Johnny Weir Retires, Joins NBC for Sochi
Known as much for his outrageous costumes and comments as his intriguing skating, Johnny Weir is leaving the ice for the broadcast booth.
He hopes to be just as offbeat and entertaining in his new career.
The three-time U.S. figure skating champion retired from competition Wednesday - he still plans to skate in shows - and will join NBC for its coverage of the Sochi Games.
"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 spent 16 years in the sport, going to two Olympics. Weir won the 2004, '05 and '06 U.S. titles and finished fifth at the 2006 Games and sixth in 2010.
He will begin his broadcasting career Sunday during the network's coverage of Skate Canada.
Joining Weir on NBC's team for Sochi will be 1998 gold medalist Tara Lipinski, the youngest Olympic figure skating champion when she won in Nagano at age 15, and 2006 silver medalist Tanith Belbin. With ice dance partner Ben Agosto, Belbin came in second at the Turin Olympics.
The Sochi Games begin Feb. 6.
Weir said he was inspired to become a figure skater by watching the great Russians perform on the world and Olympic stage. He was coached to much of his competitive success by Soviet-trained Galina Zmievskaya. He is married to a Russian, Victor Voronov.
So taking part in a Russian Olympics was his goal before hanging up his skates competitively. But when Weir realized he was not fit enough to attempt another comeback, he turned to other avenues to stay close to figure skating.
NBC readily obliged, knowing it would get, well, everything Weir is known for.
"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 outspoken about the treatment of gays in Russia, which he recently depicted as "heartbreaking" in an op-ed column in the Falls Church (Va.) News-Press. That’s one of many topics he might broach for NBC.
He added he wants to be a teacher of the sport on the air, hoping to inspire youngsters to become skaters.
And he wants to be remembered as someone who had an impact in figure skating.
"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."