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Healing Weir to headline 'Holiday Dreams on Ice'

Three-time U.S. champ to perform with top American skaters in Holiday Dreams on Ice on Dec. 16

Johnny Weir is looking forward to participating in <i>Holiday Dreams on Ice</i>.
Johnny Weir is looking forward to participating in Holiday Dreams on Ice. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(12/12/2012) - As Johnny Weir tells it, a "cluster of bad things, all happening together" put an end to his season.

Last month's Hurricane Sandy forced him and his coach, Galina Zmievskaya, to leave their rink in Hackensack, N.J., for Monsey in upstate New York. His home lost power, and he packed for a three-week competitive sojourn to the Rostelecom Cup and Trophée Eric Bompard with flashlights taped to the sides of his head. Rapid weight loss weakened him and made a fall on some warm-up steps in Moscow worse, leaving his left side, from ACL to hip, numb and then sore.

"Skinny, fragile people -- that should be the anthem of figure skating," Weir said with a rueful laugh.

The three-time U.S. champion, 28, gutted out a short program in Moscow, falling on a quad toe, hitting a triple Axel and then doubling out on a triple-triple combination. After his next practice, he withdrew, later withdrawing from his second Grand Prix in Paris and the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships next month in Omaha. Neb.

"I had a good cry," he said. "The whole return is for my fans, and I really didn't want to disappoint them, and I also didn't want to do badly for them.

"The thing that was most important to me was to come back," he continued. "I hope I've shown my fans they can push themselves and not be afraid of failure, not be afraid of being embarrassed, not be afraid to make a mistake. I hope I've shown them you can come back and, whatever happens, hold your head high."

U.S. ice dance silver medalist Alex Shibutani, one of Weir's U.S. teammates at Rostelecom Cup, saw Weir's impact on the sport firsthand.

"There we were in Moscow, with the great figure skating tradition Russia has, and you would look up and see half the banners in the arena were for Johnny," Shibutani said. "That's what he has done: opened up the sport to more fans."

Weir resists the idea that putting a quad in his short program -- something he didn't attempt at the 2010 Olympics, where he skated clean programs to place sixth -- was an overreach.

"A lot of people said, 'Don't do the quad. Just try the things you're good at,'" he said. "I really started landing my quad every single time. Training with [Czech skater] Michal Březina doing his quads pushed me to get in there and really fight for it.

"In Russia, it was very unfortunate what happened, and I can't apologize enough to my fans who bought tickets to go and see me perform. I wish it hadn't happened, but it did, and you can't look back on things like that."

Now he's back home in New Jersey, nursing his bruised hip and battered ego, but still intact and on the mend.

Fans' next chance to see Weir -- along with 2006 Olympian Emily Hughes, and a cast including many contenders for the 2013 U.S. Championships -- is Holiday Dreams on Ice at Christopher Morley Park in Roslyn, Long Island, on Sunday, Dec. 16th at 7 p.m.

"Since Russia, I took some time off; I had a beautiful Thanksgiving with my in-laws and my new family," said Weir, who married Victor Voronov early this year. "I gained a bit of the weight back. I'm seeing my masseuse every week, stretching all day, every day. I still have days when I'm a little tight and sore from the injury, but that's just age. I'm marching forward."

Joining Weir and Hughes for Holiday Dreams on Ice will be U.S. bronze medalist Ross Miner, whose quad Salchow helped him win bronze in a tough field at NHK Trophy; Jason Brown, the 2010 U.S. junior champion from Chicago, who recently placed fourth at the Junior Grand Prix Final; and Max Aaron, winner of the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City in September.

U.S. ice dance bronze medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue; the glamorous Samantha Cesario, who will compete in senior ladies at the U.S. championships this season; and Kiri Baga and Taylor Toth, also lend their talents. (Baga will compete in both senior pairs and ladies in Omaha.)

The show features aspiring young skaters, aged 6-15, performing a holiday number, with 11-year-old Kennedi Coughlin taking the key role of lead elf.

"I'm so excited about it," she said. "It's all I can talk about. I've also been doing Skate for Hope (a fundraising show for breast cancer research), and there I got to skate with Rockne Brubaker, which was really cool.

"I'm so looking forward to seeing Johnny again. Last year, he told me to always be passionate and enthusiastic about what I do, and it's really helped me."

Weir thinks it's a great time to be a fan of U.S. men's skating.

"I'm very excited to perform with these guys on Sunday," he said. "I wanted so much last year for Max Aaron to step out of the box and be an artist on the ice, and this year I've seen a performance of his and I think he is growing into himself, and that's great to see. He is extremely interesting to watch because he's so compact and dynamic and has amazing jumping ability.

"Ross Miner is very much a complete package on the ice; training with Mark [Mitchell] and Peter [Johansson] in Boston, he has that very polished look they always present with their skaters. And Jason Brown, he is so exciting to watch. I love that he still has the ponytail. Another year on the JGP really helped him build the confidence in the triple Axel, and he was able to land it at the JGP Final."

Weir and husband Victor plan to have their holidays with Weir's family in Pennsylvania.

"We're spending Christmas Eve with my aunt and all of her family, and then Christmas day with my family," he said. "Every year, [we will] trade off the holidays. Thanksgiving this year was in Atlanta with Victor's family; Christmas is with my family. (The couple also celebrates Hanukkah.)

"I just begrudgingly decorated the apartment because Victor really wanted the decorations. I'm not so into all that sparkly stuff because then I have to vacuum it up."

How much time he takes off and precisely when and how he will return to competition, he doesn't know yet.

"I'm totally open to what the world brings me," Weir said. "I've learned through the years not to expect anything. If you try to make a plan, God is going to laugh at you."