After spending 16 years on the ice, famously flamboyant figure skater Johnny Weir is hanging up his skates in exchange for a microphone as he joins NBC for its coverage of the Sochi Olympic games.
The three-time US figure skating champion has retired from competition, but will continue to perform in shows. He won the 2004, 2005, and 2006 US titles, and participated in two Olympics—finishing fifth in 2006 and sixth in 2010.
“I am outlandish and flamboyant and all those things,” Weir said. “There was a focus on all that in my career, which I am fine with, but there also was a little attention paid to how hard I actually worked and how much went into it and how I came back so many times. Sweating every day for that one moment, and I wish people focused on that as much as my characters and my costumes. I wouldn’t be Johnny Weir if I wasn’t giving everything all the time. Hopefully, I can use my words properly and talk intelligently. I’m excited for the journey.”
Weir credits the Russians for inspiring him to become a figure skater. One of his coaches during the height of his success was Soviet-trained Galina Zmievskaya. His husband, Victor Voronov, is also Russian.
Weir has said that taking part in the Russian Olympics was one of his goals, but after realizing he wasn’t in competitive shape for another comeback, he found an alternative way to participate.
“I definitely do not regret it,” Weir said. “The goal was I would compete in Sochi and come full circle. It would have been very storybook. I have always cheered for all Russian skaters and I will cheer for all Russians when I am there in Sochi. I’m sad I can’t compete, but I can be there and be a part of the moments that will get created at this beautiful Olympics. That takes the edge off not competing, definitely. I can still lend my name and voice and talents to the Olympics, and I’m so honored and proud for, and so happy for, the opportunity.”
Weir has been vocal in the controversial debate regarding the treatment of LGBT people in Russia and the miasma of opinions surrounding the Olympic games.
In July, Weir said, “The fact that Russia is arresting my people, and openly hating a minority and violating Human Rights all over the place is heartbreaking and a travesty of international proportions.”
However, he has been against a boycott of the Games from the beginning, saying that such actions were misguided. “I’ve never thought of the Olympics as a political statement,” he said. “I really think a boycott…is in the wrong as far as the athletes are concerned.” Instead, he implored gay athletes to go to Sochi and “dazzle the world,” and he told radio station WNYC, “Should I be arrested, should my life be threatened, I know I’ll be there for a purpose.”
The ongoing debate is one of the subjects he may bring up during his coverage with NBC. Joining Weir on the commentary team will be 1998 gold medalist Tara Lipinski and 2006 silver medalist Tanith Belbin.
Above all, Weir simply wants to be remembered.
“As a competitive figure skater and as an entertainer, I roll them into one,” he said. “Remembered for never conforming even though I was told to, and for my own trials and tribulations. For the years of fabulous skating. To be remembered is what we all want. I made my mark in my sport. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew there would be some sort of magic in my life. I want to be remembered for creating that magic for the people who watched me.”
You can read more words from Weir at his regular column with Falls Church News-Press here, where he discuses the Olympics, his career, and LGBT issues.