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The Inside Edge: Stylish Weir, beloved Kwan

Ladwig does good deed, retired legends embrace time off ice

Johnny Weir has shown plenty of his trademark fashion and comedy since announcing his return.
Johnny Weir has shown plenty of his trademark fashion and comedy since announcing his return. (Sarah S. Brannen)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(01/27/2012) - Johnny Weir held a lengthy press conference Friday afternoon to talk about his comeback, dressed in celestial all-black, with a black feathery brooch with pearls and a crystal drop, and silver stripe in his hair.

"I'm channeling Cruella De Vil" he said, clutching a monstrous Chanel bag. But we didn't see any puppies.

"I'm very excited to return to competition," he said. "I'm excited to get to work. I've been on the ice with Galina [Zmievskaya] since the fall, kind of secretly, at night, or in the morning before anyone had their mascara on, to see what my body's like as a 27-year-old gentleman. Now that I've taken two years off from competition and had time to eat and get fat, write a book, record a song, get married, I've realized that figure skating isn't everything. I realize I can come back without my entire future resting on one performance.

"My comeback is entirely for personal gain. This is kind of a vanity project. I want to get back on the ice and be thin and beautiful ... I don't know why but I have a quite high public profile for a figure skater. My time for an Olympic medal may have passed in 2006. This is kind of to put figure skating back on the map for pop culture."

Asked about the prospects for U.S. skating on the international scene, Weir said that the U.S. ladies, while incredible, will have a tough time beating the women from Russia and Asia. What about the men?

"In the men, we don't have anyone who will beat Patrick Chan or Evgeni Plushenko," he said. "Right now, Canada is obviously politically very strong. Patrick Chan can fall down four times and still win. There's obviously a lot going on behind the scenes that we're not privy to.

"I think Jeremy Abbott has done a good job of carrying on where Evan [Lysacek] and I left off. As far as the full package, we don't really have that in America right now."

Asked if he will compete even if he doesn't feel he can win events, Weir said, "I'm smart enough to know when my time is definitely over. If by the summer or fall I'm not where I need to be to compete, I'll hang up the skates. I'm not a dumb person. I'm not going to throw myself out in front of the cameras of the world if I'm not good enough to be there ... Of course I hope I can win something. I'll compete well. I'll try not to fall down."

Weir is considering a medley of Carmen and Lady Gaga for one of his programs, which he says Zmievskaya is skeptical about. He also says one of the main motivations for his comeback is that the Olympics are in Russia.

"It would be a beautiful way to end my career in a place that's inspired my whole career," he said. "U.S. Figure Skating has been quite open to my comeback. We've been talking about it for quite some time. They've been supportive, but they want me to understand that no one gets special treatment; I'd have to go through regionals and sectionals even to get to nationals in Omaha."

"I can do all my triples, and I'm going to go back and work on quads. If I get pregnant, then I can't do quads because I'll be too fat."

Vintage

Peggy Fleming, Brian Boitano and Debi Thomas had a short visit with members of the media before the ladies short program. We are always excited to see Dr. Thomas, and before we talked to her we heard a television reporter ask her if she wished she could compete last night.

"Nooooo," said Thomas, laughing. "No."

We asked Thomas about skating in the recent Caesar's Tribute show.

"I wish I had lost about 10 more pounds!" she said, candidly. "When they said, 'It will have to be a two-minute program,' I thought, 'Oh, that won't be hard.' It was hard. I trained for five or six months for it."

We also had a chance to talk briefly with Fleming, looking beautiful, as always, in a Vera Wang tunic and top and Camille K jewels.

"They're made of vintage buttons and things," she said. "From Paris."

Fleming took the ice for the opening ceremonies; it's always great to see her on skates!

Double Time

Two skaters competing this week are in two events: Ashley Cain won the silver medal in junior ladies on Wednesday night and competed in senior pairs the very next afternoon; she and Joshua Reagan currently stand seventh after the short program. How did she prepare to compete in two different events so close together?

"I've been training all year for it, so I was prepared for it," she told us. "I couldn't sleep last night, because I was so excited [about winning the silver medal]. It felt great to go skate out there and change gears and have him next to me."

Meanwhile, Alex Johnson competed in the novice pairs event, finishing sixth, and he'll be skating with the senior men tonight. What made him decide to try doing pairs this season?

"I was injured after nationals last year, and I didn't know what I would be able to do with my singles," he told us. "I had a sprained ankle that turned into a bone chip and I wasn't back to training until June. The jumping in pairs is more restricted and I could do the necessary elements pain-free while I healed for singles."

Johnson had some pairs experience, having competed in juvenile pairs in 2004 and 2005 with Chelsey Jernberg.

"I had a lot of fun, even though it wasn't as competitive as what I'm doing now," he said.

How has it been competing in two events in the same week?

"It's definitely physically draining to manage both, but I also find that the busier I am the better I function. I'd really like to go out there and skate to my ability. I love my short program (to 'O Mio Babbino Caro') and I feel like the pairs was a great way to start my week."

Odds and Ends

We saw The Boys Who Score, the diehard Michelle Kwan fans who score every event from the stands, in the hotel last night. They are, naturally, agog with excitement about the Hall of Fame reception with the Kween tonight.

"We bought our tickets the day they went on sale," they said. "We've already picked out our outfits. We think there's a 100-percent chance Billy is going to cry, and a 35-percent chance he'll faint. We just want everyone to be prepared."

Karen Kwan stopped by to chat with her sister's fans and talk about her student Caroline Zhang's excellent short progam last night. We were without our camera, but she looked as gorgeous and stylish as ever.

Mark Ladwig is well-known as an all-around good guy, and he keeps on living up to his reputation. He found an airline captain's hat outside his hotel room and made every effort to find the owner.

"I was going down to the lobby, so [I took it with me] and I saw a flight attendant and said, 'Is this one of your guys?' And it was. He told me thanks, and 'Good luck.'"

Sean Rabbitt, who just missed qualifying out of Pacific Coast Sectionals, is in the stands cheering on his training mates.

"It's hard," he admitted. "But I'm having a good time."

We heard yesterday that the Skating Club of Boston's annual "Ice Chips" show next spring has scored a big name as its guest star: Lysacek. The show will take place March 31 and April 1. No fooling.

Olympic champion sightings: 5, with the addition of Fleming and Boitano.

Michelle Kwan sightings: 1! She held a press conference after the dance competition.

More from the Hall of Fame reception tomorrow.

Later,
Sarah and Drew
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