Johnny’s World: Dog and Pony Show

January 9, 2014 7:13 AM8 comments

jworldThis week, Boston hosts the 2014 United States Figure Skating Championships. In an Olympic year, the event serves as the moment when the United States Figure Skating Federation selects representatives for the Olympic Games. The event is lovingly referred to as “Nationals.”

The big events are obviously the competitions to decide the team for Sochi and the ones shown on NBC this weekend, but few outside the skating world realize that we also crown a national champion in four additional levels of skating which have to do with skills and tests passed, not age.

This column is titled “Dog and Pony Show” because from the outside, Nationals seem more like a Christopher Guest film than an actual sporting event. I’ve made reference to “Best in Show” before in my scribblings, but I want to delve into the realness that is Nationals.

In a world where everyone says they don’t date within their profession or keep in contact with childhood dreams and acquaintances, we all feel comfortable and obligated to see people who “get us.” Thus every person who has ever ice skated competitively bounces around the idea and often acts upon a trip to Nationals, to soak up some “old times” and nostalgia. In addition to all of us old-timers, every young skater has parents, coaches, choreographers, and loved ones who rally around their village’s child to support them on the big stage.

So for a solid week you get people who have been planning their hotel lobby outfits and exfoliating regularly, on the off chance they run into an ex of some sort, all in an enclosed space to relish a world that few understand and so many are curious about. We are the foot soldiers of our sport and we get a high school reunion, every year.

Nationals are really all about the skaters and their prowess. It is one of the hardest competitions I’d ever experienced. You aren’t representing the USA anymore; you’re representing your training base or home city – and going cannibal against your own, so to speak.

It is a pressure cooker of emotions. Longtime feuds are played out. You are often subjected to performing for people who thought all year “why him and not me?” as you were competing globally and they were relegated to local events. You have the opportunity to make those closest to you cry with emotion. For a young skater, you compete in the same event as the heroes you watch on TV (Hello Michelle Kwan!). For the veterans, Nationals is either a casual day at work or a day when you get your livelihood and status chucked down the drain.

While I have very fond memories of my times at Nationals – medals, boys, making people proud – I will be forever haunted by an equal number of bad memories.

I was watching one of the early events for a non-Olympic level and wondering why people do this to themselves. Why do the parents toil, sacrifice, and watch helplessly as their kid falls down? Why do the judges volunteer to take time away from their day jobs to judge us? How is it possible for some of these coaches in their 80’s to spend five or six days a week training runny-nosed divas and divos to jump and twizzle on ice while freezing their gray hairs off? Why?

Because it’s glorious.

There is no greater feeling than being accepted, just as you are. When people have a common interest – whether it be figure skating, Dungeons and Dragons, or those weird yellow “Despicable Me” creatures – the bonds go deeper than those shared by alumni or co-workers. Past and current skaters unite for one week a year because they were drawn to the sport, for whatever reason. They all gave up a big chunk of their hearts to the sport and its community.

The current skaters and champions have been in the family longer than they’ve probably realized, but will one day appreciate it as we all do. The skaters compete for medals and to deliver performances that leave their audiences breathless. They skate to reach the pinnacle of what the human body can accomplish and share the exuberance of youth with the world – or at least the select few who will watch them. They compete and we support them to represent this country on the world’s greatest stage, at the Olympics.

We compete, no matter good or bad, to show our parents and teams that their sacrifices weren’t for naught. We compete to accomplish dreams we created as kids. We will grow into adults who support the next generation.

Aside from the similarities the figure-skating world has to any mocked amusement or leisure activity, our sport is family. Yes we have spray-tan drama, rivalries, knee bashings, love triangles, politics, and fashion disasters, but all the more to love and be amused by. We deserve respect. I say we, but respecting the funny little ice cube I’ve come from has been a long journey for yours truly. I often rolled my eyes at this world and just wanted to do my own thing while utilizing the passion, energy, and expertise from the community without thanks. Better late than never. …

I hope that every mother can feel what it feels like to have her child succeed. I wish that every person has his or her chance in the sun. I hope they feel good about themselves and build their confidence and determination.

