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Johnny Weir

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Johnny Weir
JohnnyWeir2010.jpg
Weir at the 2010 GLAAD Media Awards
Personal information
Country representedUnited States
Born (1984-07-02) July 2, 1984 (age 36)
Coatesville, Pennsylvania
Spouse(s)
Victor Voronov
(m. 2011; div. 2015)
Height5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
CoachGalina Zmievskaya
Former coachViktor Petrenko, Priscilla Hill
ChoreographerJohnny Weir, Galina Zmievskaia, Nikolai Morozov
Former choreographerDavid Wilson, Nina Petrenko, Natalia Linichuk, Tatiana Tarasova, Shanetta Folle, Denis Petukhov, Priscilla Hill, Evgeni Platov, Marina Anissina, Maya Usova, Faye Kitarieva, Michelle Poley, Carolanne Leone, Giuseppe Arena, Anjelika Krylova, Yuri Sergeyev
Skating clubSC of New York
Training locationsWayne, New Jersey
Moscow
Former training locationsNewark, Delaware
Simsbury, Connecticut
Began skating1996
Retired2013
ISU personal best scores
Combined total238.87
2010 Winter Olympics
Short program84.60
2009–2010 GPF
Free skate156.77
2010 Winter Olympics

John "Johnny" Weir (born July 2, 1984)[1] is an American figure skater and television commentator. He is a two-time Olympian, the 2008 World bronze medalist, a two-time Grand Prix Final bronze medalist, the 2001 World Junior Champion, and a three-time U.S. National champion (2004–2006). He began skating at the age of 12, two or three times older than when most elite skaters start training. He was the youngest U.S. National champion since 1991, in 2004, the first skater to win U.S. Nationals three times in a row since Brian Boitano in the late 1980s, and the first American to win Cup of Russia, in 2007. Weir had a classical skating style, and was known for being "a very lyrical skater"[2] and "an entertaining artesian".[3] He was also influenced by Russian approaches to figure skating, and developed a connection with Russian history, culture, and language. His costume choices and outspokenness caused conflicts with U.S. Figure Skating, the governing body of the sport in the U.S., throughout his skating career.

Weir retired from competitive figure skating in 2013. He joined NBC as a commentator beginning at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. He was teamed with sports commentator Terry Gannon and fellow figure skater and good friend Tara Lipinski; also in 2014, they became NBC's primary figure skating analysts, commentating for skating in two Olympics. He "officially" came out[4] in early 2011, and has been involved with LGBTQ activism.

Early life

Weir was born on July 2, 1984 in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, the eldest son of John Weir, a nuclear power plant engineer, and Patti Weir (née Moore), a nuclear power plant worker and home inspector.[1][5][6] He is of Norwegian heritage, and has one brother, Brian "Boz" Weir, who is four years younger.[7][8][9] Weir was raised in Quarryville, Pennsylvania, a rural town in Amish-dominated central Pennsylvania.[10][11] His father had competed in English saddle events. Weir was also an accomplished rider;[12] by the age of nine, he had won several equestrian competitions and competed in the Devon Horse Show with his Shetland pony, Shadow.[13] His family moved to Little Britain, Connecticut, so he could train.[14] He later said that horse riding had given him body awareness, preparing him for figure skating.[12][15]

Weir began skating at the age of 12. Soon after, his family moved to Newark, Delaware, in early 1996, so he could be near his training rink and coach.[16][17] Weir was an honor roll student at Newark High School, where he graduated in 2002, and studied linguistics at the University of Delaware before dropping out.[16]

Competitive career

Early career

In 1992, after Weir and his family watched Kristi Yamaguchi win a gold medal at the Albertville Winter Olympics, his parents bought him a pair of used figure skates, which he used to teach himself to skate on a patch of ice in the cornfields near their home in Quarryville. When the weather was warmer, he practiced jumps on roller skates in the basement of his family's home.[18][16][12] In 1994, he was inspired to further pursue figure skating after watching Oksana Baiul compete at the 1994 Winter Olympics, during the sport's rise in popularity caused by the Nancy Kerrigan attack at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.[12][19] For Christmas, his parents bought him a new pair of skates and a package of group lessons at the University of Delaware, 45 minutes from their home. He had a natural talent for jumping.[2][19]

By the time he was 12, Weir was performing single Axels, which he learned after a week of lessons; by the time he turned 13, he learned all the single and double jumps, as well as his first triple jump, the salchow.[19] Also when he was 12, he began training with Priscilla Hill, who had coached many skaters and won national medals as a competitive skater.[6][20] According to sports writer Barry Mittan, Weir was two or three times older than when most elite skaters start training, although it was not an obstacle for him. Weir made the decision to quit equestrian, since he could not do both and his family could not afford both sports, and they moved again, to Delaware, so Weir could train with Hill.[12][21]

Weir competed in both singles and pair skating during his first year of competition; Hill paired him with Jodi Rudden to help him focus on other aspects of figure skating, such as spins, stroking, and artistry, rather than on jumping.[22] Rudden and Weir won the South Atlantic Regionals and qualified for the Junior Olympics in juvenile pairs that first year, and in intermediate pairs the following season.[19][23] Also in his first year of skating (1997), Weir finished fourth as a juvenile in the Junior Olympics and won first place in the South Atlantic Regionals, also as a juvenile.[24]

During the 1997–1998 season, Weir won regional and other minor competitions as a novice in single skating, and came in third place in the novice division at the U.S. National Championships. Weir moved up to the junior level during the 1998–1999 season. Like the previous year, he competed in regional and minor competitions and came in fourth place at the U.S. Nationals.[25] Weir stated that along with his relative inexperience with competing and a growth spurt, he struggled with nerves during this period, which affected his performances.[26]

1999–2003

Weir became eligible to compete in the Junior Grand Prix during the 1999–2000 season, coming in seventh and second place in his two Junior Grand Prix assignments. At the 2000 U.S. Nationals, he was the only competitor in the junior division who attempted a triple Axel in his short program, but despite falling, the judges put him in first place. He fell again during his free skate, and ended up in fifth place, while Evan Lysacek, in their first meeting in competition, came in first, even though Lysacek was in fifth after the short program.[25][27]

Weir won the Junior Eastern Sectionals in 1999 and 2000. The following season (2000–2001), Weir competed as a senior for the first time, coming in sixth place at the U.S. Nationals despite "a bad hip flexor injury",[28] and winning the Eastern Sectionals as a senior. He was the third alternate at the 2000 Junior Grand Prix final, coming in sixth and second place at his two Junior Grand Prix assignments, but won, at the age of 16, the gold medal at the World Junior Championships.[25][29] He was the tenth American to win at Junior Worlds and the first American male skater since Derrick Delmore won in 1998. Lysacek won the silver medal; it was the first time since Rudy Galindo and Todd Eldredge in 1987 that American men came in first and second place. Despite falling on the simplest jump in his short program, a triple flip, Weir was placed first going into the free skate. Weir received the best artistic scores, receiving 5.7s for presentation in his free skate.[30][31]

Weir was ranked 18th-best in the world in 2001.[32] He came in seventh place and fourth place in his two Grand Prix assignments during the 2001–2002 season, participated in the Goodwill Games and a team pro-am competition, came in fifth place at the 2002 U.S. Nationals, and came in fourth place in the 2002 Four Continents Championships.[25]

In the 2002–2003 season, which figure skating reporter Lou Parees called "disastrous" for Weir,[3] he skated in one international competition, the Finlandia Trophy and withdrew from the Cup of Russia.[25][33] He also withdrew, during his free skate, from the 2003 U.S. Championships in Dallas, which gold medalist Michael Weiss called "the most bizarre national championships ever".[34] Weir was in second place after the short program, with a clean skate with all eight required elements.[35] He felt confident going into the free skate, but hit the rink wall 23 seconds after he started, catching his blade between the ice and wall while doing a "simple crossover".[36] He fell and injured his back, but the referee allowed him to continue where he stopped. He stepped out of his first triple Axel and fell again on his second, injuring his knee to the point that he had to withdraw.[34]

Philanthropist Helen McLoraine, who had helped support Weir and other skaters financially for many years, fell leaving the rink after a skating session in Dallas and died, something that added to his sense of "personal failure and...painful loss".[37][38] Weir later reported that due to what he called his "stupidity and hubris",[39] U.S. Figure Skating withdrew their support of him; sports writer Barry Mittan agreed, stating that they "essentially gave up on Weir".[19]

