Johnny Weir looks back at the Olympics: Fortius Altius Maximus
Me with my coaches Galina Zmievskaya and Viktor Petrenko. Photo by Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images.
In the upcoming season finale of BE GOOD JOHNNY WEIR tonight, my fans and fans of my show will travel with me to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada. There is a lot of detail shown in the finale, but I thought I’d dish a little dirt about the Olympics, and this has nothing to do with the fact that condoms were officially supplied in the Olympic Village.
The Olympics are massive. You can’t really appreciate the magnitude of the games simply by watching them on TV. You arrive in the airport and are immediately directed to a line to receive your accreditation, which is your key to the Olympics as an official entry. The accreditation gains you access to all venues, housing establishments, and in many cases free taxis and constant gawking as to who you may be when you’re out and about. I arrived earlier than expected to the Olympics because of a blizzard on the east coast, and they didn’t want me to be late.
After arriving and going through the team processing, which is when you get all the swag, most of which is not even your size, you get shipped by bus into the Olympic village which is sort of like an international army base. It’s incredible the amount of people running through the village, all in tracksuits and me and Galina strolling in, in knee length mink coats with far too much luggage. There is no admittance into the village unless you invite a family member or lover and they are approved 24 hours prior to their visit, which is why you never see live shots inside the village on TV.
The food in the village is strange. It is all served in a giant cafeteria with McDonalds, cookies and pizza abounding. It isn’t strange because it’s fast food, it’s strange because these are the World’s most elite athletes, more esteemed than NFL heroes and Mike Tyson, and they eat McDonalds? Apparently all sports aside from figure skating do eat these foods, needless to say, Galina and I found our way to the Four Season’s hotel in Vancouver and ate every single day, at YEW restaurant. The staff became family and even treated me to a giant ice cream sundae after the events were over, so a big public thank you to YEW.
The practices and constant media scrutiny before your event are difficult things to tackle. I train in relative obscurity at a small rink in Wayne, New Jersey with two other skaters, Ksenia Makarova, Russian ladies champion, and Natalia Popova, Ukrainian ladies champion, so showing up and being “on stage,” practicing with your key rivals for many days before you actually compete is draining. On the last day before my short program the US men were scheduled for two practices and of the three men, I was the only one who would take advantage of the evening practice. At the Olympics, the US figure skating team is overseen by five main officials, a team leader, two assistant team leaders, a doctor and physiotherapist who are supposed to share responsibilities and at least one is to be present for every practice, event, press conference, drug test and so on for every single athlete. As a precursor to my event and the support I could expect to receive from my own team, not one team official showed up to my final official practice that night. Not one.
I think most people know how the competition went for me. I felt so alive and amazing on the ice. I did the two best performances of my life, and I still failed to medal. I still haven’t quite come to terms as to why I lost to people who fell, but I am so beyond proud of what I did and proud of my fans for helping me get through the event and fighting with me every step of the way. It is hard to explain the emotions that poured out of me on that final night n Vancouver, I gave my life on that ice, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of, or rethink. In my heart, I am a champion for everything I was able to accomplish.
When I finished skating, and saw the scores, and heard the audience booing at the judges, I immediately swept into the mixed zone where you do all your interviews, switching from English, to Russian to French, back to Russian and then English again. I was completely overwhelmed by everything and so wasn’t able to process what happened. Galina walked me back to the curtain we were hiding behind near a janitor’s closet before the event, sat down with me and I started crying and didn’t stop. When the competition was over and I finished my first crying fit of the Games, I had a drug test with the medalists from my event, then went home to my room in the village. My roommate Tanith hugged me and told me how proud she was of me, I turned off my phones, got in the shower and cried for what felt like hours. I was emotionally spent. The next morning, and until I left Vancouver, I was up by five and doing media, interviews and commentary until midnight every night. It was insanity. During all the craziness, I was also finding time to train with Galina and Viktor and start preparations for the World Championships, which were only a few weeks away. I also said goodbye to my family who had traveled so far to watch me perform, and stood with Ksenia as she skated in her first Olympics. All in all, you can say I was one of the busiest people of the Games.
While this blog sounds a bit “woe to me,” I enjoyed nearly every second of my second Olympic Games. I did my job to the best of my abilities. I really loved what I was doing, I was connected with the people in my circle who matter most, and as a team, we accomplished something great. Galina said it best, once the Games were over, “we all acted together, like one.” When Galina and I parted ways after my event she leaned over and hugged me and said, “Johnnyka, you have made me prouder then anyone has ever made me before. I feel that you are champion; God blessed us today. You’re victory is my victory, we came a long way together, I am so proud of you.” That statement, coming from Galina Yakovlevna Zmievskaya, is worth it’s weight in gold to me. The day before the closing ceremonies, I left Vancouver with the feeling that I really accomplished something that will be of value to me, for the rest of my life and I can still cry thinking how proud I made myself, and my family, fans and team.
I know this was a long one, and too emotional, but I want you all to know how much I appreciate your love and support from long before and long after the Olympics. You mean the world to me and I work very day to make you proud. I love you.