Thursday, April 17, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Olympic quest '14: Dial it down for Team NBC

WHEN two-time Olympian and Quarryville native Johnny Weir heads to Sochi next week as one of NBC's figure skating analysts, he'll be bold. But he won't boldly go where no gay athlete has gone before. The three-time U.S. champion skater visits the country at least four times a year and has taken flak for not taking a stand against its antigay propaganda laws.

"I've come under so much hate and scrutiny from within my own LGBT community," Weir responded last week in an interview with the Reuters news service. "But as somebody who watched my parents sacrifice everything so that I had at least one chance of making the Olympics, I could never boycott the Olympics whether they be in Pyongyang, in Uganda, in Iran or Mars."

Weir long ago outed himself as a Russophile. He speaks Russian. He dresses Russian. He even married a Russian - at least, a guy of Russian descent. Still, this trip will be very different for the eloquent, flamboyant 29-year-old.

First, he'll be front and center in a country that has turned antigay prejudice into law. Second, he'll be commentating, not competing. Here, Weir tells Daily News reporter Lauren McCutcheon about his plans going into the trip.

Q Johnny Weir, analyst: What are you going to say?

One of the hardest things I've had to learn is how to be appropriate. As an athlete, I've always had to sell myself, to be self-promoting, and I would sometimes say whatever I wanted.

But when you're working for a huge company like NBC, you have to be respectful to other athletes. That's something I've had to wrap my head around. But I'm very quick-witted. I'm not worried.

Q Johnny Weir, analyst: What will you wear?

When I was on TV judging "Skating with the Stars," I made so many fashion disasters. I was just way over the top. A lot of the male Olympic commentators and talking heads will wear Brooks Brothers suits. But that's not really me.

Ultimately, I've come up with the idea to dress somewhat in theme, one thing for the men's competition, something dramatic for ice dancing. . . . The clothing I've pulled so far is reminiscent of Stanley Tucci's character in "The Hunger Games."

Q What should viewers expect on the ice?

The men's competition is going to be outrageous. There will be men doing two quad jumps, men with amazing style, costuming and packaging - all the way down to 15th and 16th place.

The ladies' competition will be a rematch of the gold and silver medalists from Vancouver: South Korea's Yuna Kim and Japan's Mao Asada. There will be so many women vying for the bronze medal, including members of our American team. Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold could challenge.

Q Will your family join you?

Considering I'll be working almost every single day, I didn't want my family or my husband to go to the expense to travel to Russia. And, considering Russia's new antigay propaganda law, I didn't want to ruffle any feathers when I'm there. I'm there to do a job, and I'm very serious about it.

Q How do your loved ones feel about your trip?

I leave on Jan. 28 and don't come home for a month, which has my husband worried, and my whole family worried, what with the bombings in Volgograd. But I'm so excited. There's nothing like an Olympic Games. My advice to everyone: Go. Participate in the Olympic festivities in person. If you can't be an athlete, be an athletic supporter.

Q Do you ever get back to the Philadelphia area?

I went home to my parents in Delaware for Christmas, and we did a side stop in Quarryville [outside Lancaster], to visit with my extended family there. I try to get back at least every other month.

I live in North Jersey now, but at least once a week, I wear my big Pennsylvania sweatshirt, a gray hoodie I bought at a truck stop in Erie.

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