2003–2004 season

The 2003–2004 season was "the turning point" for Weir;[40] Mittan called it "an amazing comeback".[19] In the summer of 2003, he trained with Russian coach Tatiana Tarasova for six weeks at the International Skating Center in Simsbury, Connecticut. Weir's friend and fellow skater Sasha Cohen helped him contact Tarasova, who waived her fees for him.[41] Working with Tarasova gave Weir the confidence he needed to recover from the previous season.[19][42][43] He moved from his longtime rink, the more prestigious one at the University of Delaware, to a nearby rink called The Pond, which was less crowded and not as well-known.[37]

The only Grand Prix competition U.S. Figure Skating assigned to Weir that season was "the second tier" Finlandia Trophy.[3] He was one of two skaters to skate a clean short program with a triple lutz-triple toe loop combination, a "scratchy triple Axel",[44] and the best spins in the field. He was first after the short program, but came in second place overall, slightly behind Gheorghe Chiper from Romania. Weir popped both his lutz and loop jumps, but successfully performed his triple Axel-triple toe loop combination and four other triple jumps.[44] He also had to compete in the Eastern Sectionals again, coming in first place despite a fall and securing a spot in the U.S. Nationals.[19][42][25][45]

Weir came into the 2004 U.S. Nationals in Atlanta with "something to prove".[46] He came in first place, the first to do so by qualifying at sectionals since Rudy Galindo in 1996.[47] It was his first national title.[48] He was also the youngest male skater, at the age of 19, to win the U.S. Nationals since Todd Eldredge won in 1991, also at the age of 19.[46] Weir's short program was not the most difficult, but he had "a clean and elegant skate"[48] with a triple lutz-triple toe combination, a triple Axel, and a triple flip, all landed successfully. He was in first place after the short program, with marks ranging from 4.9 to 5.8.[48] He also won the free skate, even though he did not include a quadruple jump. Skating last, his program was "elegant yet loaded with solid jumps",[48] including eight triple jumps and two combination jumps: a triple Axel-triple toe and his triple lutz-triple toe. After completing his free skate, Weir kissed his hand and pounded the ice with it as the audience gave him a standing ovation; he stated, "I was very thankful at that point, and I was thanking the ice in Atlanta for letting me do my best".[46] His scores ranged from 5.8 to 6.0, which included seven 5.9s for technical merit and a 6.0 for presentation, the first perfect score earned by a man at U.S. Nationals since Weiss earned one in 2000; all but two judges placed Weir in first place.[42][46][48][49][50] Weir also stated, about his performance: "It was a cool feeling to be written off and then come back to show them what I am made of...I hope I shut up everyone who counted me out".[42]

U.S. Figure Skating named Weir to the U.S. World Championships team.[51] He came in fifth place; teammate Michael Weiss came in sixth. Weir opened his short program with a triple lutz-triple toe loop combination, followed by a triple Axel and a triple flip, earning marks ranging from 5.0 to 5.7.[52] Neither Weir or Weiss completed quadruple jumps in their free skating programs, whereas the top four placements all performed quads in theirs. It was the first time since 1994 that no American male won medals at the World Championships.[53] Weir, however, came back from seventh place after the short program[53] by completing eight "elegant triples"[53] in his long program, like he had done at U.S. Nationals. His technical scores ranged from 5.3 to 5.7 and his presentation scores were as high as 5.8.[53]

Weir skated in the final ISU-sanctioned competition of the season, the 2004 Marshall’s World Figure Skating Challenge. coming in third place. He earned marks ranging from 5.4 to 5.7 in his technical scores, and 5.6 to 5.8 in his artistic scores, doubling one jump and stepping out of a triple Axel.[54] He toured with Champions on Ice the summer of 2004, with Cohen, Irina Slutskaya, Elena Sokolova, and his "skating hero",[55] Evgeni Plushenko.

2004–2005 season

Weir competing at the 2004 NHK Trophy

Weir continued to train with Hill and with Tarasova in Simsbury for the 2004–2005 season.[3] For the Grand Prix season, he was assigned the NHK Trophy in Japan and Trophee Bompard in Paris. He also competed in the Cup of Russia in Moscow, although not for points towards the Grand Prix final.[3][56] He was ranked fifth-best skater in the world.[57]

Weir won the NHK Trophy,[25] his first Grand Prix title and the first time he competed under the ISU Judging System (IJS). He earned 146.20 points in the free skate and 220.25 points overall, beating his runner-up Timothy Goebel by over 20 points.[58][59] Weir's trip to Japan marked the first time he came "face-to-face"[60] with Johnny's Angels, a group of figure skating fans who supported Weir emotionally and financially.[61] He also won Trophee Bompard[25] with a score of 208.10 points, despite coming in second in the free skate, behind French skater and European champion Brian Joubert, who came in second place overall.[62] Weir "skated elegantly"[62] in his free skate, but doubled his three planned triples in the second half of his program, which hurt his technical scores.[62] He again did not include any quadruple jumps, choosing instead to emphasize his artistry, spins, and pirouettes.[63] Weir later said that his win in Paris "signaled my ascendancy on the international stage".[64]

Weir came in second after Plushenko at the Cup of Russia, the first time they competed against each other after the implementation of the IJS. In his "elegant"[3] short program, Weir completed a triple lutz-triple toe loop combination, but fell on his last jump, a triple flip, scoring 71.25 points. Weir opened his free skate with a triple Axel-triple toe loop combination and included five other triples, but stumbled coming out of his second triple Axel and missed his triple flip late in the program. He called his performance koshmar (the Russian word for "nightmare"). He earned a score of 207.99 points overall.[65][66][3] With his two Grand Prix wins, Weir became the top qualifier for the Grand Prix final, but had to withdraw because of a foot injury.[66][65][67]

The 2005 U.S. Nationals was the last time the 6.0 system was used at a U.S. Nationals.[68] Weir had "the heavy burden of defending a title for the first time",[69] but he was able to control his nerves and win his second Nationals title in a row and the first repeat U.S. Nationals championship since Michael Weiss in 1999 and 2000.[67][68][70] Although he finished slightly behind Timothy Goebel in his short program, without a quadruple jump and having a less-technical program than Goebel, he was the favorite going into the free skate.[67] Weir earned one 6.0 in his presentation scores and his program was "full of creative spins and complicated footwork".[67] His performance was solid but subdued; he struggled with the landings of his triple Axel and triple flip jumps.[69] His free skate, which again did not include a quadruple jump but represented a "full range of perfectly executed triple jumps",[68] earned him five 6.0s in presentation. He also received 5.8s and 5.9s in his technical score. Weir's scores in his free skating program were the best among the male skaters since 1988, when Brian Boitano earned eight 6.0s for presentation. Goebel finished in second place and Lysacek came in third place. Weir, along with Goebel and Lysacek, were chosen to represent the U.S. at the 2005 Worlds Championships.[68]

At Worlds, Weir continued to struggle with his foot injury, which had given him problems all season and which prevented him from working on adding a quadruple jump to his season's free skate. He considered pulling out of the competition, but Tarsova gave him the motivation to continue despite the severe pain he was experiencing. He received two injections an hour before performing his short program. Weir fell on his opening triple Axel in his short program, but successfully completed a triple Axel-triple toe loop combination, four more triple jumps, and high-quality spins. He also doubled a loop jump and singled a flip jump. Weir was placed in third, but "a human input error"[71] during the input of Chinese skater Li Chengjiang's scores was corrected, putting Weir slightly behind Li and in seventh place after the short program.[71] His "respectable free skate"[72] pulled him up to fourth place. He displayed good flow throughout his free skate, which included a triple Axel-triple toe loop combination, six more triple jumps, and good spins.[71] The first half of his program was strong, with five triples in a row, but his foot pain caused him to change his circular step sequence, which resulted in a slip during the sequence and a fall during his opening triple Axel. He was not able to complete two doubles at the end of his combination jumps, despite accomplishing three previous triples.[72] He finished in fourth place, behind "surprise bronze medalist"[72] and teammate Evan Lysacek.[72]

2005–2006 season

Weir's swan costume, worn for his short program during the 2005–2006 season

Weir continued to train with Hill and Tarasov for the 2005–2006 season, when he was ranked seventh-best in the world.[73][74] He began the season, which reporter John Blanchette called a "minor calamity",[75] with "a series of disappointing finishes".[76] He was told by judges at the beginning of the season, after debuting his short program, which was designed for the new scoring system, that it was not difficult enough, so he had to rework it. A troubled personal relationship also affected his performances.[75][76]

