Talk of the Games
The medal standings tell only part of the sports story of what's happening at the Games. For the rest, check out the latest dispatches from The Seattle Times' sports crew of columnists, reporters and producers.
Posted by Steve Kelley
The following is the latest dispatch from Johnny Weir's world.
Johnny Weir is heading toward the final days of his competitive figure skating career. He knows it. He's comfortable with it. In fact, he's looking forward to it. He's planning to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York soon, the first step, he hopes, to becoming a fashion designer.
I'll be rooting for Weir at the Olympics. I like athletes who say what they think, athletes who don't filter their words through some self-critical editorial process. Think of Weir as Charles Barkley in sequins. Wait, that's a disturbing image. Maybe he's more like Shaquille O'Neal, able to laugh at himself and laugh at the people who are laughing at him. Besides, I can almost see Shaq wearing fur.
Weir is smart and funny and driven. And he's proud of who he is. He doesn't care if the rest of sports, or even the rest of figure skating, understands him. He's unabashed. (I don't quite agree with his stance on fur, but that's between Weir and P.E.T.A.)
In a recent HBO interview, Weir was asked if he'd ever had a long term relationship. He said he hadn't, then added his longest relationship has been, "with fur."
At 8 a.m. Saturday he met with reporters and talked about his sport and himself. He apologized for the early morning saying, "I may not look phyisically wonderful right now."
He's a long shot for a medal in a sport that has been turned over to the Jumpin' Jack Flashes, instead of the technicians. Weir, who is competing in his second Olympics, finished third at the U.S. Nationals last month in Spokane.
"I feel like everything is falling into place," he said. "Training's been going really well. This whole season I've been trying to build for the Olympic Games and I feel like now that I'm here I'm going to be able to deliver on that. Sometimes I wish reporters would talk more about how hard I work. I am an Olympian. Yes I have other interests. I've got other stuff going on. I work hard enough and I'm good enough to be at the Olympic Games. That's something that's very underappreciated about me."
Still, Weir is unconventional. Not in some crazy Dennis Rodman way, but in a this-is-how-I-live-my-life-deal-with-it kind of way. In keeping with his unconventionality, Weir is rooming with female ice dancer Tanith Belbin. I always thought that was against the rules. Belbin skates with pairs partner Ben Agosto.
I didn't even think it was allowable to stay with a girl," he said."After our national championships, I just assumed there were a few of us who had very specific needs when it came to rooming. I know what can happen in the Village. I know you can get crammed into a sardine room with 10 other people. Tanith and I just seemed like a good match because we're old friends. We know each other very well. It's beautiful. I don't really get along with that many people on the team. I don't know many people on the team well enough to live with them and Tanith was definitely No. 1 for me. It worked out perfect for both of us."
Weir said he is in the process of decorating the room. (That's the kind of stuff you talk about with Johnny Weir. Not exactly the same topics you would bring up with, say, Lofa Tatupu)
"I got here before she did and I organized all the bags in a closet, because I didn't want her to be overwhelmed when she got there," Weir said. "All of her Olympic gear arrived in three gigantic boxes and I organized all of that, set it all up. I'm a good nest builder. I made sure the room was clean. I put stuff away. I made sure it smelled very nice. I brought Windex. I brought Pledge. And I brought Pledge Wipes, just in case. I get no money from Pledge, but I just love their multi-pupose wipees because you can clean your computer and your bath tub with the same wipee."
Weir has changed his costume plans for the game. He's skating fur free, he said not because he was pressured into it, but because he hates faux fur.
"This costume controversy was silly," he said. "It didn't change my opinion about anything. It didn't change my life. It just added something else for people to talk about while I was in the rink, training hard for the Olympics."
In these final months of his competitive career, Weir has become more conscious of his legacy.
"There's a lot of talk about things overshadowing my skating," he said. "And I'm fine with that. But I don't feel that anything overpowers my skating. My main goal is to skate well and compete well. And that's something that's often not talked about because there are so many other crazy things that I do and say that can be talked about instead, especially when I don't skate well.
"But I want to be remembered as somebody who pushed the boundaries of my sport. I want people to remember that I was a great talent on the ice and that I did everything a little bit different than everybody else. But at the same time, I want people to remember that I was able to speak my mind. I was able to voice my opinions about things and had no problems with that. In my own way, I've brought a lot of people into figure skating. Maybe it's not the way that my federation or most mainstream people would want it to be, but that's how I've done it. And I hope that more young athletes, not just figure skaters, but especially figure skaters, will be able to be themselves, or say what they want and never be afraid of anything, or anyone. I hope that's my mark."
The men's competition begins with the short program on Tuesday.
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