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Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir takes break for fundraiser

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WILMINGTON, Del. — How dedicated is Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir to his hometown training rink, The Skating Club of Wilmington?

When the Delaware resident was recently cast in a new Netflix ice skating drama called “Spinning Out,” he was to be in Canada filming the show’s first season next weekend when the skating club hosts its annual fundraiser.

But he “pushed hard” to be able to escape for the benefit and will perform on the second night of the two-day “America Skates: Spring Ice Show” on April 5 and 6.

“I’m jumping right off a plane to help raise money for this historic rink,” Weir, 34, who recently purchased a new home in Greenville, told The News Journal.

Weir has been an honorary member of the skating club for more than a decade and has been training there in recent years “whenever I’m not running around the world,” says Weir, a lead NBC Sports figure skating analyst.

“They have been so accommodating with my schedule and make it possible even for me to train in the middle of the night,” says Weir, a two-time Olympian and three-time U.S. national champion, who won the bronze medal at World Figure Skating Championships in 2008.

The skating club, which first opened in 1964, will host about 170 performers across the two-night event, including special celebrity guest skaters, such as Weir.

Pairs team Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov and skater Ting Cui are also scheduled to perform.

Both shows are at 7 p.m. and each cost $25-$70 (adults), $15 (teens 13-19) and $10 (children 12 and younger). Tickets can be purchased at skatewilm.com.

The show’s artistic director, former Olympic ice dancer Irina Romanova, says the annual benefit is integral to the club’s ability to survive as a unique member-owned and operated entity.

“It’s the No. 1 fundraiser for the club,” she says. “I’m kind of dying every year doing this, but I know I cannot give it up because without it we wouldn’t be able to have our next show.”

Weir has twice before performed at the skating club’s spring fundraiser and says he’s dedicated to its livelihood: “It’s important for me that skaters across the country, even in small states like Delaware, know that they can achieve their dreams just like I did. Coming from the greater Philadelphia area, it is especially important to me to support local rinks and to keep skating alive in our community.”

While Weir has been busily preparing two new numbers for an upcoming tour in Japan at the club in recent months, fans won’t be seeing those on April 6.

Instead, Weir says, “I’ll be pulling out an old fan favorite that I hope makes the audience smile.”

Over the years, Weir has parlayed his figure skating career into the entertainment and fashion careers, becoming a bona fide celebrity thanks to his lovable, outgoing personality and head-turning style.

His longevity shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, it was a dozen years ago when the Will Ferrell ice skating comedy “Blades of Glory” featured a character partially inspired by Weir.

He also starred in his own reality series, “Be Good Johnny Weir,” which aired on Sundance TV back in 2010.

Weir will join co-stars Kaya Scodelario and January Jones on “Spinning Out,” which was first announced in October with Weir being added to the cast two months later.

He says he’s had an incredible experience so far: “I never had the acting bug before, but now that I’m actually doing it and living that life, I really enjoy it.”

It won’t be Weir’s first time acting. In fact, Weir landed on an episode of the Fox animated comedy “Family Guy” just four months ago.

In the Olympics-themed episode, both he and fellow NBC figure skating analyst Tara Lipinski appear, playing themselves.

On the episode, the openly gay skater pokes fun at both at his sexuality and fashion choices.

In one scene, he is seen picking trash off the ground, sticking it to his outfit and proclaiming, “Now it’s clothes!”

In another scene, he wears a comically over-sized hat and reveals that he’s not actually gay to Stewie, the show’s talking baby. In fact, Weir tells him had been pretending to get closer to Lipinski.

Weir’s voice suddenly changes to a deep, gruff tone and he explains, “This is my voice. Do you think I actually talk like that? That’s just something I do to get the skater chicks.”

Born in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, Weir trained for his first Olympics in Delaware and has had a connection with the state ever since.

With Weir training in Wilmington and a new home in Greenville, the fashionable star can regularly be spotted in Northern Delaware, eating at his favorite restaurants or shopping around town.

“Delaware has been a major part of my life,” Weir says. “I am a true citizen of the world, but it is wonderful to have someplace quiet to come home to where I don’t have to shave or wear a sparkly blazer.

“My quiet country lifestyle is just the balance I need to keep up with my hectic work life.”

MORE: Takeaways and top moments from the World Figure Skating Championships

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2018-19 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Leanne Smith leads U.S. gold medalists at para swim worlds

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Leanne Smith has never competed at a Paralympics. Came into this week’s world championships with zero world medals. But she leaves London with three individual golds, most for any American, one year before the Tokyo Games.

Smith, 21, won the 150m individual medley, 50m breaststroke and 100m freestyle in her classification, all in American record times. The last two titles came on the final day of the seven-day meet on Sunday.

Smith, diagnosed with a rare neurological muscle disease called dystonia in January 2012, began swimming in 2013. By 2017, she broke a world record and then debuted at the world championships with a best individual finish of sixth.

The U.S. finished with 35 total medals and 14 golds, ranking sixth in the overall standings. Ukraine, usually strong at the Paralympics, led the way with 55 medals. Full results are here.

Jessica Long, the second-most-decorated U.S. Paralympian in history with 23 medals, earned six this week — five silvers and a bronze — to give her 52 career world championships medals.

Two-time Paralympian Mallory Weggemann earned two golds this week, giving her 15 world titles in three appearances (her others being in 2009 and 2010).

She won 50m titles in the butterfly and freestyle. Weggemann won a 2012 Paralympic 50m free title but was fortunate just to make it back for Rio after a 2014 accident that she said was harder to come back from than her teenage paralysis. She left Rio with no medals but a resolve to return for a third Games in Tokyo.

“I’m two seconds away from bursting into tears,” Weggemann said after winning the first of her two golds in the 50m fly, according to U.S. Paralympics. “I had a really rough go these past three years since Rio, so to finally be back after busting my butt to be here, and to be here in London of all places, is absolutely incredible.”

Fellow Rio Paralympians McKenzie Coan and Robert Griswold added two golds a piece.

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MORE: Five storylines to watch for Tokyo Paralympics

Heimana Reynolds wins skateboard world title, nears an Olympic goal from age 10

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In February 2009, a 10-year-old Heimana Reynolds was profiled by his local NBC TV station on Oahu.

“My goal is to become a professional skateboarder and compete in the X Games and the Olympics,” he said, according to the report.

Skateboarding would not be added to the Olympics for another seven years. But here Reynolds is, age 21, having just won the world title in park, one of two skateboarding events that debut at the Games in Tokyo.

Reynolds, who wasn’t named to the four-man U.S. national team in March, consolidated his lead in the Olympic qualification rankings by prevailing over a pair of Brazilians in Sao Paulo on Sunday.

A shirtless Reynolds scored 88 points in the final, beating Luis Francisco (85.50) and Pedro Quintas (85).

No more than three Americans can make the Olympic team in the event, which will make it difficult if three-time Olympic halfpipe snowboarding champion Shaun White decides to continue his skateboarding pursuit. White was the sixth-best American, bowing out in the semifinals in 13th place on Saturday in just his second contest since returning to competitive skating last year.

Back to Reynolds. He grew up on the North Shore and attended the Punahou School, where Barack Obama is the most famous alum. His first name is Tahitian, reportedly referring to the power of Jesus’ crown of thorns.

Reynolds, the son of a surfer, proved a natural on land. After pre-teen media profiles, he blossomed into a world silver medalist last year. He won an Olympic qualifier in China in July to take the top spot in the Olympic rankings despite a best career X Games finish of sixth.

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