It’s going to be tougher than ever to earn. A new scoring system implemented by skating’s professional body in 2006 emphasizes athletically demanding performances — more points for jumps, fewer for showmanship. “I like to make an impression, I like to make art,” Johnny says. “With the new judging system, it’s taking away the individuality of the sport. At the moment, it’s looking a little bit like tennis, just hitting back and forth and nothing changes. That’s a shame to me.”
But the skater who thrives on drawing in the crowd with aesthetics isn’t buckling. His latest costume is split down the middle, black on one side, white on the other, like a crazed yin-yang sign. Low-cut in the back, and, ahem, off the shoulders. Crisscrosses everywhere. A red heart over the chest. It’s no swan, but it could be Dancing with the Stars material.
He glided away with gold at both the Cup of China and the Cup of Russia in November, but the real test — the one that will show whether Johnny Weir has any Freon left in the tank — is the 2008 U.S. Championships in St. Paul, Minnesota, on January 27th. He’ll be showing off a four-and-a-half-minute program titled “Love Is War” that may determine which of those will define his relationship with the skating establishment before his career ends.
“If he really is saying ‘I’m back, I’m better,’ I don’t think there’s any stopping Johnny Weir,” says USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan. “Johnny’s problem is Johnny, not the judging system.”
When I ask Johnny Weir what he thinks of his critics — the press, the judges, those who bitch about him behind his back — it’s fitting that he doesn’t say a word.
He just holds up a middle finger and grins.