Experience is Weir's biggest ally

Men's figure skating competes tonight, featuring Americans, from left: Evan Lysacek, Johnny Weir and Jeremy Abbott. (David J. Phillip/AP)

VANCOUVER - It's a selective process, this Olympic hero thing.

We tout Tanith Belbin as an American hope, even though we know full well she came here from Canada for herself.

Then we tear into speedskater Shani Davis for his selfish decisions to train alone, not race as part of our relay, denying us what would likely be a medal, maybe even a gold one.

"I am a solo entity," Davis asserted last week. "I don't skate for US Speedskating and I have no obligation to them."

Horrible words? Maybe, but if forced to drink truth serum, how many more of our heroes would fess up that they are here for gold and green far more than they are here for red, white and blue?

How many more would look and sound like Davis, or Bode Miller, or . . .

Which brings us to Johnny Weir, our true local skater, who begins his latest and most unlikely attempt to win an Olympic medal when the men's short program takes place tonight.

As usual, the Coatesville native has given us some of the best pre-Olympic quotes and controversy, whether he's perturbing PETA with an outfit that does or does not include real fur, rooming with Belbin for a while (alas, it didn't work out), or calling out the two medal favorites for claiming they are back not for gold, or for green, but to push the young kids to better themselves.

"They came back for themselves," said Weir. "Skating is skating. Skating is at a high level regardless of who is skating."

Ah, and there's the rub, the intrigue of this Olympic competition. Gold-medal favorite Evgeni Plushenko, who won gold in Turin, has mummed up after creating his own stir with comments about judging last month. Before he did, he expressed a desire for his competitors to attempt a quadruple jumps in both tonight's short program and tomorrow's long program final.

That sentiment was echoed by his main competition, Sweden's Stephane Lambiel, who won silver in Turin.

The last two world champions, Canadian Jeffrey Buttle and American Evan Lysacek, have not included the quad in their routines.

Are the two returnees trying to get in their competitors heads?

Intimidating the young 'ens, perhaps?

Absolutely, Weir said.

"How old is Patrick Chan - 17, 18? I've been around much longer. I'm not intimidated, not by anything. Not by flowing blond hair. Not by a tanned face.

"I'm not intimidated by anything except maybe PETA standing outside with a bucket of blood."

Weir is 25, amid his own comeback, and this is likely his last chance to prove that. A disappointing fifth in Turin, his Olympic performance there was a mess of missed buses and self-inflicted errors, both on ice and off. If he wasn't intimidated, it sure looked that way.

Has he grown out of that guy? Or will be remembered more for what he said than what he did? We'll have a pretty good clue after tonight.

"People are very cynical when they are talking about the comebacks and returns of these great stars," he said. "If you can compete in an Olympics once, you are blessed beyond belief. If you can do it two or three times, what more do you need?"

A quad in your routine?

Maybe not.

But a medal would be nice.