29 June 2012

Johnny Weir talks about Russia, his comeback, the Olympics and more!

Here I'm posting an excerpt of the interview by Slava Malamud to the American figure skater Johnny Weir. The traslation from Russian is made by TAHbKA so if you see some errors or misspellings don't complain but thanks TAHbKA for the hard job.

Prepare for a funny, a bit polemical, and maybe very egocentric interview from our favourite Johnny Weir!


SM: So what's with the comeback? Have the process started?
JW: Yes. Both the LP and the SP are done, I'm working on the quad. I have to lose a couple of pounds more, than will spend the summer to get back into a shape.

SM: So the programmes are ready...
JW: In general yes. They are still to be polished but the skeleton is ready.

SM: Can you tell a bit? Which music are you going to use?
JW: It's a special kind of music. I'll just mention that I was personally given my SP music by Lady Gaga.

SM: You're kidding....
JW: Nope. The SP will be really cool. As for the LP... I went to the skaters of the 50s and the 60s, whose programme was much longer and included cuts from different pieces. I'll have the same, but modern and with a fast beat. There will be a lot of classical bits, music everyone knows. The theme of the programme is phoenix. How it rises from the ashes.

SM: Do you mean yourself?
JW: You bet. I'll tell my story on the ice.

SM: You spent 2 years of your life doing whatever you want. Why have you decided to return to the sport?
JW: I'm glad I took a 2 years break. I needed to get away from the skating and live without it. Figure skating is like a huge aquarium.

SM: Aquarium?
JW: Well, yes. You live like a fish behind the glass. Everyone can see you, everyone knows everything about everyone, gossip all the time. I guess it's the same in the hockey. Anyway, I escaped it all and was thrilled. Got married. My life is wonderful. I realized figure skating is not the only thing I can do and there are other things in life. So this is my current attitude: I'm on the ice because I want to be there, not because I have no choice.

NBC / USOC Promotional Shoot
SM: So what are you going to be like on the ice? Will we see the old Johnny Weir or a new one?
JW: I hope you'll see a more wise Johnny Weir. I was silly when young, aren't we all? I was strong minded, wouldn't listen to anyone. When you behave like that you are in your shell and when you have a bad day there is no one to get you out, you're alone. Now I have no reason to be like that. I did all I could do for the USA figure skating. If nothing will work this time I'll just retire and will be happy. So the new Johnny Weir is more relaxed and calmed. I hope it'll help me to become a better skater I was before.

SM: You are sure? What if you don't care about the winning and the competition anymore?
JW: I never really cared at the first place. I'm not like Plushenko, who fights for his life on every competition. Perhaps because he is a Russian and I'm an American and, unlike Russians, we don't have to fight and suffer for everything. Perhaps it's just me - I'm not willing to kill for the victory.  The Russian system in Figure skating is the most serious one. It's especially true about the old Soviet coaches. Either you are successful, or you are nothing.

SM: Were you shocked when facing that school? Tarasova probably wasnt' all nice and fluffy with you.
JW: It was just what I needed. You see, my first coach, Priscilla Hill taught me everything I know. But she is a very loving and a tender person, perhaps a bit too much. Tarasova kicked my ass. Outside the rink she was just a babushka: was feeding me, combing me. Galina Zmievskaya is the same: on the ice she is the hardest and the cruelest person, while outside the rink our relationship is very warm.

SM: I have an impression all your weirdness is calculated....
JW: Calculated?! No. I'm really weird and don't mind it.

SM: The others do though.
JW: Figure skating is an old sport. Not old, but well, eldery. The traditions are very important and the old people are ruling everything. Those people, by the way, are not interested in the gay athlets, and that's despite the fact in the USA the figure skating has kind of a `gay' reputation. It's just that everyone would rather keep it quiet and not upset the others.
I decided a long time ago there is nothing more important in life than to be what I am. As a consequence on one hand I didn't have to be in the usual boundaries. On the other hand I realize my results as an athlete suffered.

Ferrey/Getty
SM: If the judging wasn't biased in what place would you finish in the 2010 Olympics?
JW: Wow... you know how long it took me to watch the others skate? I was heartbroken after Vancouver. I was depressed and lost all the interest in figure skating. Vancouver was the peak. Indeed, it was the peak moment of my life - the most emotional, dramatic, the best one. I left the ice with so many feelings, but once the marks showed it was obvious I was being put on the 6th place. Wow, I thought, so how well the others must have skated? Yet the journalists in the mixed zone were reporting that this skater fell, that one stopped in the middle of the programme, that one shitted on the ice, one burnt himself from his nostrils... So why wasn't I placed higher?... After 7-8 months I calmed down enough to watch the skating. I think I should had finished 3rd in Vancouver.

