Thursday, January 19, 2012
Updated: January 20, 4:15 AM ET
Johnny Weir announces return
NEW YORK -- Johnny Weir is ready to give up the fashion shows and the red carpet for another shot at the Olympics.
The popular figure skater said Thursday he was returning to competition with hopes of taking the ice at the 2014 Games in Sochi. Even if it means living what he describes as a "monk"-like life of an elite athlete in training.
"I wanted to do this while I still have the time," the three-time U.S. champion said at a news conference in Manhattan. "I didn't want to be 50 years old and look back and say, 'Oh, those last two years before Sochi and I kind of let them go doing other things."
Not that he didn't enjoy doing other things in the two years since last competing at the Vancouver Olympics, where he finished sixth. Makeup modeling, dress designing, reality TV starring.
Weir also came out in an autobiography, "Welcome to My World," and last month married Victor Voronov.
"That's very fulfilling and lovely," the 27-year-old Weir said of his break from training. "It gave me the opportunity to fall in love and get married and build a beautiful life for myself. But going back into competition, it will be so stressful to give up a lot of the extracurriculars and only skate."
And he is committed to sacrificing those other activities for three hours in the rink each day with coach Galina Zmievskaya along with another 60-90 minutes of training off the ice.
He's already turned down an invitation to Madonna's movie premiere next week. Weir will skate at a benefit in Japan in March for victims of last year's earthquake, but otherwise you'll mostly find him practicing in Hackensack, N.J.
"I won't be able to spend Saturday night drinking in a corner booth with my friends," he said. "I'll be sleeping."
He plans to work hard on his quad, the all-important element in men's skating these days. Not only are all the top men doing quads, but world champion Patrick Chan has two in his free skate.
Weir has tried them in competition but struggled to land them cleanly.
"So I can actually be a real threat and not show up as just kind of a face of figure skating," Weir said of perfecting the four-revolution jump. "I want to show up and be competitive and actually have people take this seriously. This isn't a publicity stunt."
Weir said he hoped to perform to a musical medley of the opera "Carmen" and Lady Gaga. He's especially popular in Russia, and the chance to compete in the Olympics there played into his decision.
"It would be a perfect ending," Weir said. "And I will retire after Sochi."
One of skating's most popular figures, Weir had never ruled out coming back for Sochi and had been quietly training since the fall. He finished fifth at his first Olympics, the 2006 Games in Turin, and was the bronze medalist at the 2008 world championships.
Weir, who will likely return to competition at a small event in Hackensack at the end of the summer, could have to go through qualifying to earn a spot at next year's U.S. championships. He said he needed to lose about 8 pounds; choreographer Nina Petrenko recalled that her mother, Zmievskaya, described Weir as being in "awful shape."
"He's very, very disciplined," said off-ice trainer Fatima Bruhns. "Once he sets a goal, he follows through."
With Voronov looking on, Weir said his new husband was supportive of the return to competition -- and even pushed him toward it.
"I'm very fulfilled," Weir said. "I'm very happy, and I feel like I have a partner in crime going into all this craziness that's about to spring on me with the figure skating again."