He’s back! Johnny Weir discusses Olympics, Sun Valley and his return to international competition.


Newlywed Johnny Weir performs in Sun Valley on Ice this Saturday

After shocking the figure-skating world in August of 2010 by retiring from the sport, the truly fabulous Johnny Weir (now happily married to Victor Voronov) is setting his sights firmly on a medal in Sochi, the home of the 2014 Winter Olympics. I caught up with the three-time U.S. National Champion and 2008 World Championship bronze medalist in advance of his appearance in Sun Valley on Ice tomorrow, to chat skating, Olympics and his love for Sun Valley.

This is your first year skating after a two year retirement. How is it going?
Johnny Weir: I announced my comeback to competitive figure skating in January, since then it’s been a very slippery slope to get back in shape, to learn a lot of the skills maybe I bypassed by not competing the last two years. It’s been a full-time job. But I’m really looking forward to coming to Sun Valley. It gives me an opportunity to do a show as opposed to all the training I’ve been doing to get ready for the judges. I’m looking forward to being able to just skate and be glittery—which is what I’m best at!—rather than focusing on the nuts and bolts. It will be nice to let my hair down.

What was it that prompted that decision to return to figure skating?
JW: It’s kind of being building. I saw this point in my life where I knew that I could do everything required of me to be a competitive figure skater again and I could also see 40 years down the road where I would regret not trying. I have so many fans who have been encouraging me to continue competing, and instead of really focusing on doing this for myself—as I’ve already achieved so many of my goals—I’m returning to support my fans, to show them that you can still achieve something great, no matter how old you are or how many people counted you out. I want to help inspire people and give people a moment of escape. I want to take people on my journey with me when I skate. That’s definitely something that pushed me to come back. Even if I get out there and try and fail, if I can inspire someone to try, it will have been worth it.

This is your eighth appearance in the Sun Valley ice shows. What do you like about Sun Valley? What keeps you coming back?
JW: I live just outside New York City and I’m constantly over-stimulated by lights and city action and craziness, so it’s really nice to get away and be in Idaho. It’s like a mini vacation. It’s wonderful to go to Sun Valley and work and perform for the guests at the lodge. But really it’s just nice for me to be peaceful and quiet and sleep well in the mountain air, keep my windows open in the hotel. It’s always a lovely experience.

What do you like to do while you’re in Sun Valley?
JW: I’m an avid lover of fur and wildlife so I like gently walking around and seeing what kind of creatures I can spot. One year I did a photo shoot out in the hills and then down by that little red barn, and I saw a wolf there. I really like trying to animal spot, and I love the swans outside the lodge. I don’t really own hiking boots or hunting boots, so usually I’m trying to trek around in a pair of Christian Louboutin loafers, which never ends up well!
I’ve also made a few friends there over the years. Suzy Hart at Déjà Vu, my absolute favorite shop, and every year Ditta Von Teese’s parents will come and support me at the show. I have the most fun at Sun Valley that’s why I come back.

It’s well known that shopping is one of your favorite things to do. Are there any shops or places in Sun Valley that you’re excited to come back to?
JW: Well, Deja Vu is my must-stop shop. Then there’s Davis, which carries a lot of the big New York designers, it’s a very fashionable, way too expensive store, and it’s always cool to see these clothes I’m so accustomed to seeing in the city in this sleek modern space in the middle of Idaho. There’s also that fantastic restaurant downtown with the cute little garden—Vintage—I like to have my pre-show meal there. Even though we stay at the lodge we like to go down into town and bring a little color.

Well, we can always use a little bit of color here.
JW: Yes! And that’s something I like to bring to the summer ice shows, my own color. I’m a very unapologetic person when it comes to my personality; I embrace every flaw that makes me up. I like coming to small towns, it never hurts a town to have a little crazy flavor.