SM: It seemed you were less disappointed than Plushenko.
JW: You bet.

SM: How did you take his reaction - that he deserved a platinum medal etc?
JW: Figure skating takes your whole life. Plushenko rested for 3 years after Turin and if he came back it was probably not for the silver, right? So if it's the only thing you aim for, the only thing you wake up thinking in the morning and you don't get it... anyone would be upset.
I'm actually much closer to Evgeny than to Evan Lysacek and I cheer for him. Of course as far as the USA PR goes he did some damage. But everyone deals with the disappointments in their own way. Galina (Zmievskaya) after I had finished 6th went to McDonalds and eat chips. To do something like that she has to be really depressed. I went crying in the shower. Evgeny spoke about a platinum medal. Everyone do whatever calms them down.

SM: So your relationship with Lysacek, who became the champion are still so so?
JW: I havent' seen him for a very long time. The poison was mainly made by the USA media. And the FS federation. Of course we don't really like each other, but when I got married he was one of the first to congratulate me, which shocked me. Guess we both grew up. We don't have to like each other, but I have much more respect to his achievements now.

SM: So now you are back to figure skating. Do you think your odds are higher? The judges became more liberal?
JW: I thinks so. I hope so. If not -well, hey ho. By the way, the federation treats me better than ever. Guess they realize I'm the only one who can keep the figure skating popular in the USA. Evan won the Olympics but no one has a clue who is he. Yes. I can make our sport popular again. I hope the federation will let me participate all the competitions I have to and will explain how to be liked by the judges as well as the public. For the last 2 years I got too used to skate for people who would clap just if I shake my ass.

SM: Do you think you might make the judges like you?
JW: It's going to be hard. It's hard for Plushenko, but he came back. I'm not nearly as popular as Zhenya in Russia. Though I have nothing to complain - I am loved and appreciated in the USA overall, the federation knows it and needs me.


SM: By the figure skating standards in Sochi you'll be an old man. If you make it there at all.
JW: Yes, I'll be 29. But I only started skating when I was 12, so I'll have 17 years of skating. Many of my rivals started skating when they were 2, so their body was under the pressure for much longer than mine. Why not make it to Sochi? The competition in the USA is not so hard right now.

SM: What can you look for in Sochi?
JW: It's a competition, so I aim to win. What's the point otherwise. If you go knowing you are not going to win why go? Just stay home. But I'll be thrilled just to be in Sochi. 3 Olympics is a huge success.

SM: Especially taking into an account how much you love Russia.
JW: Of course! Russia is my inspiration. I mean the coaches, the music, the culture and the figure skating tradition. To finish my skating career in Russia is a dream. Besides, I will be skating under my new last name - Weir-Voronov.

MS: Your favourite Russian athlets?
JW: Evgeny Plushenko, Irina Slutskaya, the gymnast Sveltlana Khorkina. I adore her, she is a diva.


SM: You said you started skating when you were 12, which is very late. I heard it took you one week to learn the axel jump.
JW: Yes! I watched it very closely on the TV, then went to a frozen corn field near my home and jumped it.

SM: Landing on one foot?
JW: All as it should be. Why not? I'm from such an American nowhere that I'm not used to be afraid. I'm afraid of sharks and bug crowds. Spiders. But not of falling on the ice! We have so much snow and ice in Pennsylvania at the winter that your whole ass becomes one huge blue mark. Besides, I was riding the horses before that.

SM: Jumping above the fences?
JW: Yes. I was really small. Sitting on an animal of the size of a car and jump above things - now that is scary.

SM: Were you any good?
JW: Quite decent. I was first interested in soccer, but its' not for me. A team game, running, sweating, kicking the ball.. thanks, but no thanks. I tried skiing, and then switched to the horses. I was quite close to qualifying to the national team of my age, but then I got interesting in figure skating and forgot about the rest.

SM: Lady Gaga gave you the music. Are you friends?
JW: As much as you can be friends with a superstar. She supports me, takes interest in my career. I was once sitting in her mother's restaurant and her mother told me `It would be great if you skated to Gaga's music'

SM: Gaga?
JW: Well, no, of course she called her Stephanie. Anyway, mom called the daughter and she sent me the music.

SM: You once said when you skate you are in the world of your dream and you want to take the viewer there with you. What does that world look like?
JW: Like the inside of the cloud. It's all sparkling and smells with Chanel n. 5

SM Cant' say I'm very surprised.
JW: It's my world. It's light, sparkling and good smelling.



Translation by: TAHbKA on FSU

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