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Weir hits L.A. for 30-hour whirlwind of TV and fan chats

Resilient American skater is already plotting another big comeback

Johnny Weir is among the all-star cast for "Stars, Stripes and Skates."
Johnny Weir is among the all-star cast for "Stars, Stripes and Skates." (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/26/2009) - Johnny Weir is in town.

A few popped triple Axels at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships cost the irrepressible skater the chance to defend his world bronze medal in Los Angeles this week at the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, but he's here to check out the action, visit fans and gather his thoughts for yet another comeback next season.

"Originally, I was really apprehensive about this," he said. "It's kind of depressing to go to a competition you're not actually taking part in.

"Then I got a request from NBC/Oxygen for an interview spot, maybe to offer my opinion on the ladies' event. Originally, they were going to ask me about the men, but that would have just been too tough.

"I always jump at the chance to talk about ladies; it's my favorite event. I have a lot of friends in it, and I think it's the most exciting."

Weir is here for 30 hours, courtesy of new sponsor Zuca, a maker of hip, customizable luggage. He'll also drop by Dash Tour's section of the arena to say hello to fans.

While he's putting a good face on things, Weir is far from happy about how his 2008-09 season ended. After winning two silver medals on the fall Grand Prix circuit and claiming bronze at the Grand Prix Final, he thought he'd be competing in L.A. this week. But the skater caught a strength-sapping illness while skating in a charity show in Korea a few weeks prior to the U.S. Championships and placed a disappointing fifth.

"I don't know if I actually have processed it all yet," he said. "I don't know if I'm over the feeling of going to worlds and seeing the other skaters not as an equal, as another competitor."

The skater's mom, Patti Weir, convinced him to board the plane.

"She told me, 'This will show a lot of character and help you compete better next season.' She believes in taking the high road. If you're down, you have to face it, jump over it and get back on the horse, so to speak. She said going to L.A. will help remind me of what I'm missing and light a fire under me for next season."

If Weir returns to the world championships and the Olympic Games, it will not be the first time he's silenced his critics. Many wrote him off when he withdrew from the 2003 U.S. Championships after literally hitting the wall during his free skate. He didn't get any Grand Prix assignments the following fall, but a few months later won the first of his three U.S. titles.

"I think I've made a career out of getting knocked down and coming back afterwards," he said. "When I'm written off, it's given me the strength to fight my way back. I can't be kept down; I'm going to rise again."

Some journalists here rue the colorful skaters' absence, saying the mixed zone just isn't the same without his quips.

"Hey, I've been reading the articles. It sounds like Patrick Chan is filling in for me pretty well," he laughed, referring to the Canadian's war of words this week with Brian Joubert over the quad.

"The truth is that in many other countries, I probably would have been sent. Yes, I was fifth at nationals, but I'm still the No. 1-ranked American according to the ISU. The U.S. is very politically correct; it wants to give everyone a fair shake. Everyone has to bring their A-game all the time. I got sick, and I had one bad performance at the wrong time.

"I'm taking a few days off, then I'm back home [in Wayne, N.J.] digging right in with some new music ideas. I'm absolutely done with this year's programs. The costumes are not with me anymore; the music is in the closet."

Without getting specific, Weir says he's contemplating "coming full circle. Next year may be my final [competitive] season. I'm thinking about circling back to an old idea, to a program I've done before, but re-do it in a fresh way. We'll see."