Speaking of that flavor, can you give us a sneak peek into your performance this Saturday?
JW: I’ll be performing a show number to a beautiful rendition of Chopin as my first performance. It’s a very classical piece and I’ll show off what figure skating means to me; the artistic elegance, the beautiful side of figure skating.
And then, people have got very accustomed to seeing me skate to Lady Gaga and that pop element, so this year I’ll be skating to Fighter by Christina Aguilera. It’s a song that’s very indicative of what I’m going through in my life right now and everything I’m willing to give up and do for this season to make it a success. As for color at the show, I’m wearing a wrestling singlet.

What is that success you’re looking for this season?
JW: I’m absolutely looking forward to returning to international competition. The grand prix series this fall—6 countries in 6 weeks and every skater performs in two of them—I’ll be performing in Moscow and Paris. The skaters with the most points at the end compete in the final, which will be in the new Olympic arena in Sochi, Russia. Then next January is the U.S. Nationals, which I’ve won three times. If I do well there I can be selected for the American team for the World Championships, from there each country receives its allotted number of spots for the 2014 Winter Olympics. I’m definitely starting on the road to Sochi.

You are a two-time Olympian, watching the Olympics today and planning for your return in Sochi must bring up a lot of emotions.
JW: After the winter Olympics finished in Vancouver in 2010, I was so proud of myself and so proud of my career. I finished on the absolute two best performances of my life. It was that one moment of glory where everyone’s clapping for you and you feel that the World is really behind you. I really thought I would win a medal at that Olympics [he placed sixth]. So it was really a bittersweet experience.
To be honest for a few months after, it was more bitter. I didn’t want anything to do with figure skating. I didn’t compete or watch anything on TV. And those few months turned into a couple years. But I’ve really enjoyed it, being able to live the life of a famous person rather than of a figure skater. I’ve written a book, recorded a song [his memoir Welcome to My World, and single Dirty Love were both released in 2011], and have a TV show [Be Good Johnny Weirreturning next month]. It’s been fun, trying new things and also being able to try something and fail at something. But the time came when I realized I wanted to go back. I’m 28 now, I’m getting old!

Has watching the London Olympics spurred you on at all?
JW: Watching London has been really eye-opening for me. A lot of the feelings I had in Vancouver have come flooding back. Every night I watch some new record being broken, another American winning a medal, I see the stories of the Olympians from around the world and it re-enamors me with the Olympics. It’s given me the passion to want to compete in Sochi.

Make sure you catch this dazzling delight on ice Saturday night, it could be your last chance to see him in person before he wins an Olympic medal…

Happy trails!

Mrs. Sun

Buy tickets for Sun Valley on Ice here, at the Sun Valley Recreation Office 208.622.2135 or toll free 888.622.2108, or at the gate prior to the show. 

Lift Line: Six@Sochi aims to get local athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics

The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s Gold Team has big Olympic dreams.

By Katie Matteson

The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) has a storied history of cultivating elite winter athletes. For over 40 years, the SVSEF’s ski, snowboard, freestyle and Nordic teams have coached, trained and taught local athletes to be the best athletes they can be, encouraging "strong minds, strong bodies, strong futures." Each winter, over 500 local skiers and boarders join the teams, learning discipline, balance, commitment and how to enjoy skiing and snowboarding for a lifetime. Whether these athletes go on to become professional athletes or just well-rounded community members, the SVSEF plays an important role in the development of the local participants. Athletes like Kristin Cooper, Picabo Street, Graham Watanabe, and the Crist Brothers are all alums of the SVSEF. They are also all Olympic athletes.

Based on this tradition of elite athleticism, the SVSEF has now launched an additional mission, "Six@Sochi," with a goal of getting six SVSEF athletes at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. These athletes, members of the SVSEF’s Gold Team, are all at the top of their discipline and the Sochi Olympics are within their grasp. This year’s Gold Team (many of whom are current US Ski or Snowboard Team Members) includes Nordic racers Morgan Arritola, Simi Hamilton, Chelsea Holmes, Matt Gelso, Mike Sinnott and Alexa Turzian, Alpine racers Tanner Farrow, Teagen Palmer and Kipling Wiesel , snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington, and freestyle skiers Tai Barrymore and Shane Cordeau.

