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Category: Johnny Weir

Skater Johnny Weir says he plans to reinvent himself

Johnny Weir Johnny Weir's off-ice charisma has overshadowed his competitive skating for several seasons. Now, the three-time U.S. champion has decided to step back and assess himself, for what may be a comeback in a different guise.

U.S. Figure Skating announced Thursday morning that Weir will take next season off from competition in an attempt, as Weir put it, "to reinvent myself as an athlete and artist.  I say this with the hope of returning as a competitor for the 2011-12 season.''

Read more: "Skater Weir taking competitive break to reinvent himself"

-- Philip Hersh in Chicago

Photos:  Johnny Weir gets into the Kentucky Derby spirit with an outlandish hat. Credit: David Perry / McClatchey-Tribune


Johnny Weir skates a "clean" short program

Weir
The flamboyant and often flippant Johnny Weir acknowledged feeling a little nervous leading up to Tuesday night's short program in men's figure skating.

The night before, the American skater went on a cleaning binge in the living quarters he shares with ice dancer Tanith Belbin.

"I Pledge'd everything," he said, referring to the furniture polish. "You know, some people eat, some people drink, some people smoke ... I Pledge."

Apparently, the star of a TV documentary series called "Be Good Johnny Weir" on the Sundance Channel has an arrangement with Belbin that allows them to prepare for the ice.

"She stayed out all day today so I could run around naked and watch 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' and enjoy myself and just relax before the competition," he said. "And I'm going to do the same for her."

However odd, the routine seemed to work as Weir skated himself into sixth place heading into the long program later this week.

-- David Wharton

Photo: Johnny Weir competes in the men's short program on Tuesday. Credit: Yuri Kadobnov / AFP/Getty Images


Weir hopes his skating will be the last word

It figured something Johnny Weir said would make the Olympic News Service’s "Quotes of the Day’’ for two days running.

One, a lubricious discussion of athletes' backsides and underwear, isn’t fit for a family blog.

WeirFur1The other, about whether he agreed with Canada’s Patrick Chan that skaters practicing the quad were trying to intimidate other skaters, was classic – and appropriate for general consumption – Weir.

"I’m not intimidated by anything, except maybe PETA standing outside with a bucket of blood,’’ Weir said.

 The reference was to the animal rights group sending Weir hate mail because he had been using fox fur on his free skate costume.

He removed the fur after last month’s U.S. Championships to avoid having it be a distraction at his second Olympics, where the men’s competition is to open with the short program Tuesday.

Yet his bringing it up without prompting only emphasized the idea that Weir is spending more time on distractions than he is on his skating.

That perception irritates the three-time U.S. champion, even if he understands why people would feel that way about an athlete who considers the outrageous normal, as evidenced in the episodes of his Sundance Channel reality show, "Be Good Johnny Weir.’’

"There is a lot of talk about things overshadowing my skating, and I have no problem with people talking about that,’’ Weir said.  "Nobody knows how I feel, and I don’t feel that anything overpowers my skating.

"My goal is to skate well and compete well.  That’s something that is not often talked about because there are so many other crazy things that I do and say that can be talked about, especially when I don’t skate well.

"For me, this costume controversy was silly.  It didn’t change my opinion about anything.  It didn’t change my life.  It just added something else people were talking about while I was in my rink, training hard, preparing for the Olympic Games.’’

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Big start for pairs event: Chinese stars first on ice

Shen Zhao

Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo at practice this week.  Credit: Getty Images / David Hecker

By Philip Hersh

Catching up on figure skating news after spending the last week looking at the Winter Olympic big picture:

OLYMPIC PAIRS COMPETITION begins with a bang Sunday.  Two-time Olympic bronze medalists Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo are the first team on the ice in the short program.

The Chinese, ancient mariners (he is 36, she is 31), have not competed in a major international event since winning the 2007 world title.

"To win an Olympic gold medal is a lifelong dream for both of us,'' Zhao said.

They retired for two seasons, got married, then returned at the brilliant level that had made them one of the world's most dynamic pairs since they debuted at the Olympics with a fifth place in 1998.

"Hongbo persuaded me,'' Shen said.  "We were already married, so even if I said no, it's not like he is going to divorce me.''

PAIRS FAVORITES Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, world champs the last two years, haven't been excited with the ice conditions at the Pacific Coliseum during practices.

Savchenko called the ice "weird'' and "sticky'' and figured that was due to sharing the venue with short track speed skaters, who want softer ice.

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Johnny Weir, an athlete dancing to a rollicking tune

Weir Clearing my head -- and my notebook -- before leaving Tuesday for Vancouver, where I will be covering my ninth straight Winter Olympics.  (For those as math-challenged as I, that means the first was Lake Placid 1980).

I have been enthralled by the first two 30-minute episodes of Johnny Weir's Sundance Channel reality show, "Be Good Johnny Weir,'' which I caught up to after returning from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Those who have the impression I don't like Weir because I have written critical things about him at the last two U.S. Championships (2010 version here; 2009 version here) have read past the sentences where I called him the most engaging personality in skating.

The personality is naturally highlighted in the reality series, but that wasn't hard for directors James Pellerito and David Barba, given how Weir will say and do virtually anything and is a very quick-witted and multifaceted person. His impersonation of a Russian reporter -- interviewing Johnny Weir -- is pitch perfect, in both accent and content.

Where the directors showed their chops and what made the first two episodes so compelling was the focus on Weir as an athlete, including the physical demands on an elite skater and the often explosive relationship between him and his Ukrainian coach, Galina Zmievskaya, who can go from gorgon to doting protector in milliseconds.

