J. Barry Mittan, the Electronic Photojournalist

Strong Family Makes Weiss a Contender by J. Barry Mittan (1995)

Although Todd Eldredge and Scott Davis have won five of the six U. S. national men's titles in the United States in the 1990s, their dominance may not continue. Younger skaters like Michael Weiss, who just turned 19 this summer, are ready to challenge for the gold in 1996, perhaps with the quadruple jump. Weiss attempted a quad toe loop last season, missing the jump at the 1995 Nationals in Providence. If he lands it this year, Weiss would become the first U. S. skater to complete a quad in competition. He has already landed both the quad toe loop and a quad Lutz in practice. Weiss aims to medal at U. S. Nationals in 1996 and gain a place on the World Championship team. He is also hoping to skate for the U. S. at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano and perhaps the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Weiss, a native of the U. S. capital, represents the Washington (DC) Figure Skating Club. In February, Weiss finished sixth at the U. S. Nationals in 1995, up from eighth in 1994, his first year as a senior competitor. Two weeks later he became only the third U. S. skater to win the men's title at the Winter World University Games in Spain, following in the footsteps of John Misha Petkevich and Michael Chack. His technical was skated to a South American tango, Deus Xango by Astor Piazzola, while his long was to a Mozart/Princess Bride medley, the same programs he used at Nationals. In winning the gold, he beat out Team USA captain Damon Allen, who finished two places ahead of Weiss at the Nationals. Weiss also took the gold at the 1994 Junior World Figure Skating Championships. "It's a great feeling to represent my country so well," stated Weiss, who also won the U.S. Junior Men's title in Phoenix in 1993.

Weiss is coached by Audrey Weisiger with assistance from Debbie Prachar on jumps and spins, Nick Perna on stroking, Lisa Thorton in jazz, and Margie Weiss on trampoline. Although he has a complete repertoire of jumps, Weiss also demonstrates superb footwork and excellent ability to interpret music. He is concentrating this year on gaining consistency with the quad toe loop and his triple Axel as well as improving his spins. Weiss has spent some time this summer skating at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as well as in Fairfax. He is competing as much as possible and plans on performing at Halloween on Ice in Boston, the Jimmy Fund Cancer Benefit at Harvard University, and Skate America this year as well as a Canadian event in Toronto. The Eastern Sectionals will be in Alexandria, Virginia, in December, giving Weiss a "home court advantage" on his way to San Jose for U. S. Nationals.

Weiss' 1995-96 technical program, choreographed by Brian Wright, is skated to "The Mission" by Ennio Morricone. It includes a triple Lutz, triple Axel-triple toe loop combination, and a double Axel. His free skate, which includes eight triple jumps, is based on a medley of Santana tunes. It includes a triple Lutz, triple Axel, Russian split into triple flip, triple loop, triple Salchow, triple Axel combination, triple toe, double Axel, and walley-walley-triple Lutz. This unusual combination move, which starts with a walley to the left, then a walley to the right and finally a triple Lutz, is the last jump sequence in his long program. If he needs it, Weiss may substitute the quad toe loop for one of the triples. Like Brian Boitano, Weiss has a trademark triple Lutz, performed with his arms backwards from a regular Lutz on both takeoff and landing. Instead of landing with his arms outstretched for balance, Weiss lands with both arms crossed tightly against his chest. He also includes a back flip in exhibitions, a legacy of his gymnast parents, who taught the trick to Scott Hamilton. Both Boitano and Hamilton have been previously quoted as saying that Weiss has what it takes to become a champion.

Like 1994 Ladies World Champion Yuka Sato of Japan, Weiss comes from an athletic family. His father Greg was on the 1964 Olympic gymnastics team, his mother Margie was on the U. S. national gymnastics team, and oldest sister Genna is a six-time Junior World Champion in diving. Older sister Geremi is the other figure skater in the family, winning the U. S. Junior Ladies silver medal in 1990 and the Merano Cup in Italy, and competing at St. Gervais and Obertsdorf . Michael followed in the footsteps of both older sisters, becoming a regional diving champion as well as a figure skater. His gymnastics and diving background are evident in the tight rotations of his jumps and controlled landings. The entire Weiss family works at Gold's Gym in Fairfax, Virginia. Greg is a manager, Margie is the aerobics director, Geremi is the day care coordinator, Genna works in accounting, and Michael helps out with inventory. Margie is also the coordinator of off ice training at the Fairfax Ice Arena while Geremi teaches skating at the rink.

Michael trains at the Fairfax Ice Arena. Says Weiss, "I started when I was eight years old and I've always skated at Fairfax. Everybody's been real supportive and luckily I've had a great situation here in Fairfax. where I can go to and from the rink and workout at Gold's. I used to get up at five in the morning and skate for four hours before I even went to school and then I'd come right from school and go directly back to the ice skating rink. My hours used to be a lot more on ice when I was younger because we had figures involved then. I'm doing less on ice activity but a lot more off ice training. I do an hour of weight training every day and then I have jazz and body movement - a ballet sort of thing. I do a lot of crosstraining too. I play volleyball, hockey (ice and roller) and a bunch of other things." Strong for a skater, Weiss can bench press over 300 pounds. Quite a feat for a lad who's 5 feet, 9 inches tall and 155 pounds.

Weiss is also a "super huge Redskins (American football) fan," which may have influenced his career aspirations. He is in his second year of business studies at Prince Georges Community College in Maryland, where his father also teaches. Weiss hopes to complete his college work at the University of Maryland, majoring in communications, with the goal of becoming a sports announcer after his skating career. He is already involved with communications through the information superhighway known as the Internet.

When a silent auction was held this summer to raise money for his training expenses, bids were accepted over the Internet as well as in person. The auction raised about $15,000 and included donations from Dick Button, Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano, Nancy Kerrigan, swimmer Janet Evans, volleyballer Karch Kiraly, basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Skater's Edge, Tracings, Rainbo Sports, and Ice Age staff. Training costs are staggering. Weiss estimates "spending in excess of 40 and 50 thousand dollars a year between my transportation and my training. I have to pay to go to and from competitions so all the expenses really add up. It's been a real sacrifice for my family as well because my parents had to drive me to and from the rink and pay for all that."

The Weiss family has also been involved in two benefit skating events in Fairfax this summer, one of which generated funds to help with the medical expenses of choreographer Brian Wright. Weiss has a high regard for Wright: "He's done programs for Scott Davis, he's choreographed in the Ice Capades, he did Nicole Bobek, he works with a lot of people around the world and he's a great choreographer. He needs a lot of help right now."

Weiss sums up his skating career this way: "You've got to dedicate your life to it. (People) don't realize the emotional standpoint that all the athletes have. They've put their whole life basically into their sport that they're doing and they train their whole life for it - it all rides on one or two big competitions."

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