Weir's short program this season was based upon an interpretation of Camille Saint-Saëns' The Swan, which was traditionally danced and skated to by women. He had been pushing to create a short program , since he began working with Tarasova.[77] She agreed to introduce it during this Olympic season because his "naturally quiet and delicate way on the ice mirrored the mellow cello piece".[78] The New York Times reported on the costume and music he chose for his short program, "a black-and-white costume that sparkled under the lights, and one red glove symbolizing the beak of a swan".[79] He debuted the program, choreographed by Tarasova, Shanetta Folle, and Evgeni Platov, during a practice session at Skate Canada.[79][80] He later reported that the initial reaction to it was laughter and that he told reporters, when they asked about the red glove, that he had named it "Camille", in honor of the piece's composer.[81] Weir was aware of the impact it would make on the public and in the figure skating world, and that it could harm his reputation with the judges;[82] he later stated, "Gender bending would take me into a whole new and very taboo area, where I would stand totally alone".[78] He also stated that although people were initially uncomfortable with the program, it would become one of most his most popular programs and would "completely change the world's perception of me".[83] His performance and swan costume were parodied in the 2007 comedy Blades of Glory, starring Jon Heder and WIll Farrell.[84][85]

In October, Weir finished in fourth place at the 2005 Campbell's Classic; he popped both of his triple Axels and earned 114.65 points.[76][86][87] At Skate Canada also in October, Weir was in second place after the short program, but finished in seventh place, after falling on his first jump and spraining his left ankle during the free skate. He also competed at Cup of Russia a few weeks later in November, even though it was unlikely that he would make it to the Grand Prix final.[88] Weir, "on the comeback trail",[89] won third place overall at Cup of Russia. He missed two triples in his free skate, but placed third in the short program with 206.79 points, fourth in the free skate with 75.15 points, and earned a total of 131.64 points.[89][90][25] In December, Weir competed in the made-for-TV skating competition Marshalls U.S. Figure Skating Challenge in Boston. He won the event, taking in 64 percent of the fans' votes, via in-stadium voting, telephone, and the internet.[91][92]

At the 2006 U.S. Nationals, Weir was the first male skater to win three consecutive U.S. titles since Brian Boitano almost 20 years previously. He was in first place after the short program, again overcoming his nerves and earning a personal best score of 83.28, almost six points ahead of Weiss, who came in fourth place overall.[75][79] He successfully landed four triple jumps, including his opening triple Axel and a triple lutz-triple toe loop combination, as well as a flying sit spin, circular step sequence, another triple flip, and his concluding spin combination; the spectators gave him a standing ovation when he finished.[75][93] He later told reporters, "For this one, they kind of sat back and had their cognac and their cigarettes and they were relaxing and watching", compared fellow competitor Ryan Bradley's faster paced choreography to "a vodka-shot-and-a-snort-of-coke kind of thing", and then said, "Uh, sorry for all those drug references".[79]

Weir's free skate was "not without flaws",[94] so his short program carried his victory. He came in third place in the free skate after Lysacek and Savoie with 142.06 points and a total of 225.34 points. He stepped out of a triple Axel, did too many combination jumps and thus received no points for one jumping pass, and did not complete the third jump of his three-jump combination.[94][95] After his win, Weir told reporters, "My mom is getting drunk already".[94] U.S. Figure Skating reprimanded both Weir and his mother Patti Weir for his drug references and other statements made during Nationals, but he, along with Lysacek and Savoie, who came in second and third place, were selected to represent the U.S. at the 2006 Winter Olympics, all for the first time.[6][96]

For the first time in his career, Weir changed his free skating program mid-season shortly before the Olympics, from "a techno medley"[97] written by Croatian pianist Maksim Mrvica to "Otoñal" by Argentine pianist Raúl Di Blasio, which Weir used the previous season. He stated that although he had performed the program well, he was bored with it and felt it lacked passion and power. Commentator and former Olympic gold medalist Dick Button agreed, stating that the newer program "was not good enough for him".[97] Weir's coach and mother admitted that Weir felt nervous about competing at the Olympics, and was uneasy about competing against Plushenko,[98] but he was called "the breakthrough personality of the Games".[99] It was the first time Weir's father John Weir, who had difficulty traveling after a disabling car accident in 1984, attended one of his son's competitions since Weir was a novice.[98] Weir received death threats during the Olympics and received "nasty e-mails" for several months afterwards, personal attacks that "targeted his love for things Russian and even his sexual preferences".[100] According to Variety, Weir's habit of wearing "retro Soviet CCCP sweatshirts" instead of USA clothing during the Olympics angered many U.S, supporters.[101]

Weir was the only American male in medal contention after his short program in Turin,[99][102] skating "well but not brilliantly".[103] Weir began his short program with "a smooth triple Axel"[103] followed by the highest-scoring element in his program, a triple lutz-triple toe loop combination. His next elements were a circular step sequence and a triple flip "that was lacking in crispness".[103] His final elements were a sit spin, a straight-line step sequence, and a combination spin.[103] He earned a personal-best score of 80.00 points, the third-highest score of the new system, and second-best behind Plushenko, who was in first place after the short program. Plushenko earned a personal-best score of 90.66, the highest short program score up to that point. Weir was ahead of the reigning world champion, Stéphane Lambiel from Switzerland, who was in third place, and the world silver medalist, Jeffrey Buttle of Canada, who was in fourth place.

Weir arrived late to the stadium for his free skate, blaming it on missing the bus from the athletes' village and not being told of a schedule change, which put him 90 minutes off his routine.[104] Reporter John Crumpacker stated that Weir was "out of sorts for his long program and skated abysmally as he went from second place to fifth".[104] He accomplished eight out of his planned 13 jumps, replaced a planned quadruple toe loop with a double Axel, and was shaky on his first triple Axel. He also downgraded another triple jump to a double, and failed to complete a three-jump combination and double-jump combination late in his program.[99][104] Reporter Gwen Knapp stated, however, this his artistry was best in the field.[99] He earned 136.63 points in his free skate, coming in fifth place, for a total of 216.63 points.[104][105]

At the World Championships, Weir "did not fair so well".[106] Plushenko chose not to compete after the Olympics, so Worlds was open for Weir, Lysacek, Lambiel, and Buttle to win the gold medal.[107] Weir had been troubled with back pain all week, which was aggravated during the warm-up for the free skate. He successfully completed his triple Axel-triple Axel combination at the start of his program and attempted a quadruple toe jump, but he two-footed it and fell on his triple flip at the end of the program, taking him out of medal contention.[106][108] He came in seventh place overall; Lambiel won the gold medal, Brian Joubert came in second, and teammate Lysacek, despite a hard fall during the warm-up, won the bronze medal.[107] Weir toured again with Champions on Ice in-between seasons, his longest tour with them to date; he chose Frank Sinatra's "My Way", "for its obvious symbolism", as his performance number.[109] He also appeared in an episode, in which he called "my entertainment TV debut",[110] of My Life on the D-List with comedian Kathy Griffin, in which he taught Griffin how to skate.[111][112]

2006–2007 season

For the 2006–2007 season, Weir began working with ice dancer Marina Anissina, who choreographed both his short program and free skate.[113] The costume he wore for his short program, skated to "King of Chess" by Silent Nick,[114] was described as "a black-and-white chess-themed costume that was restrained by his standards".[115] His free skating program, in which he portrayed the life of Christ, was the weakest of the season; Weir disliked his costume and his program did not go over well with spectators and judges.[116] He did not begin to train for the season until August 2006; illness also hampered his training.[115] He was the eighth-highest ranked skater in the world.[117]

The men's podium at the 2006 Skate Canada.
From left: Daisuke Takahashi (2nd), Stéphane Lambiel (1st), Johnny Weir (3rd).

Weir started off the season by helping the U.S. men's team come in first place at the Campbell's Skating Challenge.[25] At Skate Canada, he won the bronze medal. He struggled completing a combination spin during his short program and told reporters that he had difficulty with his spins and that he almost tripped during his step sequence. He successfully completed a triple Axel, a triple lutz-triple toe loop combination, and a triple flip, earning 76.28 points, a little over 2.5 points behind Daisuke Takahashi from Japan, who came in first place after the short program. Weir needed a clean skate in his free skate to win the gold medal, but he came in fourth place. Skating last, he put a hand down on his opening triple Axel, popped his second triple Axel, and fell out of his triple salchow. He earned 122.42 points in his free skate and 198.70 points overall.[118][119]

Weir was in second place after the short program at Cup of Russia, less than two points behind Joubert. Weir successfully completed his jumps, but did not attempt a quadruple jump and according to the Associated Press, "generally seemed a bit slow".[115] He came in fifth place in the free skate, with 121.38 points, over 40 points less than Joubert's free skate score, and came in second place overall, with a total score of 196.28.[120] Weir competed at the Grand Prix Final, but had to withdraw after the short program due to an injury to his right hip from a fall.[121][122] Weir later said that he was embarrassed by his withdrawal, done after "trash-talking"[123] Lysacek for also withdrawing due to an injury. He admitted that his Grand Prix season was "disastrous"[123] and that he had not been skating well going into the 2007 U.S, Nationals in Spokane, Washington.[123]

