Johnny Weir rang in the New Year feeling something he hasn't always felt: well prepared for a major competition.
"Training has been going really well, actually," the three-time (2004-2006) U.S. champion said. "I'm in shape, doing run-throughs all the time. I feel strong and positive.
"The other day, Galina [Zmievskaya] said that ever since I've started training with her [in summer 2007], I've yet to come across as completely confident in my programs. Now, she's finally saying I'm getting there."
The 25-year-old skater's current state-of-mind and body is a huge up tick from this time last season, when Weir arrived at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships tired and a bit dispirited, recovering from a bout of flu aggravated by back-to-back trips to Asia for competition and shows.
"Compared to last season going into nationals, I feel great," he said. "Back then I didn't know what I wanted. Now I know I want to be there for the Olympics in Vancouver in February. I want to be national champion again. I want medals. I feel that need to achieve again."
Those moments of uncertainty were brief but costly. Coming off a world bronze medal in 2008, Weir opened the 2008-09 season with a silver medal at Skate America, losing gold by a hair to then-unheralded Takahiko Kozuka of Japan. He went on to take silver at Japan's NHK Trophy despite competing with a heavy cold. A few weeks later, he won bronze at the Grand Prix Final in Goyang, South Korea.
That's when his luck ran out. Over Christmas, Weir traveled to South Korea a second time, to perform in friend Yu-Na Kim's "Angels on Ice" show benefiting children's charities. While there, he caught a bug, losing eight pounds in a single day and spending Christmas Day in a hospital.
When the U.S. Championships came around in Cleveland in January, Weir admitted, "It's not the best condition I've ever been in at nationals." He ended up popping triple Axels in both his free skate and short program, placing fifth. For the first time since 2003, he was off the world team.
Ironically, this fall has yielded similar results: Weir repeated as silver medalist at NHK and bronze medalist at the Grand Prix Final. But he said his mindset has changed.
"I really want the title back," he said. "Of course, Evan [Lysacek] is coming in to nationals very strong. He's the world champion, the Grand Prix Final champion. Skating is still somewhat political. Still, I can't cry over something I can't control.
"All I can do is skate as well as I'm skating in practice and be happy with that. Winning the national title again, though, would be a dream."