Something about Weir’s skating and personality in the Olympic Games intrigued me so much I found myself digging through his past performances and episodes of “Be Good Johnny Weir” in my spare time.

There were many things in Plushenko and Lysacek’s performances that made me go Wow — commanding stage presence, athleticism…but there was nothing that made me go ………wow — a completely different affect. Quite honestly, at the end of Weir’s program I was sort of stunned and didn’t know how to piece together words to adequately explain how his program made me feel. Finally, my brain arrived at the best possible sentence: “That thing that I just saw…was art.” Except I didn’t say that aloud…it’s the sort of thing that people would look at you like you were crazy if you said it aloud.

What is so maddening, however, by researching his background history, is realizing the tight power of politics in the world of figure skating and how it affected his skating career. TV announcers and reporters champion the Olympics as a wonderful platform in which athletes from all ethnic backgrounds can come together and create international unity and friendship through sport. This is a lie. Nationalism is such a big deal in the Olympics and I hardly ever saw an instance where international unity came into play. Instead, it’s more like “America [or insert other country name here] is supreme, look at our medal count. We’re better than the Russians [or insert other country name here] now.” But Weir, I feel, is a true Olympian. He innately understands borrowing from other cultures to create something diverse in his work, what with his fascination with Russian culture (buoyed from being inspired by Oksana Baiul), employing a Ukranian coach, and creating a skate that is truly his own by fusing these all together. To me personally, this is most commendable.

Unfortunately, the US Skating Federation took this as a threat, questioning Weir on his patriotism and offering him no favors. Weir had to fight for every inch of his position. And although his skating went through its share of ups and downs, most notably after his illness in Korea, he was able to use it as a medium to showcase himself and showcase art rather than getting hung up on the nationalist aspect of the games. That is truly a wonderful thing to see — a person whose work truly represents his core and soul. You could argue that he is his own citizen, that his skating combines his diverse love for different cultures and lifestyles. This is what it should mean to be an Olympian, rather than squabble over which country gets what medal (don’t even get me started, Apolo Anton Ohno) and basically which country has got the biggest balls of all, to borrow from that one AC/DC song.

Weir fans no doubt are not only ticked by his being underscored at the games, but also at the various derogatory comments thrown his way by the Canadian broadcasters (calling to mind the previous Olympics where figure skater Lund degraded Weir). These people attacked Weir’s personality and openly mocked him, saying that watching Weir’s performance will discourage parents from letting their boys skate as they will be concerned about letting their boys turn out like him. They then took the innappropriate-ness even further by saying Weir should prove he is actually a man, alluding to the embarrassing situation in which South African runner Caster Semenya who had to undergo gender testing to prove she was a woman.

Although Weir handled the situation with grace and said these words will not influence his skating or mean anything to him, the lack of professionalism and courtesy on the part of the broadcasters made me realize why the Games never appealed very much to me. It’s the cattiness that sets me off, and the awful way in which such letdowns make me realize that everyone included in the Olympics — athletes, commentators, broadcasters — have yet to live up to the philosophy of the Games. International and professional unity, my ass.

Maybe the reason Weir reaped such a low rank is that his skate is so different from the others — it is so personal, a combination of the masculine and feminine that displays his grace, making it difficult to know exactly how to score since it stands so differently from the style of the other skaters. The artistry of his skate surrounded the whole of his program. Instead of going, “What a beautiful triple axel [or whatever else move]” whenever he executed his technique, I felt like I was watching a creation of all the different elements — technique, grace, personality — come together to make an overall performance. This integration, I felt, was lacking in most others’ programs. Still, this is personal hypothesis on my part; I am sure it was a matter of politics and favoring masculinity on the part of the judges that caused him to be underscored. Hopefully one day in the future this tight political reign and masculine/feminine squirmish in athleticism, art, and life will be loosened and Weir can be remembered for all he’s contributed through his work. But I do not know how much faith I can press into this hope.

Advertisements