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Skating's Johnny Weir Laments Scoring System

In figure-skating circles, Johnny Weir is famous for his theatrics on and off the ice--his expressive movements that push the boundary of standard interpretation, his penchant for costumes replete with velvet, feathers and sequins; his disarming candor.

But Weir, 24, made his most dramatic move at the end of last season in parting with longtime coach Priscilla Hill and teaming with the Russian triumvirate of Galina Zmievskaya and Viktor and Nina Petrenko.

Weir has been rewarded handsomely since. He has finished atop the podium at every event he has entered except one. He took the gold at the Cup of Russia, the Cup of China and won his first medal of any sort--a bronze--at the World Championships in Sweden in March.

Weir credits his transformation not so much to a technical reworking but to a total commitment to the Russian philosophy of training--one that, even decades after the Soviet Union's collapse, demands a total dedication and an urgency borne of the conviction that skating is the sole route out of a society with limited options.

"They all teach still in a very Soviet way: If you aren't doing the maximum to achieve the result, you may as well stop skating," Weir said of his new team. "In America, I think people have a chance to be lazy because we've never had to sacrifice one aspect of our life for another."

Weir says the total commitment suits him well.

"I went to Galina for that kind of push and drive," he says. "There is precious little I'm doing outside the ice rink. I'm completely taken care of from the time I wake up. Nina makes me fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice. My skates are driven for me to get sharpened. I never have to think about anything except my practice."

Weir plans to unveil his new short and long programs at the season's first major competition, Skate America, Oct. 24-26 in Everett, Wash. It's his first time taking part in the event. His goal is not attaining perfection but taking the next step in his evolution toward perfection. Perfection needs to arrive at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

The surprise retirement of world champion Jeffrey Buttle of Canada has left the men's field relatively open. And the time to start impressing judges for 2010 is now, Weir pointed out.

"In figure-skating it's important to have an image and be a front-runner leading into that [Olympic] season," Weir said. "If you are 20th in the world or 15th, there is a very slim chance of you being anywhere near the podium in the Olympics."

While Weir plans to perform a quadruple jump at Skate America, he's doing so largely because the current scoring system, as well as the programs of his younger rivals, all but demand it. Weir's passion leans toward the sport's expressive dimension rather than its technical.

As a result, he is not a fan of the sport's revamped scoring system, which he argues is slowly reducing an art form to a math equation with its many mandatory elements.

"I don't believe it promotes anything except the technical aspects of figure skating," he said. "This system really is the downfall of figure-skating being a beautiful sport to watch. Now everything is done as a math problem."

By Liz Clarke  |  October 16, 2008; 7:07 AM ET
Categories:  Figure Skating  
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