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Stars, Stripes and Skates brings out the champions

Weir debuts new short; Baiul, Ando and Abbott also headline

Johnny Weir will skate his hugely popular exhibition program to Lady GaGa's "Poker Face" at <i>Stars, Stripes and Skates</i>.
Johnny Weir will skate his hugely popular exhibition program to Lady GaGa's "Poker Face" at Stars, Stripes and Skates. (courtesy of Susan Chun/Lifeskate)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(09/15/2009) - On Saturday, Sept. 26, fans can get a sneak preview of Johnny Weir's new short program at the eighth annual Stars, Stripes and Skates ICEtravaganza.

The show, which honors the memory of September 11 and benefits The Heritage Foundation of 9/11, will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Danbury Ice Arena in Danbury, Conn. For more information, see www.StarsStripesandSkates. To purchase tickets, contact the Danbury Arena at (203) 794-1704.

Former national ice dance competitor Tara Eve Modlin, who is also Weir and Jeremy Abbott's agent, founded the non-profit organization and began the show in 2002. Its aim is to help teach youngsters the value of heroism, volunteering and patriotism.

"It's a beautiful thing Tara's done," said Weir, who first performed in the show in 2003. "It's really impressive that a skating show can last that long these days. I think it's the fact you're bringing something beautiful to remember something so terrible."

The show, headlined by Olympic champion Oksana Baiul, also features 2007 world champion Miki Ando and four-time U.S. ice dance silver medalists Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov, reigning Japanese champion Nobunari Oda, U.S. junior ice dance champions Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein, former world junior champion Derrick Delmore and Japanese ice dance champions Cathy Reed and Chris Reed will also take part. The evening will be hosted by Hairspray star Nikki Blonsky and Sirius XM radio personality Frank DeCaro.

Kate Gosselin, star of the hit TLC reality show Jon & Kate Plus 8, will make an appearance. Jill Zarin and LuAnn de Lesseps, cast members from The Real Housewives of New York City, will also be in attendance.

Weir plans to perform his popular exhibition to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" in addition to his new competitive program. The singer's mom, Cynthia, will be on hand to watch the performance.

"The short is called "I Love You, I Hate You." That's my title for it," he said. "It's a Spanish rumba piece by Raul DiBlasio. I'll be wearing my competitive costume, which I designed, and is being made by Stephanie Handler."

The show is a rare break in the three-time U.S. champion's routine. Weir said he's been training "100 percent every day. I've had maybe one big mistake in a short program run through out of 12 or 13 [run-throughs], and I've made very minor mistakes in six free program run-throughs.

"The triple Axel is good; everything is good. The second half of the [free] program is packed, the steps are packed. It's a very hard program. I'm excited to show it, but I still need a little bit more work on it."

He added his free skate, "Fallen Angel," features many cuts of music.

"I don't know all of the names of the pieces, there are so many," he admitted. "It's a mish mash but it's beautiful.

"It's based on my career. In many ways, I've been at the highest of highs and lowest of lows. When you do something poorly or you have one bad event, you get torn down. I think many people out there can relate to that. I wanted to portray that on the ice, I wanted to show what my story is."

Weir was not required to compete at a non-qualifying event over the summer. However, his free skate was monitored by a panel of five judges at New York's Chelsea Piers last week.

"The monitoring session was just okay, probably the worst I've actually done my long program run-through because it's been so long since I've been in front of people scrutinizing everything what I'm doing," said Weir, whose most recent competition was 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, where he placed fifth.

"I had a little trouble with the size of the ice so the step sequences were a lower level. I had to leave some pieces out so I wouldn't slam into the wall. But for September, the judges were really happy. They said, 'You're in really good shape, we're excited with the program, and we want to see it grow.'"

The officials running the session strove to make it seem as much like a competition as possible.

"They wanted to make it kind of real-ish, but I had a ten-minute warm up instead of a six minute one," Weir said. "This week I do my short at my rink [in Wayne, N.J.] in front of a different panel."

While Pop Star on Ice, the documentary highlighting several years of Weir's career, has made the rounds of summer film festivals, Weir has stayed close to home and his coaches, Galina Zmievskaya and Viktor Petrenko.

"The film has been a weekend thing," said Weir, who attended openings in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Philadelphia. "I haven't been traveling to L.A. or any of those far away places. I stay at home and it's an easy in and easy out. I don't have a lot of time to give to it."