Here is a roundup of a few of these local athletes, Nordic skiers, freestyle skiers, bump skiers, snowboarders and alpine racers. So next time they pass you on a Nordic trail, ride up the lift with you or boost out of the halfpipe on Dollar right in front of your astonished eyes, you might just be in the company of a future Olympic Champion. (Athlete profiles courtesy of the SVSEF).


Kaitlyn Farrington: US Snowboard Team Member

Kaitlyn Farrington

As a junior in the SVSEF Snowboard Program Kaitlyn always showed potential in the halfpipe, then she exploded to the top of the ranks last year. In 2010 Kaitlyn dominated the results and was recognized as one of the best women halfpipe riders competing. A few of Kaitlyn’s successes in 2010: Winter Dew Tour Overall Champion; won the European X-Games, beating Vancouver Olympic Gold Medalist Torah Bright; and was on the podium 6 of her last 7 competitions. Needless to say, Kaitlyn was named to the US Snowboard Team and is looking for the Gold in Sochi.





Shane Cordeau: US Ski Team Member

Shane Cordeau

Shane was born and raised here in Sun Valley.  He grew up chasing his father, 4x World mogul champion, Joe Cordeau all around Baldy.  Those ski lessons paid off and in 2009 Shane finished 2nd on the Nor-Am Mogul tour earning a spot on the U.S. Freestyle ski team.  Shane got his rookie season off to a fast start finishing 1st at the U.S. Freestyle Selections event in December 2010.  He followed that up with a 4th place at the U.S Olympic Trials in Steamboat Springs, Co., two weeks later.  Shane made his World Cup debut at Deer Valley, UT., in January 2011.  Shane was the highest qualifying American and finished an impressive 13th overall.  Shane had two more top 25 results in World Cup competitions before suffering a season ending injury. Now fully recovered Shane has set his sights on this coming season, "I am ready to continue my pursuit of taking over the World Cup circuit during the next four years leading up to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.




Tai Barrymore: SVSEF Gold Team Member

Tai Barrymore

Tai returns to the SVSEF Gold Team after another successful season of Half-pipe competitions. Tai is one of the youngest athletes competing in the Dew Tour, North Face Open, U.S. Grand Prix, and X Games. Tai travelled to 4 different countries on 3 different continents and competed in 10 halfpipe events last year.  It was a whirlwind season.  He made the finals of every major event he entered and remained healthy throughout the year.  His results include:

2010 Dew Tour-Breckenridge, Co 14th

2010 U.S. Grand Prix-Copper Mtn, Co 19th

2011 North Face Open-Northstar, Ca 9th

2011 SFR French Open-Tignes, Fr, 1st

2011 World Cup- La Plange, Fr, 13th

2011 Euro X Games- Tignes, Fr, 16th

2011 World Superpipe Championships- Whistler, Ca 14th

2011 New Zealand Open- Cadrona, NZ, 7th

The IOC has officially announced that Ski Half-pipe will be included in the 2014 Olympics.  Tai is focused on competing at that event.  He is excited for another whirlwind season competing in one of the most dynamic and physically challenging ski disciplines in the world.  Tai continues to train year round with our younger athletes; mentoring, encouraging and supporting the team.  He is an inspiration to all of our athletes and is living proof that you can get there from here!


Morgan Arritola: US Ski Team Member

Morgan Arritola

Morgan is currently regarded as one of nation’s top female Nordic athletes.  At the young age of 25 she already has an impressive list of results tallied to her name, including over a half dozen podiums at National Championships, competitive world-class results at numerous World Championships and the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.  Morgan’s athletic talents extend beyond skis to the XC running trails where during the 2011 summer she chalked up two national titles- one at the XC running Half Marathon National Championships in Bend, OR., and the second in the XTerra Half Marathon National Championships in Ogden, UT.  Morgan is primed for an outstanding 2011-12 ski season and will be a legitimate contender in any distance race she enters the entire season.

Carrier Highlights:

21st Place 30K Mass Start Skate 2011 World Ski Championships Oslo, NOR

19th Place 15K Mass Start Skate 2010 World Cup La Clusaz, FRA

22nd Place 30k Mass Start Skate 2009 World Ski Championships Liberec, CZE