Monday, July 02, 2018

Happy Birthday to Skater, TV Commentator Johnny Weir

Johnny Weir was born today, July 2, in 1984. He is an American figure skater, fashion designer, 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 is also known for his sports commentary with Tara Lipinski, as well as his work in LGBTQ activism.

Weir was born in Coatesville, Pennsylvania and was raised in Quarryville, Pennsylvania, a town in southern Lancaster County. As a child, he was a successful equestrian, competing with his pony, My Blue Shadow, an Arabian-Shetland cross.

Soon after Weir began skating at the age of 12, his family moved to Newark, Delaware, so he could be near his training rink and coach. In the summer of 2007, he moved to Lyndhurst, New Jersey, and began training in nearby Wayne. Weir was an honor roll student at Newark High School and studied linguistics part-time at the University of Delaware before dropping out to concentrate on his skating.

Weir became interested in figure skating at the age of 11 while watching Oksana Baiul win her 1994 Olympic gold medal. He taught himself how to jump on roller skates in his basement. His parents eventually bought him a pair of used figure skates, and he practiced on a frozen cornfield behind his family home. His parents then purchased group lessons for him at the University of Delaware, where coach Priscilla Hill soon noticed his talent and took him on as a private student.

His parents could not afford to support both his figure skating and his equestrian pursuits, so Weir gave up his pony, My Blue Shadow, and turned his focus completely to figure skating. Although he began skating at the relatively late age of 12, Weir progressed quickly through the ranks. He performed an Axel jump after his first week of lessons. He competed in pair skating with Jodi Rudden on the juvenile and intermediate levels, but gave it up to concentrate on single skating.

Weir's first major victory came in 2001 when, at the age of 16, he skated three clean programs at the World Junior Championships and won the gold medal ahead of fellow American Evan Lysacek. This was the first time since 1987 that the United States had placed first and second on the World Junior podium. Weir also placed sixth that year in his debut at the senior U.S. Championships.

At the 2006 Winter Olympics, Weir skated a personal best short program and was in second place behind Evgeni Plushenko in that segment. However, Weir omitted some of his planned jumps in the free skate, and finished off of the podium in fifth place.

At the 2008 U.S. Championships, Weir won the short program over Evan Lysacek by 1.35 points but Lysacek won the long program by exactly the same amount, resulting in a tie. Weir completed a slightly two-footed quadruple toe loop in his long program and scored more points on his jumps and in the program components than Lysacek but Lysacek scored more points for his spins and footwork. Under ISU rules, in the event of a tie the winner of the long program is awarded the gold medal, so Weir received the silver.

At the 2008 World Championships, the United States had failed to medal in every other discipline when the men took the ice last. Weir skated a short program that received a career-best score and put him in second place. In the free program, he skated steadily but tentatively, eliminating the second jump from his first planned combination and doubling a planned triple jump on another combination. However, the program was strong enough for Weir to win his first World medal – a bronze – and kept the United States from being shut out of the medals at a World Championship for the first time since 1994.

Weir began the 2008–2009 season by winning the silver medal at Skate America in October 2008. He then went on to the NHK Trophy in late November, where he competed while suffering from a severe cold but still managed to win his second silver medal of the season. These two finishes qualified him for the 2008–2009 Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, where he won the bronze medal in December 2008.

During the 2008 Christmas holiday Weir traveled to South Korea to perform in a charity skating show. While there, he contracted a severe stomach virus that landed him in the hospital and caused him to lose eight pounds in a single day. He was unable to regain all of the weight or train at full capacity before the 2009 U.S. Championships in January 2009, where he singled the planned triple axel in both his short and long programs and also fell on the triple lutz in the long, resulting in a fifth-place finish. It was the first time since 2003 that he had been off the podium at Nationals.

Weir won the bronze medal at the 2010 U.S. Championships in Spokane, Washington and was subsequently named to the U.S. team for the Olympics. At the 2010 Winter Olympics, Weir finished sixth overall, with a new personal-best combined score of 238.87.

Weir was recognized for "bringing flash to a snoozy sport." Analysts noted that he was exceptionally artistic in his approach to competition, and that this quality was achieved through superior technique, including basic stroking and spins. Unlike most figure skaters, he is a clockwise spinner and jumper.

Although retired from competition, Weir remains active as a skater. He skated with the Champions on Ice touring ice show every spring from 2004 until 2007, their last season before going out of business.

In 2014 Weir and Tara Lipinski worked as a broadcast team for ice skating events at the Sochi Winter Olympics. As a result of positive reviews and ratings for the event, they were named in October 2015 as NBC's top figure skating broadcast team. The pair was invited to appear in March 2014 as fashion commentators for Access Hollywood at the 86th Academy Awards. 

In 2011 Weir published an autobiography titled Welcome to My World in which he traced the path he took to become a skating champion, plus outlined his philosophy. In the book he also confirmed that he is gay. Weir also writes a column for the Falls Church News-Press which is published on the "National Commentary" page.

In 2010 Weir collaborated with Traver Rains to raise money for The Trevor Project, a national nonprofit organization focused on suicide prevention among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth.

In 2013 the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund established the Johnny & Victor Weir-Voronov Scholarship Fund for LGBTQ Youth. Also in 2013, Weir auctioned personal fashions and accessories to benefit the Trevor Project.

Weir's sexual orientation had long been the subject of media speculation; however, prior to 2011 when asked about his sexuality, Weir responded "'s not part of my sport and it's private. I can sleep with whomever I choose and it doesn't affect what I'm doing on the ice."

In his 2011 memoir Welcome to My World, Weir officially came out as gay, citing a string of gay youth suicides as one reason for his decision: "With people killing themselves and being scared into the closet, I hope that even just one person can gain strength from my story."

In 2011, Weir married Victor Voronov, a Georgetown Law graduate, in a civil ceremony on New Year's Eve in New York City. The couple divorced in 2015, citing domestic difficulties.

In 2010 Weir received the "Visibility Award" from the Human Rights Campaign. Also in 2010, he won the NewNowNext Award for "Most Addictive Reality Star" for the documentary films Be Good Johnny Weir and Pop Star On Ice, both of which aired on The Sundance Channel and Logo Network.

Weir and Lipinski became the lead figure skating commentary team on the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. The team are currently hosting Wedding Cake Championship on the Food Network. 


Sooo-this-is-me said...

Wow... I didn't know he was g.... ok just kidding.

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