Shortly before Nationals, former figure skater and analyst Mark Lund, who was openly gay, speculated about Weir's sexuality on television; Weir chalked it up to jealousy.[16] Weir went into Nationals hoping to become the first American male since Boitano to win his fourth U.S. championships in a row. His rival Lysacek, who had beaten Weir the last three times they had competed internationally, was seeking his first Nationals title.[124] According to Weir, both the press and U.S. Figure Skating, due to his performances during the season and at the 2006 Olympics, and despite his past successes, began to actively support Lysacek over him.[123] As Weir said, "I couldn't outskate the negativity following me into the competition".[116]

In the short program, both Weir and Lysacek skated clean programs and were essentially tied going into the free skate,[116][124] although Weir had better footwork and Lysacek had better jumps. Weir began his short program with a successful triple Axel and a triple lutz-triple toe loop combination. He had a shaky landing on his triple flip, but his circular and straight-line footwork sequences were well-done and he performed three level-four spins.[124][125] Lysacek's score of 78.99 points was a slim lead of less than one point over Weir's 78.14 points. Ryan Bradley was in third place after the short program, with 73.58 points.[126]

Weir was not able to successfully defend his title, coming in third overall; Lysacek came in first place, and Bradley came in second place. In the free skate, Weir skated immediately after Lysacek, whose performance made the crowd leap to their feet.[124] Weir came in fourth place in the free skate, with 135.06 points. His triple Axel was successful, but it was supposed to be part of a two-triple jump combination. He two-footed his quadruple toe loop, doubled a planned triple-triple combination jump, popped another triple Axel combination, and later in the program, fell on a triple loop. He also popped an Axel and turned it into a single jump, but completed three more triple jumps, high-quality circular and straight-line footwork sequences, and good spins. He later admitted that the pressure of being the defending champion bothered him, and said that it was difficult skating after Lysacek, especially after hearing that Lysacek had earned over 90 points in his element scores alone. Lysacek's total score was 169.89, which was the highest score, by almost 19.5 points, earned by a male skater at the U.S. Nationals, and over 50 points more than Bradley's final score of 219.21 points.[118][124][127] Weir also said, "Evan didn't just beat me...[h]e kicked my ass",[124] and called his free skate "probably the most difficult performance of my career thus far".[125] U.S. Figure Skating named all three medalists eligible to compete at 2007 Worlds and 2007 Four Continents Championships; Weir chose not to compete at Four Continents, so fourth-place finisher Jeremy Abbott went in his place.[125]

At Worlds, Weir came in eighth place, his worst finish at Worlds in four years.[128] He was in fourth place after the short program; he admitted that he was hampered by his nerves, had trouble adjusting to competing in Tokyo, "forgot to breathe a little bit", and said, "My costume is even tired". He earned 74.26 points.[129] He came in 10th place in the free skate, earning 132.71 points, and earned 206.97 points overall.[130][131]

Over the summer of 2007, Weir again toured with Stars on Ice. One of his performances included a combined skating routine, "Fallen Angels", skated to Handel’s "Sarabande", with ice dance team Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov. (He designed the costumes they wore for their free dance that season.)[132][133] They came up with the idea for the routine, which was choreographed by Petukhov, on the plane trip back from the Worlds championships. At first, they received a great deal of resistance from U.S. Figure Skating, but were allowed to debut the routine at the Marshalls Showcase, a made-for-TV exhibition. The audience and commentators praised their performance, and the following week, a YouTube clip of their performance got over 100,000 views. Weir reported that people bought tickets to Stars on Ice just to see the routine in person.[132][134][135]

2007–2008 season

Weir began the 2007–2008 season with "a clean slate" and was "all business".[136] In between seasons, he amicably parted from his longtime coach Priscilla Hill, and replaced her with Galina Zmievskaya, who had coached 1992 Olympic champion Viktor Petrenko and Weir's idol Oksana Baiul.[137][136] Weir hired Zmievskaya because he needed more than Hill's "nurturing approach" and that Zmievskaya's "drill sergeant-like demands for discipline and rigor" would help him grow and win championships again.[138] He also changed his choreographer and training routine, and moved out of his family home in Newark, Delaware to an apartment in New Jersey in order to train with Zmievskaya. He told reporters that he felt homesick and nervous moving to a large city and living on his own for the first time in his life, resorting to sleeping with a kitchen knife next to his bed. He also said that the move taught him discipline and independence.[137]

He worked on including a quadruple toe loop in his programs, and on making his triple lutz and triple flip bigger.[138] He designed his own costumes and worked closely with his choreographers again. He worked with choreographers Faye Kitariev and Viktor Petukhov to compose a Russian rock opera based upon Svetlana Pikous’ song, "Yunona I Avos."[136] For his free skating program, he worked with Yoav Goren of the pop group Globus, who helped him create a routine to the group's song, "Love is War".[138] Weir called the costume he wore for his free skating program "a sparkly onesie"; Sports Illustrated described it as "another of his bifurcated black and white, rhinestone-studded costumes with plunging backline".[139] According to figure skating reporter Elvin Walker, Weir demonstrated a desire to win and a new passion for skating throughout the season, skating with an intensity he lacked in previous seasons.[140] He was ranked seventh-best skater in the world.[141]

At Cup of China, Weir came in second place, after Lysacek, in the short program, with 79.80 points. He did not include a quadruple jump, but completed a triple lutz-triple toe loop combination and had higher-scoring spins than Lysacek.[142][143] He came in first place in the free skate, with 151.98 points and "a nearly perfect"[144] performance. He earned 231.78 points overall,[144] and "significantly beat"[145] his personal best scores. Lysacek came in second place, and two-time world champion, Stéphane Lambiel from Switzerland, came in third.[145] Weir also won the gold medal at Cup of Russia, beating Lambiel by over 11 points. He came in first place in the free skate, which was described as "somewhat business-like and more suited for the strong technicians rather than the artistic skater Weir is known to be".[146] He opened his program with a strong triple Axel-triple toe loop combination and underrotated his triple Axel, but successfully completed five more clean triple jumps. He also completed three level-four spins and good footwork. His two Grand Prix wins made him eligible to compete at the Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, where he came in fourth place.[146][136]

Despite severe back pain, Weir felt better trained going into the U.S. Nationals than ever before.[137][138][147] NBC reported that Weir was "more about business in both his short and long programs", skating with "usual elegance, but not his fire".[148] Weir won the short program, with 83.40 points, 1.35 points separating he and Lysacek.[149] Weir was one of the few skaters who completed a triple Axel during his short program, his triple lutz-triple toe loop combination was "done with ease and control".[149] His footwork was "light and a perfect match for the music".[149] In the free skate, even though Weir had not skated a full program in practice for almost two weeks due to his back pain,[150] Weir and Lysacek were evenly matched in their jumps. Both two-footed their quadruple jump (Weir attempted a quadruple toe), both had similar entrances into their jumps, and both completed seven triples.[148][151] Weir followed up his quadruple toe with a triple Axel-triple toe combination, a triple lutz, and a triple Axel. Weir also two-footed the landing on his triple flip, which was supposed to be part of a combination jump but was not because he eliminated a double-toe loop. He received low marks for an upright spin because he did not clearly change skating edges.[152]

Lysacek won his second straight gold at Nationals. He and Weir tied for first place, both with a combined score of 244.77 points, but Lysacek was named the U.S. champion because following ISU regulations, he won the free skate (162.72 points to Weir's 161.37 points). It was the first tie at U.S. Nationals since the establishment of the new scoring system.[151] Despite protests from Weir's fans and the media, including charges of homophobia, the results stood.[153] Stephen Carriere, the 2007 World Junior champion, came in third place with 228.06 points. U.S. Figure Skating named Lysacek, Weir, and Carriere eligible to compete at the Worlds Championships.[152][151][139]

Weir chose not to compete at the Four Continents Championships due to fatigue; he was replaced by Jeremy Abbott, who came in fourth place at U.S. Nationals.[154] Lysacek withdrew from Worlds due to injury; Abbott replaced him as well.[140] At Worlds, Weir was in second place after the short program.[155] His triple lutz-triple toe combination was "sky high", and he performed high-quality footwork and spins.[156] The Chicago Tribune said his free skate "wasn't memorable", and called it "conservative but relatively error-free".[155] He did not include a triple-triple combination, and his quadruple jump was downgraded to a double.[155] Weir won his first worlds medal, a bronze, with a total score of 221.84 points, and secured three slots for the American men in the 2009 Worlds championship.[157]

2008–2009 season

Weir performing his short program at the 2008 NHK Trophy.

