Saturday, October 23, 2010

What Can I Say About the Lack of USFSA Support for Johnny Weir?

Originally posted in July on another Blog.  I needed a copy to link to that is more public, because the other Blog is now 'friends only', so this is why it is being posted here now!


I decided to write this blog to talk about the lack of support Johnny Weir has received over the years from the United States Figure Skating Association, better known as the USFSA. I have been working on it for a while; however for some reason I really can not seem to express it as eloquently as I would like. Therefore I decided to go head with what I already have and express it as best I can.

This is not the first time this issue has been talked about, and it certainly will not be the last. In a June 27, 2010 blog via the Sundance Channel Johnny Weir looks back at the Olympics: Fortius Altius Maximus, Johnny himself addressed the issue of his lack of support from his own federation. He stated

'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.'

This was recently discussed in a skating forum I am a member of. Of course it upsets a lot of people, and rightfully so. However, there were a couple members who responded by suggesting it was no big deal and how did we know skating officials showed up at other team members' practices? My response was that to my knowledge officials HAD shown up at other skaters' practices and events, but that it wasn't Johnny Weir's job to monitor that; and he was pointing out that this is a rule the USFSA has that they failed to follow in relation to him. The USFSA breaking their own rules is yet another example of Weir's own skating federation's lack of support of him.

It's hard to believe the USFSA, or any other skating federation out there, felt they could only support one athlete, and that it was appropriate to almost completely ignore another one as happened with Johnny Weir. This is not something that has only happened recently, or even something that has only happened since his problems in Torino in 2006. Almost from the time Johnny Weir showed up on the skating scene he has never had the full support of the USFSA. Former figure skating judge Jon Jackson stated the USFSA had never supported Johnny Weir, and they weren't going to support him in Vancouver either.

Even though Johnny Weir is a three time United States Figure Skating Champion he has been left off of literature and brochures picturing team members more than once. In 2007 there was no mention of him at all in any of the USFSA's officical literature. We are talking about a three time national champion here, and there is really no excuse for him to have been treated the way he was. Also in 2007 Johnny was forced to attend Champs Camp in Colorado Springs and miss five shows that would have paid him enough to pay his rent for a year. He understood why he had to go, and even said he learned some useful information; however other skaters were allowed to miss the camp including Evan Lysacek who was allowed to meet with sponsors instead of attending.

In 2008 Johnny Weir won the only United States medal at the World Championships from any American skater, and as far as the USFSA was concerned, it was like he did not even exist.

This breathtaking lack of support certainly continued into 2010, and includes the USFSA's Readers' Choice Figure Skater of the Year award for which fan voting concludes on July 15th, 2010. While Johnny Weir is certainly listed as one of the candidates because he is eligible, he again is not pictured on the website.

Though Johnny lacked support from his own federation he still managed to retain some standing with the international judges, even as the lack of support from his own federation damaged his international reputation.

It's possible the United States Figure Skating Association now regrets their decision not to support Johnny Weir. Despite the fact Weir can, by his own admission, be difficult to deal with; it's hard for fans to understand why he could not be supported along with the other skaters at least a little. He has a large fan base, and gained many new fans after the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, not only for how he skated; but also for how he responded to his placing, and to the comments made about him by broadcasters in Quebec and Australia. The USFSA looks bad for not supporting Weir, and it's hard to explain to parents who might want to put their children in figure skating why he has been treated the way he has by his own skating federation.

I am including video of the press conference Johnny and his agent Tara Modlin gave in Vancouver in response to some comments made about him by two commentators from Quebec. Johnny himself never brought up the lack of support in relation to this issue, but some of his fans have. While people like Olympic Champion Dorothy Hamill were there, a fan pointed out after Johnny's blog was published that no USFSA official had been at the press conference, and no official statement of any kind was made in support of Johnny Weir after these and other comments were made about him in particular. I'm sure he must have thought about what he was going to say beforehand, but there's no way he could have known for certain what questions he would be asked, and yet he still responded in such a spontaneous, intelligent and beautiful way. Johnny Weir is far more eloquent than those commentators or any of the other haters could ever hope to be. Six days after the men's competition and the sixth place finisher had over a hundred press people show up for a press conference regarding an attack on him personally, not his skating. And I think all the reporters went away impressed.

It is unfortunate that, while Johnny Weir can count on support from his family, friends and fans, he can NOT count on support from his own skating federation.

Short version of Johnny Weir's Vancouver press conference in response to comments made about him by two Quebec broadcasters:
Short Version of Press Conference

The entire press conference beginning to end:

Johnny Weir Press Conference

Part One of Press Conference

Part Two of Press Conference

Part Three of Press Conference

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