhang Min of China.

Otherwise, he was, by far, the cleanest and surest of the men. World bronze medalist Takeshi Honda, considered Weiss' top challenger at the first event of the Grand Prix circuit, popped his combination jump, crashed on a triple axel and was fourth.

Weiss wondered if anyone would be getting marks in the 9s and even a perfect 10 for any of the 14 elements judged by the panel of 10 _ only seven of which count, although which seven isn't released. He also said the change to a cumulative score was a good move.

``I like that aspect,'' he said. ``You can be sixth or seventh after the short and you're out of the competition. This way, you can take the big risk and go for it in the long program and you can pull back up. It keeps you motivated after the short program.''

The men's free skate is Friday night. Weiss said he won't play it conservatively.

``You can only control what you are going to do,'' he explained. ``I have two brand new programs and I want to get them out there.''

The new judging system calls for marks on each element. Those elements, from spins to footwork to jumps and, for pairs and dance, to lifts, have a base value. A judge can add anywhere from plus-3 points to minus-3 points to the base value of a jump or element; and plus-1.5 to minus-1 for a spin.

Separate scores are posted for technical elements and for program components. The highest total score wins.

The program devised following the Salt Lake City Olympics scandal first was used at the Nebelhorn Trophy last month, a low-level event. It will be used for all six Grand Prix competitions, plus the series final, but not at worlds or the U.S. nationals this season.

China's Pang Qing and Tong Jian won the pairs short program with a total of 67.08 points for a big lead.

``We were a little nervous,'' Tong said, ``and we were a little lucky tonight.''

They impressed with their presentation, getting an 8.20 out of 10. They also earned a 35.00 technical score, easily tops among the 10 pairs.

Trailing the Chinese, who were fourth in March's world championships, were Russia's Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov, the 2000 world champions. Even their total score of 64.94 was high for the opening event.

The pairs free skate is Saturday night.

Ukraine's Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov scored 40.53 points in the compulsory dance to lead Americans Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto by .51.

``There's the opportunity for a lot of movement in this system,'' Belbin said. ``That's as it should be.''