Weir started off the 2008–2009 season, when he was ranked seventh-best in the world, struggling with skate boot problems; his blades were not aligned properly on the new skates he purchased over the summer and did not have the time to break in replacements.[158][159] For the first time in his career, Weir competed at Skate America, the first Grand Prix event of the season. He came in second place in the short program by less than one point behind Lysacek, and came in second place overall, with 225.20 points. Japanese skater Takahiko Kozuka won the gold medal at the event; Lysacek came in third place overall.[160][161][162] Both Weir and Lysacek made minor errors in their short programs, but Weir did well, even though it was early in the season. Weir began his short program with three successful jumping passes. Lysacek and Weir both scored the same on their triple lutz-triple toe loop combinations, 11.60 points, although Weir lost points on a two-footed landing on his triple flip. Weir later told reporters that he was disappointed in his spins, but his footwork sequences were "spectacular", and he scored 80.55 points.[162]

Despite battling a cold, Weir came in second place at the NHK Trophy, earning a total of 236.18 points. In the short program, despite a fall,[158] he placed second, with 78.15 points. He later said that he felt his performance in the short program was "a big improvement"[163] over his performance at Skate America. In the free skate, he successfully accomplished all his jumps at the beginning of the program, but performed a double lutz instead of a triple, and his triple flip turned into a single. He qualified to compete at the Grand Prix final, where he won the bronze medal.[164][163][25] Four days later, he was the only American to perform in a charity skating show in Seoul, performing with South Korean champion Yuna Kim; while there, he was hospitalized with the flu and lost eight pounds in one day.[165][166][167]

Weir and Lysacek had dominated U.S. Nationals for the previous five years, but in 2009, Jeremy Abbott, who had won at the Grand Prix final in December, broke that dominance and won the gold medal. Weir was unprepared for Nationals because he was "compromised"[168] by his illness.[169][167] In the short program, Abbott finished in first place with 86.40 points, Lysacek was second with 83.59 points, and Weir came in seventh place with 70.76 points. Abbott's overall score was a personal best—237.72 points, four points more than both Weir and Lysacek's personal best scores.[169][170][167] It was Weir's lowest result in the short program as a senior skater at a Nationals in his career.[171]

After the free skate, in which Abbott earned over 13 points more than the second-place finisher Brandon Mroz, Lysacek came in third place and Weir came in fifth place, with what the Associated Press (AP) called "two dismal performances".[168] Weir needed to excel during the free skate to win a bronze medal, but instead popped his first triple Axel, doubled his planned triple loop, and fell on his triple flip. His footwork was difficult, but as the AP also said, he "appeared to just be going through the motions with it".[168] It was the first time since 2003 that Weir did not qualify to compete at the Worlds championship.[167] Despite his loss, Weir was chosen as favorite skater of the year by the readers of U.S. Figure Skating's Skating Magazine.[172]

2009–2010 season

In June 2009, Weir's documentary Pop Star on Ice premiered during the Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco and aired at film festivals around the U.S.[173][174] In January 2010, it premiered in Manhattan and aired on the Sundance Channel, which funded its filming and production. Sundance also commissioned and aired, beginning in January 2010, an eight-episode documentary series, Be Good Johnny Weir, which depicted the "recent ups and downs of his career".[175] Its promotional commercial aired during the U.S. Nationals; Weir later expressed his opinion that U.S. Figure Skating sent him to the Olympics because of the documentary and series' popularity rather than on the strength of his skating performances.[174] Variety called Pop Star on Ice, which was directed by David Barba and James Pellerito and made over the course of two years on three continents, "a fascinating portrait"[176] of Weir. Be Good Johnny Weir continued where Pop Star on Ice ended, following Weir as he attempted to earn a place on the 2010 U.S. Olympic team.[176]

Weir's press conference during the Vancouver Olympics.
Weir performing his free skate at the 2009 Grand Prix final

After the previous season, Weir became depressed and was ready to quit figure skating before the 2009–2010 season, but his mother talked into continuing to compete and try to make the U.S. team for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.[175] He began the season with "something to prove";[177] despite his previous season's difficulties, he was ranked eighth in the world.[178] At the Rostelecom Cup (previously Cup of Russia), he came in fourth place overall, after placing third place in the short program and sixth place in his "error-filled"[179] free skate, with a cumulative score of 198.55 points.[180][181] He later said that his Russian fans gave him the encouragement to continue and perform better at the NHK Trophy, his next Grand Prix slot.[177]

Despite a cold he caught on the flight to Nagano, Weir came in second place in Japan.[182][183] He skated a clean short program and gave his best performance up to that point in the season, with 78.35 points.[182][184] He successfully accomplished all his triple Axels in both programs.[177] In his free skate, he "started off strong"[183] with a triple flip jump and a triple Axel-triple toe loop combination, but lost stamina. His planned triple toe loop became a double jump and he left off a double toe loop on his next two combination jumps. He earned 217.70 points overall; the gold medalist, Brian Joubert from France, earned 15 points more than Weir.[183][185]

At the Grand Prix final, all six qualifiers, including Weir, had skated in at least one previous final; Golden Skate called it "one of the most equally matched fields in several years".[177] Weir came in third place, with a total of 237.35 points. He was in fourth place in both his short program and free skate. In his free skate, he earned 152.75 points, a new personal best score.[186][187]

Weir placed third overall at the 2010 U.S. Nationals, with 232.09 points.[188] Sports reporter Jeré Longman of The New York Times, who said that Weir's costume overwhelmed his skating, thought that he "seemed cautious during his jumps before relaxing with a head-bopping playfulness".[189] Longman also called Weir's free skate "oddly passive and stumbling".[189] Weir accomplished three clean triple jumps, but he popped his planned second triple Axel and struggled completing the final jump of his triple-triple combination jump. He came in fifth place in the free skate, but his short program, which was the third-best with 83.51 points, kept him in medal position.[188][190] Weir, along with first-place finisher Jeremy Abbott and Lysacek, who came in second place, were sent to the 2010 Winter Olympics; they were considered the strongest U.S. Olympic men's team since the 1980s.[191]

Weir came into the Olympics "a legitimate medal threat",[178] although he did not anticipate winning a medal and suspected that it would mark the end of his competitive career.[192][193] He stayed at the Olympic Village in Vancouver, despite wanting to stay at a hotel, for security reasons. He had received "very serious threats"[194] from anti-fur activists for wearing fox fur trim on the left shoulder of his free skate costume during U.S. Nationals. He changed to faux fur for his costume at the Olympics, denying that it was in response to the threats, although he wore fur at a news conference for the U.S. men's team. His roommate was his "longtime friend",[195] American ice dancer Tanith Belbin.[194][196] He also held a press conference to respond to "offensive" remarks made by two Canadian sports commentators about him. A Quebec gay rights group considered filing a complaint; the commentators later apologized on-air.[197]

Weir was in sixth place and earned 82.10 points after the short program;[198] sports writer Nicholas Benton called it a "flawless program", and reported that the audience "booed lustily" when his scores were announced.[199] He came in sixth place in the free skate, which he later admitted was technically less difficult. His technical score, 79.67 points, was over six points higher than the bronze medalist, Daisuke Takahashi from Japan, but his program component score, 77.10 points, was 7.4 points lower than Takahashi's.[200][201] Golden Skate called Weir's free skate a "hauntingly beautiful routine",[202] and reporter David Barron called it "emotional" and stated that his performance "won the crowd to his side".[203] The program included seven solid triple jumps, including two triple Axels, and good footwork and spins. Weir earned a personal best score of 156.77 points and 238.87 points overall.[202] The Christian Science Monitor reported that the audience was confused over Weir's scores in the free skate and disagreed with them. Weir finished in sixth place overall.[200]

Although Weir was eligible to compete at the 2010 Worlds Championships, he withdrew due to a lack of training.[204] In March 2010, CNN reported that Stars on Ice denied charges that they did not hire Weir for the year's tour because Weir was not "family friendly enough".[205] The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination (GLAAD) launched a protest against the tour, claiming the it was "a clear jab at his perceived sexual orientation",[205] but Smucker's, the tour's biggest sponsor, said that GLAAD's information was inaccurate and that Stars on Ice did not have enough room for Weir.[205]

2010–2013

Weir took the next two seasons off from competitive skating, focusing on his personal life, figure skating shows, a singing career, and celebrity events.[206] He announced his withdrawal from the 2010–2011 season in July 2010, stating that he wanted to take a year "to explore and reinvent myself as an athlete and artist",[207] although he left open the possibility to return in time for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. In early 2011, with the publication of his autobiography, Welcome to My World, he "officially" came out.[4] In June 2011, he participated in a gay pride parade for the first time, the Los Angeles Pride Parade; he also served as its grand marshal.[208] Weir announced his withdrawal from the 2011–2012 season in June 2011, explaining that he was unable to adequately train for competition because of his “many obligations”,[209] but expressed his intention to compete in Sochi.[209] In January 2012, Weir married his partner Victor Voronov, a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and whose family was from Russia, in a civil ceremony in New York City, five months after the state legalized same-sex marriages.[210][211] In 2013, Weir began writing a weekly column in the Falls-Church News Press, a newspaper published in the Washington, D.C. area.[212]

Weir performing during the 2012 Rostelecom Cup

In the fall of 2011, Weir began to quietly train for a possible return to competitive skating. In January 2012, he announced his return, in the hopes of competing at the Sochi Olympics; he insisted that it was not a publicity stunt, and expressed his intent to retire after the Olympics. Part of the reason for his return was his popularity in Russia. He went back to working with his previous coach, Galina Zmievskaya. and retained the same off-ice trainers, designers, and costume seamstresses as before. He used music from "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga, someone he admired,[213] for his short program; she provided him with versions of the song without lyrics. Her choreographers worked with him, but most of the choreography was developed by Weir and Zmievskaya.

