Weir makes changes with eye on redemption

Johnny Weir is shooting for a gold medal at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
Johnny Weir is shooting for a gold medal at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. (Getty Images)


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By Klaus Reinhold Kany / Special to
(08/24/2007) - After a season that fell short of his and the American public's expectations, three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir made a major decision: he left longtime coach Priscilla Hill and his training site at The Pond in Newark, Del., and moved into an apartment in Lyndhurst, N.J., to train at the Ice Vault in Wayne, N.J.

German freelancer Klaus Reinhold Kany talked with Weir about his move up the East Coast, his new programs and how he feels about what transpired at the 2007 State Farm U.S. Championships.

KRK: Why did you change coaches?

JW: It's a long story. When you have been with somebody for so long, like I have been with Priscilla, at that point you are friends and you are close. I saw Priscilla more often than I saw my mother or my father or even Paris, my best friend. This past season Priscilla and I didn't click like a coach and a student. We were friends. To work, it's very difficult like that. When you want to work and you want to be the best, you can't have a friend. You need somebody to push you. I was unhappy because we did not speak with each other a lot between nationals and Worlds. So I decided to make a change.

I talked to several coaches, from Nikoli Morozov to Oleg Vasiliev to Rafael Arutunian, and a lot of others. They just have other projects. Of course, originally, I thought of possibly moving to Russia, but my mother and my federation told me I need to stay in America.

I spoke with some of the Russian skaters and, of course, with my friends, with Marina Anissina, who is one of the biggest ones. She said Galina (Zmievskaya) would be a good choice. She could push me to work, and we wouldn't be friends, and that's something I wanted. And, of course, having Viktor (Petrenko) here helps a lot because he is a specialist for the ISU, he was at the ISU seminar in Frankfurt recently, and he can check out all my levels and everything.

"Galina turned out to be a very good choice for me because she's not far from my home in Delaware. It's just two hours, so I can come home if I want. Wayne, in New Jersey, is not far from New York City, and if I need to go there for a weekend, I can do it to have fun.

The next Olympics are worth it. I am on the right track. And my best friend, Paris, also moved to Wayne. He has finished school in Delaware and is looking for a job here in New Jersey.

KRK: You went to Mexico with friends in June and were sick for some time. How is your conditioning?

JW: At the moment, it is hard to get in shape again, but later it will be easier. A coach can do only 30 percent for you. You must do 70 percent yourself. But I am sure I will be better prepared for my competitions this season than the last one.

KRK:Why have you not tried a quad this off-season?

JW: I take a break from quads every summer because my bones are thin. If I train quads all year, my bones might not withstand them throughout my career. But my goal is to have the quad toe loop and the quad Salchow back in the fall at my two Grand Prix, in China and Russia. Between China and the second Grand Prix in Moscow, I will go to the Olimpiski Rink in Moscow to the school of Elena Tchaikovskaya, who is a good friend of Galina.

KRK: Why the love of Russia?

JW: I've had a passion for Russia since my childhood, some romantic feelings about the beautiful things in Russia. I do not think of the bad things in that country. Priscilla also had a Russian way of coaching. But my Russian language still needs some improvement.

KRK: Your short program is choreographed by Faye Kitarieva, who choreographed some of Sasha Cohen's programs, and is set to a piece called "Yunona I Avos." Tell me about it.

JW: A friend of Faye who plays the piano and works in a studio was able to make a new version of that music. It's very (hot).

KRK: The choreographer of your free skate is ice dancer Sergei Petukhov.

He's a good friend of mine. We worked together at night in the rink in Wilmington. The program is a kind of story of Johnny, who was often knocked down but is aggressive and strong. It was also specially arranged for me. It is called 'Love is War.' On the surface it is the sad story of an officer in the army who is in love with a Mexican girl but has to do his duty, which is to go to war. It's kind of a spiritual -- and very strong -- music. Both programs are kind of a big contrast to one another.

KRK: How do you feel about what happened at last year's U.S. Championships?

JW: After the short program I knew that I had lost. I should have been first, but the points showed that they wanted Evan to win. Concerning the long, Evan was better, no question, but it shocked me to have lost to Ryan Bradley. This season I want to win the title back.

KRK: And what of your longtime goals?

JW: My main goal is to win the gold medal at the Olympics in 2010. And in 2014 I might skate for another country, because the US will probably then send younger skaters to the Games. When I heard that they are to be in Sochi in Russia, I was so happy. It would be dream to skate at Russian Olympics.