I hope that no matter how adverse you are to certain things in the world, you try to get educated and at least understand your aversion.

I hope that everyone has a rival that they vanquish, and I wish everyone peace when a snapshot of a life starts to fade while you’re opening up to a new one.

All those things I learned from the world of figure skating, and I hope that you will support such a wonderful education.

***

I wish luck to all the athletes in this world who will compete for or have already won a place in the Olympics. It is a gift. Make us marvel.

I don’t make a habit of writing about the figure skating world – because it is outrageous and incomprehensible at times – but given the sporting lives and careers at stake this week in Boston, I felt it pertinent. Support the best and the worst, because they all deserve it.

  • Lady Lisa

    I agree, figure skating really IS ‘glorious’ and a family, in a way that no other sport can be. I think it’s important for the casual observer who may just land on the channel airing Nationals this weekend to see beyond the glitter, sparkles, music and dramas, and understand it’s a sport representing a lifetime of immense physical training and artistry, too. (In school, I used to sit in class (when I was there), and listen, at l e n g t h, to these 2 girls complaining about ‘having to get up early TWICE this week for rowing’ – and I always tried not to laugh!
    I must say, I respect Johnny, not just for being a great skater, but for staying in the sport for so many, many years and for dealing with and rising above the unfairness that was dealt to him, never throwing in the towel, yet still doing it his own way. I respect him for all this. I have no doubt that Johnny will make a very successful transition from being a 2-time Olympic figure skater to the next chapter of his life because he has already accomplished so much more than most people do before they’re even 30, and all stemming from figure skating of all things – amazing! I look forward to watching Nationals and seeing the new crop of elite, gifted athletes, they too deserve respect and I wish them tons of good luck as they skate to achieve their dreams.

  • Mimi Dzyacky

    Thank you for your spectacular offering! While the tear in my heart is healing (not seeing you compete anymore) and will twinge as each figure skater takes to the ice I thank you for the perspective of the sport you provide me. Will always be one of your biggest fans no matter what…seriously no matter what! You changed my life and will continue to do so every single day dearest Johnny. Thank you again for another wonderful read.

  • Lady Lisa

    Have to say it’s kind of bittersweet, to me, because I just wish Johnny was competing in the Olympics again, just one last time to try and win an Olympic medal, a medal he was so deserving of in Vancouver! I just didn’t think his time as a champion was up, and that he could have been a real medal contender for Sochi. Of course a person has to move on, but I believe he sold himself short in this.

    p.s. the ice hump kind of left me cold, need some more work there, can’t wait to see the full skating performance. But your costume designs at Europeans are just beautiful and real stunners, and even at a distance the designs looked amazing and held the eye – so proud of you! Darn I want to try that dress on – love it!

  • sweetskater

    Nationals was amazing this year! I’ll get there one day! Sooo excited to watch the Olympics soon woo-hoo!

  • Lady Lisa

    Hi Johnny! It’s nice to see you had such a fun, and successful trip to Sochi. And you definitely seemed comfy commentating, like you’ve been doing it much longer than you have. And I’m sure you’ll get even better at it as time passes. Your outfits were so much fun to see and they were every bit as amazing as the figure skating you commentated on! Your Billy Reid jacket in that grey or charcoal colour looked really nice and you are one of the few people who actually looks great in grey, I think. It looked SO classy. And your hot pink Chanel blazer was simply stunning and I liked the 4 ‘pockets’ on it. Don’t think anybody needs a whole lot of jewellery wearing a strong design like that. And I thought the basic black leather GPughs with the ROs wedges created an elegant, longer and leaner line for you, worn together like that. I also loved your Joie lace shirt and it had a lovely, soft elegance to it and white is always a great colour for you. That gave a beautiful look. I really loved that green blazer of Vintage Valentino. I liked the single button and the wider deep lapel, that’s very flattering for you, I think. Now I thought your blouse by Moi-Meme-Mottle wasn’t your top look, m a y b e in another colour, but not in that black, just thought it looked too sloppy on you and the pleats looked too ‘hit & miss’, to me. And the Son Bung Kaun trousers just didn’t look as good as skinnies or leggings on you. Both beautiful pieces, but just not flattering to ‘you’, I think. I so loved that vintage Ferrè blazer in black with the single gold button. Thought it looked powerful and definitely one of the nicest on you. Like the Billy Reid jacket and the Vintage Valentino, that sleeker, semi-fitted cut to it suits you best, I think. Oh and your Russian braid was epic! Think you could easily start a global ‘wear a braid’ day with that one! I must try that with my hair, it may be long enough to! Now I thought you could have worn some scarves, I don’t think I saw you in any. That could be nice to see. This *gown girl* loves scarves! And I loved the costume you designed for Yuzuru for his free program. It is funny because even though HE was wearing it, at times throughout the program it looked just like you out there. So I guess in a way you took home some gold because he wore your design. And as amazingly spectacular as he skated, I wished YOU could have been on the podium, too. I wish you could have had that moment. Anyway, I really enjoyed seeing all your fun, amazing and magical looks in Sochi! I wish you lots of luck for the Oscars job, they could not have a better, or more fitting, fashion judge than you! And good luck to Tara as well!