Weir competed at small competitions and qualifying events in order to be eligible to compete at the 2013 U.S. Nationals. He competed at the 2012 Finlandia Trophy, attempting a quadruple jump in both his short program and free skate for the first time, and coming in fourth place overall.[206][214] In his short program, he stumbled on his opening quadruple toe jump, which was downgraded, but successfully completed his triple Axel and triple lutz-double toe combination, and earned level-four scores for his flying camel spin. He was in fourth place after the short program, earning 69.03 points.[215] He later told reporters that he was nervous, that his legs felt stiff, and that the competition was the hardest thing he had done in his career. He also had boot problems to overcome, but felt that he had done well.[206][214] He came in sixth place in the free skate, earning 132.39 points; he earned 201.42 points overall.[216][217]

Weir's two Grand Prix slots were the Rostelecom Cup and Trophée Bompard in Paris.[206] At Rostelecom, he withdrew after the short program after re-aggravating his ACL, which he had injured a month earlier in practice during a fall. He made several mistakes, finished in 10th place, and decided that he was not in good enough physical condition to participate in the free skate.[218] A few days later, he announced that he would withdraw from Trophée Bompard due to a hip injury, putting his comeback attempt on hold.[219] He also did not compete at the 2013 U.S. Nationals, but still hoped to make the U.S. Olympic team in 2014.[220]

Weir did not register for a qualifying event that would have made him eligible for the 2014 U.S. Nationals, ending his bid to compete in Sochi. He was not eligible for a bye into Nationals because he did not place in the top five at the 2013 Nationals or medaled at the 2010 Olympics or 2013 World Championships.[221] The Associated Press conjectured that it likely marked the end of Weir's amateur figure skating career.[222] In October 2013, he retired from competition and joined NBC as a figure skating analyst at the Sochi Olympics.[223][224]

Skating technique and influence

Weir's first coach, Priscilla Hill, in 2010
Weir and Zmievskaya during the 2008 Grand Prix Final

Weir's first coach, Priscilla Hill, unlike many figure skating coaches, was "nurturing and gentle".[225] She became "a second mom" to him in Delaware.[226] At the beginning of Weir's career, "all [he] wanted to do was jump;[227] as sports writer Philip Hersh stated, jumping had always "come ridiculously easy to Weir".[42] Hill teamed him with pairs skater Jodi Rudden the first year they worked together, to focus on other aspects of figure skating, such as edges, spinning, footwork, and artistry. He and Rudden won a few minor competitions the first two years he skated competitively. By 2005, Weir's skating skills were good enough that he did not need a quadruple jump to do well in competition, although he worked on adding it to his programs.[227][22]

In 2007, he changed coaches and hired Galina Zmievskaya, whom reporter Amy Strauss called "the polar opposite"[228] of Hill. He thought that he would benefit from Zmievskaya's "drill sergeant-like demands for discipline and rigor",[138] as well as her Russian approach to figure skating. She also focused on improving his jumps; Hill did not tend to focus on jumps in order to avoid stressing his body.[229] Zmievskaya made him practice his jumps over and over again, especially quadruple jumps. Before training with her, he had "a very free entrance"[229] into his triple Axel. He relied on his natural talent and would fly into his jumps, which made them exciting for him to perform and for the audience to watch. Zmievskaya had a strict pattern for how he accomplished his jumps, no matter how much it punished his body. He admitted in 2018, however, that quadruple jumps were his "nemesis".[230] Weir said that even though Zmievskaya was tougher than he was used to, she was also nurturing, caring for him and controlling every aspect of his life. They developed a strong bond after a few weeks of working together.[231]

Weir called his style classical.[19] He was known for being "a very lyrical skater";[19] Olympic champion and commentator Dick Button described Weir as "more than just a jumper but an entertaining artesian".[3] Weir told figure skating reporter Lou Parees in 2004 that he believed that he was able to offset his technical weaknesses with his elegance. He did not think he needed to include quadruple jumps in his programs because he focused on other aspects of his skating. Parees said that Weir's landings were graceful and elegant, and that his spins were unique. At the time, Weir's secure landings earned him more points than skaters who attempted quadruple jumps and fell. He told Parees that "the softer edge" of his skating, which he did not need to practice, came naturally to him.[3] Weir told figure skating reporter Barry Mittan in 2005 that he thought the ISU Judging System, which was implemented in 2004,[232] benefited him because at the time, it rewarded every part of a skater's programs, especially Weir's strengths, such as "having good flow out of my jumps and having a different look on the ice”.[19]

Weir told Jeré Longman of The New York Times after the 2010 U.S. Nationals, "My obligation has always been to bring the artistic side of my sport out. Jumps are jumps, and everybody can do those jumps. But not everybody can show something wonderful and special and unique and different".[189] He also told Longman that he had no interest in making figure skating more "mainstream or masculine",[189] and that figure skating had a specific audience attracted to the sport's athleticism, theatricality, elegance, and artistry. Frank Carroll, who coached Weir's rival Evan Lysacek, said that he respected Weir for knowing who he was and for not caring what others thought of him.[189] Figure skater costume designer and Emmy-winner Jef Billings expressed his opinion that Weir's "singular personality" and "exaggerated style"[189] might have undercut Weir's skating. Phillip Hersh stated that earlier in Weir's career, he was able to maintain a balance between his "understated elegance" and "the too-too costumes he prefers", but by 2010, "the balance has tipped toward shtick".[189]

Weir often designed his own costumes or worked extensively with his designers. At times, his costume choices caused conflicts with U.S. Figure Skating, which he called "the federation".[233] In 2002, the first time he traveled to Russia for competition, he was told by American skating officials that he had to change both his costume, which he had designed, and hairstyle, because they found them "too unique" and "disrespectful".[234] Weir's costumes helped him compete; like his music choices, they helped create his programs' mood and character. He stated, "I can't skate unless I feel beautiful",[235] so he spent a lot of time on his costume, hair, and makeup. In 2014, Weir designed Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu's costume for his free skating program, worn during the Sochi Olympics.[236] In 2018, Hanyu paid tribute to Weir with his short program, as well as to Russian champion Evgeny Plushenko in his free skating program.[237]

Weir believed that his style was "a hybrid of Russian and American skating",[238] two different approaches to figure skating. He said, in his 2011 autobiography Welcome to My World, "With coaches from both countries, I had married the artistic with the athletic, the passion with the technique. My costumes were different and so was the way I moved my body. I was an American boy with a Russian soul, and nobody else skated like me".[238] Weir developed a connection with Russia and with the Russian style of figure skating early in his career.[239] His first ballet teacher in Delaware, Yuri Sergeev, was a dancer for the St. Petersburg Ballet,[19][240] and he taught himself the Russian language, conversing with Zmievskaya in Russian.[241] He also studied czarist history and wore a jacket from the "old Soviet team uniform as a good-luck charm", given to him by Russian pairs skater and Olympic gold medalist Tatiana Totmianina, during the 2006 Olympics in Turin.[33] Weir compared his style to Russian champion Evengi Pleshenko, stating, "I think Plushenko is a very modern Russia, as it is now. I'm more from the Baryshnikov era".[242] This aspect of his skating style often caused conflicts with U.S. Figure Skating; Weir also said that his skating style, his programs, and costumes, especially his short program and accompanying costume he wore at his first Russian Grand Prix in 2002, was considered "an affront to American skating tradition".[33] Weir stated that his connection with Russia caused many Russian fans to "came to think of me as one of their own".[239] Figure skating reporter Gwen Knapp called Weir "an honorary Russian".[242]

The haters have lost, they and all their floods of hate mail and death threats that flowed from the 2006 Olympics. The uncompromising Johnny Weir, on the verge of the culmination of his competitive career, has won. Among the world’s best male skaters, Weir exhibits the most fluid poetry of motion, consciously elevating the sport’s artistic elements over its purely athletic ones. But there has also been a powerful, tenacious, true grit that accounts for his success.

