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Weir announces return, sets sights on Sochi

Now married, rested 27-year-old hopes to be at Olympics

After taking a break, Johnny Weir thinks he can still compete with the top skaters.
After taking a break, Johnny Weir thinks he can still compete with the top skaters. (Andrew Werner)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/19/2012) - Johnny Weir -- the reality TV star, fashionista, author ("Welcome to My World"), singer ("Dirty Love") and three-time U.S. champion -- is putting other interests aside to attempt a competitive comeback.

"I'm here to announce, officially, my return to competitive figure skating in hopes of being a member of the 2014 U.S. team at the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia," Weir said.

"I'm going to continue to work with Galina Zmievskaya, Viktor Petrenko and Nina Petrenko as my coaching team, and I will train at the Ice House in Hackensack, N.J."

The setting was the Laurie Beechman Theatre near Times Square, where Joan Rivers is currently doing her stand-up, but despite a few one-liners, the jubilant Weir -- attired in a short bright green jacket and with hair teased into a pompadour -- insisted the announcement was no joke.

"My hair won't stay this high ... I'm going to get myself skinny and beautiful and artistically prepared for the crazy world that is competitive figure skating," he said.

Weir, whose last competitive result was a sixth-place finish at the 2010 Olympics, plans to skate three hours a day, work out off the ice and regain his competitive mettle at summer competitions, including the Moran Memorial in Hackensack and the Mid-Atlantic Figure Skating Championships, held at New York's Chelsea Piers. Both events take place in September.

While he would welcome a fall Grand Prix assignment -- "I'd prefer to spread my sparkle all over the place" -- he said he would be willing to qualify for the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships by competing at his regional and/or sectional events.

"My hope right now is that I can get at least one Grand Prix, even if it's just Skate America. The United States Figure Skating Association is aware of all this and is very supportive of me. I'm not going into the competitive season with any airs; I'm just one of the people, no special treatment.

"I don't expect to come back immediately. It's going to be a slow process and a beautiful progression, hopefully, to come back as a national champion and a world medalist. Those are off in the distance. I don't expect instantaneous results. I expect hard work this summer."

Next week, he will gain a close-up look at his U.S. competition. Weir will provide commentary for icenetwork.com's coverage of the men's event at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

"I want to see what I'm up against," he said.

In his competitive absence, rule changes have made the quadruple jump more valuable, and most top skaters include at least one in their programs. Although Weir has never landed a clean quad in competition, he says working on a four-revolution jump is on his agenda.

"I'll be training all of my jumps, and luckily I can still do my triples through the Axel, but Galina has already warned me [I have to] work on the quad and be a real threat. I want to show up and be competitive and have people actually take this seriously. This isn't a publicity stunt; this isn't anything other than a return to competitive figure skating."

At age 27, Weir is about 18 months younger than Evgeni Plushenko, who recently won his ninth Russian title and will compete at the 2012 European Figure Skating Championships next week, and a year older than Evan Lysacek, the reigning Olympic champion who has said he plans to return to competition in time to qualify for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The current world champion, Canada's Patrick Chan, turned 21 on December 31st.

However, unlike many athletes his age, Weir has never suffered a major injury.

"While I am older than most of the top competitors, I have been skating about the same [amount of] time as they have," he said. "They started at the age of two or three or four and I started at the age of 12. Technically, even though in number I am older, my body is about the same age, which is lucky for me."

Still, the spotlight-loving skater admitted returning to the Spartan life of figure skating will be tough.

"I've been very free and running around and doing whatever I want," he said. "That's very fulfilling and lovely and it gave me the freedom to fall in love and get married and build a beautiful life for myself. Going back into competition, it will be so stressful to give up a lot of the extracurriculars and only skate."

Weir, who married Viktor Voronov in a small civil ceremony on Dec. 31, said his new husband is all for the return.

"He is completely supportive of this decision and actually pushed me into this decision, sometimes against my will, sometimes with me. We're very proud of this decision, and it won't affect anything. I'll still wash boxers and cook dinner and clean and do everything I'm supposed to do as a happy husband."

The main thing, Weir said, is to have no regrets.

"I wanted to do this while I still had the time. I didn't want to be 50 years old and look back and say there was two years before Sochi and I kind of let them go doing things, and I could have been skating and gone to my third Olympic Games."

Of course, he also wants to have a little fun.

"I'm trying to find way with my music editor to mix Carmen with Lady Gaga," Weir said.