"Be Good Johnny Weir" leaves no doubt he gives his body to express his soul on ice.

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Animal advocacy group wants Johnny Weir to stop wearing fur

Johnny It appears at least one animal advocacy group is getting upset over Johnny Weir's fur-fused fashion sense.

In a letter posted on its website, Friends of Animals has asked the Olympic figure skater to stop wearing fur. The group criticized Weir for wearing fox fur on one of his outfits and has even contacted his costume designer in an effort to make him furless for the upcoming Winter Olympic Games.

Weir, who wore a tuft of white fox fur during his free skate performance at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, says he doesn't agree with the group's stance on the issue.

So don't be surprised if the fur will still be flying when the men's Olympic short program gets underway Feb. 16.

-- Austin Knoblauch

Photo: Johnny Weir shows off his third place medal at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Jan. 17. Credit: Elaine Thompson / Associated Press


Impressive Jeremy Abbott routs figure skating rivals; Lysacek, Weir follow

Abbott_300 After his rivals had faltered, Jeremy Abbott turned what was expected to be a close competition into a rout, winning his second straight national men's figure skating title with a tour de force in today's free skate at the U.S. Championships in Spokane, Wash.

Abbott opened with a quadruple jump and followed it with more than four minutes of technical mastery and poised presentation to win the title by 25.03 points over reigning world champion Evan Lysacek.

Lysacek, whose performance was described as "labored" by his coach, Frank Carroll, and third finisher Johnny Weir probably will earn the three men's spots on the U.S. Olympic team. That decision was to be announced today.

-- Philip Hersh in Spokane, Wash.

Photo: Jeremy Abbott reacts after completing his free skate on Sunday in Spokane. Credit: Elaine Thompson / Associated Press


Jeremy Abbott, Johnny Weir look like champs as men's skate opens

Both Jeremy Abbott, the defending champion, and Johnny Weir, the winner from 2004 through 2006, performed up to title-winning standards in Friday night's short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, Wash.

The difference was that Abbott was doing a reprise of his excellent skating a year ago, while Weir reinvented himself after a dismal effort that had kept him off the world team for the first time since 2003.

With half the field yet to skate -- including reigning world champion Evan Lysacek -- Abbott led with 87.85, bettering his score after an exceptional short program last year. Weir had 83.51.

Neither tried a quadruple jump. Ryan Bradley did, opening with a quad-toe triple toe, only to kill himself by turning two later triples into doubles, leaving him 13 points back of Weir.

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Feathers flying, gender bending ... only in figure skating

Evan Lysacek

Ten things I have learned after three days at Skate America:

1. Vera Wang designed the costume that reigning world champion Evan Lysacek is wearing while performing his short program to Stravinsky's "Firebird.'' Lysacek was skeptical about the feathers Wang hung from the gloved wrists when he first saw them, but now thinks of them as a good fit with the Stravinsky piece. "Stravinsky is sort of a bizarre artist,'' Lysacek said. "The accent of the feathers adds to that.''

2. Bizarre hand coverings are hardly unusual in men's figure skating. Russia's Alexei Urmanov, the 1994 Olympic champion, was known for costumes that often included outlandish gloves. Three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir, for whom outlandish is de rigueur, wore a glove he named Camille while skating his 2006 Olympic short program, in honor of composer Camille Saint-Saens, because Weir was performing to "The Swan'' from Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals."

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The state of Johnny Weir: love, hate, jealousy, regrets, corsets and dirty dancing

Johnny 

Johnny Weir's public persona has always been so delightfully extroverted and so frequently over the top that it sometimes is easy to forget he too can be riddled with angst over the highs and lows of his skating career.

The three-time U.S. champion and 2008 world bronze medalist has struggled over the last three seasons, bottoming out with a fifth place at the 2009 U.S. Championships.  That meant he did not make the U.S. world team for the first time since 2003.  It hurt even more when his longtime rival, Evan Lysacek, became the first U.S. man to win a world title since 1996.

Weir was so distraught over that experience that, as his 25th birthday approached this July, he was ready to quit skating until his mother, Patti, jarred her son from the funk.

Weir heeded his mother's advice, but he still wanted a way to express how he had felt about the blue period, even as his life and career were being celebrated in a documentary, "Pop Star on Ice,'' that has drawn positive reviews. 

So he called his long program for the 2010 Olympic season "Fallen Angel.''

And -- with his usual candor, wit and insight -- Weir filled in reporters at this week's U.S. Olympic media summit on the state of mind that led to such a title and how he has found renewed confidence to approach the upcoming season.

The best way to narrate those thoughts is in his own words.

So....Here's Johnny: 

How does your long program, "Fallen Angel,'' reflect the state of your career?

After the [2009] national championships, it was a real struggle for me to want to skate. I quit for a month and a half.  I didn't want to be a part of this world any more.

Then my mom called me one day.  I was really upset, crying.  I had woken up with champagne that morning.  I was like, "Mom, I can't handle this any more. I don't want it. I don't love it.'' 

And she said, "You're going to regret this. You're going to be my age one day, and you're going to regret every second of sitting here feeling sorry for yourself.  You've got one more legitimate chance to make an Olympic medal a reality.  You have to use it.''

And I said, "I haven't worked this hard for this long to let myself crumble and kind of disappear in the skating world.''  I dug deep, and I found the strength to go back in the rink, to start pushing myself every day.  Slowly and surely, I started to get better.  Now I think I'm in the best shape of my life.  I'm happy -- with my programs, the situation with my coaches, with my life, and I'm happy I didn't let this chance pass me by.

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