The 2006 Olympics marked the first time the wider world of sports enthusiasts encountered him, and many did not take kindly to his flamboyant, outspoken manner. Thus, when he didn’t win a medal, the floodgates of hate issued forth. Not only Weir’s perseverance, but a change in the mood of the country – reflected in the 2008 election – accounts for the fact that he’s now seen as less freaking people out, and more entertaining and enlightening them with his wit and unapologetic uniqueness.

By simply being himself in such an open and high-profile way, he creates space for countless others to venture out with their own special individuality, and in doing this, he is making his best contribution of all.

Figure skating reporter Nicholas Benton, 2010, [199]

Weir's outspokenness also caused conflict between he and U.S. Figure Skating. In 2004, the federation told Hill to have Weir "tone down the skater's act" after he described the costume he wore during U.S. Nationals as "an icicle on crack".[42] Knapp called Weir "a natural with the media—smart, witty, insightful".[242] Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times called Weir "as much a world-class sportsman as he is a showman".[178] Kelley also called Weir "refreshing" in the "increasingly uptight" sport of figure skating, someone who celebrated his outlandishness and genuineness. He also stated, "While figure skating tries to become more mainstream and looks for some love from the NFL-loving fans, while it tries to 'masculinize' its sport, it shouldn’t forget about athletic showmen like Johnny Weir. He is too good and too charismatic to be ignored".[178] The Associated Press (AP), prior to Weir's retirement in 2013, said that Weir had "always been delightfully refreshing, on and off the ice".[222] The AP praised Weir for being one of the few figure skaters who spoke his mind, even when he knew it would get him in trouble with federation officials and judges. They also said, "His colorfulness is part of his massive appeal, and he remains one of skating's most popular figures, particularly in Japan and Russia".[222]

The press made much of the rivalry between Weir and Evan Lysacek. E.M. Swift of Sports Illustrated wrote in 2007 that their rivalry was "exacerbated by Weir's increasingly outlandish behavior",[124] citing a recent photo shoot and Weir's fashion choices at press conferences during Nationals.[124] Nancy Armour of the AP reported during U.S. Nationals in 2007 that Lysacek and Weir had a "good rivalry"[133] that had developed over the previous few years. For five straight years, either Weir or Lysacek won gold at U.S. Nationals, Weir in 2004, 2005, and 2006, and Lysacek in 2007 and 2008, to the point that Weir called Nationals the "Evan and Johnny show".[243][244][245] Inevitably, Weir and Lysacek's skating styles and personalities were often compared. For example, Swift stated that even through they were evenly matched in their skating skills and abilities, they were "stylistic opposites".[139]

Swift compared Weir and Lysacek in this way: "Lysacek is all sparks of energy, emotion and gangly strength...Weir tries to embody elegance, style and fragile grace".[139] As for Weir and Lysacek themselves, they tended to downplay their rivalry.[246][247] In 2007, the Denver Post reported that although Weir and Lysacek were not friends, they were friendly, complimenting each other's skating, touring together in Champions on Ice, and avoiding speaking negatively about each other.[248] Also in 2007, Weir stated that the rivalry helped both he and Lysacek train and skate better, that it was exciting for the fans and for the skating community, and that it was good for U.S. men's figure skating.[247][246] By 2010, however, their rivalry intensified after Lysacek suggested that "a lack of talent" was the reason Weir was not hired to tour with Stars on Ice. Lysacek later apologized for his remarks.[249]

Broadcasting career

In October 2013, Weir retired from competition and joined NBC as a figure skating analyst at the Sochi Olympics.[224] He chose not to support calls for boycotting the Olympics in protest of Russia's anti-gay laws, and was criticized by both anti-gay and LGBTQ activists for his position.[224][250] He appeared in the 2014 EPIX documentary To Russia with Love, which was about gay athletes in Russia and the U.S. The film, produced by Robert Redford and Sundance Productions, was filmed secretly during the Sochi Olympics and was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award.[251][252]

At Sochi, NBC teamed Weir up with sports commentator Terry Gannon and fellow figure skater, Olympic gold medalist, and good friend Tara Lipinski, as the network's second team of figure skating commentators for their daily live broadcasts.[253][254][255] Weir worked with Gannon during the men's events, and Lipinski worked with Gannon during the women's events.[254] After realizing they worked well together and after recognizing their "instant chemistry",[255] they pitched the idea of the three working together to NBC; Lipinski stated that it "was sort of meant to be".[256] According to sports writer Tom Weir, Weir, Lipinski, and Gannon "had instant comedic harmony, with their casual chatter and humorous asides playing amazingly well against the staunch and exacting backdrop of figure skating".[255] Tom Weir also reported that the trio had generated the 10 best weekday daytime audiences in NBC's history.[255]

Weir later told USA Today that it was a "horrible time" of his life; he was going through "a really nasty divorce"[254] from his husband Victor Voronov, with Voronov submitting a defamation suit against Weir and much of their disputes being reported in the New York tabloids and TMZ. Weir depended on Lipinski for support in Sochi, which helped them bond.[257] He said that she "helped push me through work. Somehow, at the same time my life was falling apart, we were crushing it at work, and we were winning hearts across America".[254] Weir served as Lipinski's "bridesman" at her 2017 wedding to sports producer Todd Kapostasy.[256] Weir, Lipinski, and Gannon were promoted to NBC's primary figure skating commentators, replacing Scott Hamilton, Sandra Bezic, and Tom Hammond.[253][258] Weir, along with Lipinski and Gannon, was an analyst at the 2018 Winter Olympics.[259] The trio were also slotted to host the closing ceremonies in Pyeongchang.[260]

Weir and Lipinski were hired by NBC's Access Hollywood in 2014, to analyze fashion during the red carpet at the Oscars.[261] He served as a correspondent, with Lipinski, at the Beverly Hills Dog Show in 2017[262] and at the National Dog Show in 2015–2019.[263][264][265][266][267] (In 2016, Weir owned a Japanese Chin named Tema.)[264] Weir and Lipinski worked the Kentucky Derby in 2014–2018 (as "fashion and lifestyle experts"[268] in 2016 and focusing on "lifestyle and celebrity content"[269] in 2018). and were event reporters for the Super Bowl pre-game show in 2015 and 2017.[270][271] They were named "culture correspondents"[272] for the 2016 Summer Olympics.[268]

In 2018, the Washington Post reported that viewers' responses to Lipinski and Weir were mixed; some considered them "Olympic darlings–a one-stop shop for knowledge, sass and brass", while others found them "mean, obnoxious, and distracting".[260] Scott Hamilton, who was replaced at NBC by Weir, Lipinski, and Gannon, called them a "phenomenon" and "such a breath of fresh air".[258] GQ called their commentating style "a Gladwell-ian ability to demystify figure skating for the uninitiated and an extreme candor for which they've caught some heat".[254] They tried to present figure skating in an accessible way to their viewers, keeping the more technical aspects of the sport to a minimum but emphasizing its "gossipy nuances".[255] When they were criticized at the 2018 Olympics for being overly harsh, Weir responded, "I’m a commentator, not a ‘complimentator'", and added, "I would never be able to do my job without telling the truth about every aspect of figure skating and the performances you’ll see".[273]

Both Weir and Lipinski had "the good sense to stay silent when a skater is on an elegant and error-free roll" and Weir had "a gift for creating strong mental images with concise statements" while calling figure skating competitions.[255] Weir cited Olympic champion and long-time analyst Dick Button as an influence in his own broadcasting style, especially Button's brutal honesty. Button told Olympic reporters, when asked what he thought about Weir's commentating style, that he thought that Weir was "very bright" and did not "overstep his bounds".[255] Both Weir and Lipinski told GQ that they would bring dozens of suitcases to the competitions they announced, and would do their best to wear matching clothes and never the same outfit twice. By the 2018 Olympics, they brought every item of clothing they owned and would "sort it out" at the event. They also reported that they assisted Gannon with his on-air fashion choices.[254]

Dancing with the Stars

Weir was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars for the 29th season, which premiered on September 14, 2020. His partner was first-time pro dancer Britt Stewart.[274]

Records and achievements

  • Youngest U.S. National Champion since 1991 (2004).[46]
  • First skater to win U.S. Nationals three times in a row since Brian Boitano in the late 1980s (2006).[75]
  • First American to win Cup of Russia (2007)[275]