  • Lady Lisa

    Dear Johnny, I know this isn’t really the place for this, but I just want to wish you luck launching the Sochi 2014 Paralympics. I have a dear friend who’s cousin is a quadriplegic and he gains SUCH inspiration from this, it just brings tears to my eyes – so good luck with this most important event tonight! I thought you did a wonderful job critiquing all the gowns on the red carpet at the Oscars and although I didn’t see it all I thought you and Tara worked very smoothly together and you both seemed very fair with your fashion comments. Now I thought your Cynthia Vincent blazer had a really attractive print on the fabric although i couldn’t really see all that it was and a close-up could have been nice. And the black & white stripes throughout really worked well for that blazer, and for YOU. I really, really loved the custom vintage “potluck” leather suit. So elegant, yet with a softness to it being all in white. The Le Vian brooch had a beautiful, intricate sparkle without overtaking the whole outfit. And the Louis Leeman shoes were wonderful, I just loved that blast of silver sparkle to them, they lit up the whole outfit, I thought. The Tom Ford leathers looked alright but I didn’t think it was one of your top looks, no at at all, although I loved the black YSL? blazer you wore with that outfit. And I loved the sleek, black Yoanabaraschi blazer and the Asos shorts were just so FUN with that blazer! The vintage brooch seemed nice but I couldn’t really see it too closely, you needed a close-up on that too, I think. Anyway, congratulations on the great Oscars job that you and Tara did, and I think if they can mock you on SNL then they should let you host it!

  • Lady Lisa

    Oh Johnny, I’m SO sad that you and your hubby are no longer together. Although I’ve never met you or Victor, you both seem like such sweet people and it just seems so unfair that this has to happen to you guys. You’re going to need a little time to rest, restore and repair yourself, but just know that others are so sad for you, and care about you. Both of your rainbows have a long way to go yet in this world, but even rainbows need to rest sometimes. And, in time, your rainbow will pick up where it left off, and love will come again.

  • Lambretta

    Johnny I have been waiting for your next installment at FCNP. I know you have been so busy since Sochi and the Oscars. I am deeply saddened by your divorce and the toll it is taking on you. I do hope there is a quick resolution and things calm down. Things are getting ugly and that’s no good for either of you nor your families and all the thousands of people that care about you.

    I was reading from the Quotable Johnny Weir today and read all the quotes under the marriage heading. You really were happy in the beginning and had so many nice and loving things to say. I’m sorry so many things have changed and could not be worked out. I had a feeling when I saw several tweets get deleted by the both of you that things were going badly but you never let it show in Sochi or afterwards. I know that was a hard thing to do.

    I have really come to admire you since I started watching the live coverage of the skating during the Olympic games. I didn’t have much of an idea how difficult the sport is until I learned so many things from you. Both you and Tara really made those parts of the games the most interesting. Now I follow your schedule and your twitter and new FB feeds. I just can not get enough of you. I have watched more you tube with you in it than ever before and love your style and the way you conduct yourself on and off the ice.

    You have my support no matter what happens and I wish you all the joy and love for yourself that you bring to so many others around the world.

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