Figure skating champ Johnny Weir wears a new hat as he has joined NBC as a commentator for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Now retired from figure skating, the 29-year-old is venturing into new territory with his latest gig as an analyst for the sport. Citing past injuries flaring up as to prohibit him being fit for competition, Weir is still very much involved with his beloved sport. The two-time Olympic competitor, always in fashion and known for his fluff and furs, is willing to don the new hat.
Weir is also willing to run the risk of being exposed as a gay man in Russia. He has been open in his status for years and has been very outspoken of gay rights. Weir will be taking the risk in plain sight, as the hosting country of the 2014 Olympics has enacted very strict laws concerning gays and lesbians. This past summer, Prime Minister Putin signed into law restrictions upon gays including adopting children by gay couples. It goes so far as to ban families from any country that agrees with marriage equality from adopting Russian children.
The former figure skating champ, who is the winner of three U.S. championships, as well as numerous bronze and silver medals from U.S. and World events, has always had a heart for the country of Russia. Embracing the culture and traditions, he consequently married a Russian descendant and was formerly trained by a Soviet coach. This time, Russia could prove to be a much different experience for Weir if he is not careful.
Choosing to leave his husband of two years, Victor Voronov, at home with the dog, Weir is well aware of the possible dangers of being gay in Russia. Playing it safe and opting to leave Voronov at home downplays any obvious attention to his status. Being fit or not for competition could possibly just be a result of not wanting to be forefront and center on the ice as a gay figure skater. A lower profile as a commentator, instead of a featured figure skating entry, keeps Weir involved with the action with a bit less flair.
Weir made his name through his delightful displays on the ice donning hats, tiaras and furs as he flitted around the rink with precise style and talent. He is quick to remember his own family’s sacrifices while he grew up in Pennsylvania and realized his dreams. The long hours of training, the costs of coaches and traveling has paid off in the long run, with his recognizability and achievements.
Willing to take a stand and speak his mind, Weir may have to use caution if he wants to stay out of jail in Russia. Even being suspected of being gay is an offense and police have the authority to arrest and detain persons for up to two weeks at their discretion. Weir has stated in fact that if it happens, it happens. He is prepared to stand his ground for gay rights.
In the meantime, Weir will be joined by other champs Tara Lipinski and Tanith Belbin to give their takes on the spins, axels, twists and turns on the ice. Figure skating dominates the Olympics with 12 out of 18 days being prime events. Weir will wear his new hat proudly as the new NBC commentator and not be shy to offer his quick-witted and animated comments. The confidence he exhibited on the ice a few years ago will surely show itself again with finesse and victory from a different angle.
By: Roanne FitzGibbon