Awards

Weir serving as Grand Marshall at the L.A. Pride Parade, 2011

Programs

Weir performing his exhibition program "Poker Face" at the 2009 Festa On Ice
Weir performing during the 2008 Skate America Gala
Season Short program Free skating Exhibition
2012–2013
[281]
2010–2012 Did not compete Did not compete
  • A Comme Amour
    by Heartbroken
2009–2010
[282]
"Fallen Angel":
2008–2009
[283]
  • Sur Les Ailes du Temps
    by Saint-Preux
    choreo. by Nina Petrenko


2007–2008
[284]
  • Yunona I Avos
    by Svetlana Pikous
    choreo. by Faye Kitarieva

  • All In Love Is Fair
  • Painful Longing
    by Stevie Wonder
    choreo. by Johnny Weir

2006–2007
[285][286]




  • All In Love Is Fair
  • Painful Longing
    by Stevie Wonder
    choreo. by Johnny Weir


2005–2006
[287]

2004–2005
[19][288]


2003–2004
[289]
2002–2003
[290]
  • Doctor Zhivago
    by Maurice Jarre
    choreo. by Giuseppe Arena, Anjelika Krylova
2001–2002
[291][292]
Themes from:
2000–2001
[292][293]
  • Les Parapluies de Cherbourg
    by Michel Legrand
    performed by Itzhak Perlman
    choreo. by Yuri Sergeyev
  • The Heart of Budapest
    by Mantovani
    choreo. by Yuri Sergeyev

1999–2000
[292]

1998–1999
[292]
1997–1998
[292]
  • Russian folk music
    by Svetit Mesiatz
    choreo. by Yuri Sergeyev
1996–1997
[292]
  • Rudy
    choreo. by Yuri Sergeyev

Competitive highlights

The men's podium at the 2004 NHK Trophy.
From left: Timothy Goebel (2nd), Johnny Weir (1st), Frederic Dambier (3rd)
The men's podium at the 2008 Grand Prix final.
From left: Takahiko Kozuka (2nd), Jeremy Abbott (1st), Johnny Weir (3rd)..
The men's podium at the 2009 NHK Trophy.
From left: Johnny Weir (2nd), Brian Joubert (1st), Michal Březina (3rd)
The men's podium at the 2009–10 Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final.
From left:Nobunari Oda (2nd), Evan Lysacek (1st), Johnny Weir (3rd)

GP: Grand Prix; JGP: Junior Grand Prix

Senior results

International[294]
Event 01–02 02–03 03–04 04–05 05–06 06–07 07–08 08–09 09–10 10–11 11–12 12–13
Olympics 5th 6th
Worlds 5th 4th 7th 8th 3rd
Four Continents 4th
GP Final WD WD 4th 3rd 3rd
GP Cup of China 1st
GP Cup of Russia WD 2nd 3rd 2nd 1st 4th WD
GP Lalique/Bompard 4th 1st WD
GP NHK Trophy 1st 2nd 2nd
GP Skate America 2nd
GP Skate Canada 7th 7th 3rd
Finlandia Trophy 2nd 4th
Goodwill Games 10th
National[294]
U.S. Champ. 5th WD 1st 1st 1st 3rd 2nd 5th 3rd
Eastern Sectionals 1st
WD = Withdrew

Pre-2001 results

International[294]
Event 96–97 97–98 98–99 99–00 00–01
World Junior Champ. 1st
JGP China 2nd
JGP Czech Republic 7th
JGP France 6th
JGP Norway 2nd
JGP Slovakia 1st
Gardena Winter Trophy 6th J
Triglav Trophy 2nd N
NACS Winnipeg 1st N
National[294]
U.S. Championships 3rd N 4th J 5th J 6th
U.S. Junior Champ. 4th V
Eastern Sectionals 1st N 1st J 1st J 1st
South Atlantic Reg. 1st V 1st N
Levels: V = Juvenile; N = Novice; J = Junior

Detailed results

Senior level

The men's podium at 2008 Skate America.
From left: Johnny Weir (2nd), Takahiko Kozuka (1st), Evan Lysacek (3rd)
The men's podium at 2008 Skate America.
From left: Johnny Weir (2nd), Nobunari Oda (1st), Yannick Ponsero (3rd)
The men's podium at the 2008 World Championships.
From left: Johnny Weir (3rd), Jeffrey Buttle (1st), Brian Joubert (2nd).

Small medals for short and free programs awarded only at ISU Championships.

2012–13 season
Date Event SP FS Total Ref
October 5–7, 2012 2012 Finlandia Trophy 4
69.03
5
132.39
4
201.42
[295]
November 9–11, 2012 2012 Rostelecom Cup 10
57.47
WD [296]
2009–10 season
Date Event SP FS Total Ref
October 22–25, 2009 2009 Rostelecom Cup 3
72.57
6
125.98
4
198.55
[297]
November 5–8, 2009 2009 NHK Trophy 2
78.35
3
139.35
2
217.70
[298]
December 2–6, 2009 2009–10 Grand Prix Final 4
84.60
4
228.80
3
237.35
[299]
January 14–24, 2010 2010 U.S. Championships 3
83.51
5
148.58
3
232.09
[300]
February 14–27, 2010 2010 Winter Olympics 6
82.10
6
156.77
6
238.87
[301]
2008–09 season
Date Event SP FS Total Ref
October 23–26, 2008 2008 Skate America 2
80.55
2
144.65
2
225.20
[302]
November 27–30, 2008 2008 NHK Trophy 2
78.15
2
146.27
2
224.42
[303]
December 10–14, 2008 2008–09 Grand Prix Final 4
72.50
4
141.36
3
215.50
[304]
January 18–25, 2009 2009 U.S. Championships 7
70.76
5
133.23
5
203.99
[305]
2007–08 season
Date Event SP FS Total Ref
November 7–1, 2007 2007 Cup of China 2
79.80
1
151.98
1
231.78
[306]
November 22–25, 2007 2007 Cup of Russia 2
80.15
1
149.81
1
229.96
[307]
December 13–16, 2007 2007–08 Grand Prix Final 4
74.80
4
141.36
4
216.16
[308]
January 20–27, 2008 2008 U.S. Championships 1
83.40
2
161.37
2
244.77
[149][151]
March 16–23, 2008 2008 World Championships 2
80.79
5
141.05
3
221.84
[309]
2006–07 season
Date Event SP FS Total Ref
November 2–5, 2006 2006 Skate Canada 2
76.28
4
122.42
3
198.70
[310]
November 23–26, 2006 2006 Cup of Russia 2
75.10
5
121.18
2
196.28
[311]
January 21–28, 2007 2007 U.S. Championships 2
78.14
4
135.06
3
213.20
[312]
March 20–25, 2007 2007 World Championships 4
74.26
10
132.71
8
206.97
[313]
2005–06 season
Date Event SP FS Total Ref
October 27–30, 2005 2005 Skate Canada 8
70.25
2
107.34
7
177.59
[314]
November 24–27, 2005 2005 Cup of Russia 3
75.15
4
131.64
3
206.79
[315]
January 7–15, 2006 2006 U.S. Championships 1
83.28
3
142.06
1
225.34
[316]
February 11–24, 2006 2006 Winter Olympics 2
80.00
6
136.63
5
216.63
[317]
March 19–26, 2006 2006 World Championships 4 (QR)
33.38
5
73.53
8
128.66
5
235.57
[318]
2004–05 season
Date Event SP FS Total Ref
November 4–7, 2004 2004 NHK Trophy 1
74.05
1
146.20
1

220.25

[319]
November 18–21, 2004 2004 Trophée Éric Bompard 1
75.90
2
132.20
1
208.10
[320]
November 25–28, 2004 2004 Cup of Russia 2
71.25
2
136.74
2
207.99
[321]
January 9–16, 2005 2005 U.S. Championships 1
83.28
3
142.06
1
225.34
[322]
March 14–20, 2005 2005 World Championships 4 (QR)
32.20
9 (SP)
70.50
6
133.36
4
236.06
[323]
2003–04 season
Date Event SP FS Total Ref
October 10–12, 2003 2003 Finlandia Trophy 1
2
2
[324]
2004 Eastern Sectionals 1
[25]
January 3–11, 2004 2004 U.S. Championships 1
1
1
[325]
March 22–28, 2004 2004 World Championships 7 (QR)

4 (SP)
5
5
[326]
2002–03 season
Date Event SP FS Total Ref
November 22–24, 2002 2002 Cup of Russia WD [33]
January 12–19, 2003 2003 U.S. Championships 2
WD [327]
2001–02 season
Date Event SP FS Total Ref
September 4–9, 2001 2001 Goodwill Games 9
10
10
[328]
November 1–4, 2001 2001 Skate Canada 8
7
7
[329]
November 15–18, 2001 2001 Trophée Lalique 5
4
4
[330]
January 6–13, 2002 2002 U.S. Championships 4
5
5
[331]
January 21–27, 2002 2002 Four Continents 3
4
4
[332]

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Works cited

External links