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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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Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu says he is ‘100 percent’ ahead of World Championships

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SAITAMA, Japan (AP) — Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu says he has recovered from an ankle injury and is ready to compete for the title at the world figure skating championships.

“Before the season, I wasn’t in what I would say was an ideal 100 percent,” Hanyu told a news conference Tuesday, on the eve of the championships. “But I can say I’m 100 percent heading into the world championships and I’m looking forward to competing.

“I’ve been in this position before where I came back from injury before the Olympics and that was valuable experience that will help.”

Hanyu arrived in Japan on a flight from Toronto late Monday accompanied by coach Brian Orser. On Tuesday, he practiced for about 30 minutes at the arena in front a large crowd of fans who applauded every jump he made.

The 24-year-old missed last year’s worlds because of injury. He last won the title at the 2017 world championships in Helsinki. His first win was in 2014 at Saitama Super Arena, the same venue as this year’s worlds.

After twisting his right ankle in a fall in practice at the Rostelecom Cup on Nov. 17, Hanyu was told he needed three weeks of rest and one month of rehabilitation to recover from a ligament injury sustained in the fall.

He claimed his second straight Grand Prix series title of the season despite the injury, but was forced to withdraw from the Grand Prix Final and the Japan nationals in December.

Hanyu sustained a similar injury at the 2017 NHK Trophy before making a comeback at last year’s Pyeongchang Olympics, where he became the first male figure skater to win consecutive Olympic golds since American Dick Button in 1948 and 1952.

Defending champion Nathan Chen practiced at Saitama Super Arena on Monday and said he had fully recovered from a cold.

Coming off a long break from the U.S. Nationals in January, when he captured his third straight national title, Chen said his plan is pretty much to stick with that program at the worlds.

During the nationals, Chen landed four quad jumps in his free skate routine, one of which was in combination.

Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno, the 2018 world championship silver medalist, will also be a medal contender on home ice.

“I’m emphasizing results at a competition for the first time,” the 21-year-old Uno said. “I’ve always tried to perform in a way so I would be satisfied. I didn’t really put an emphasis on the results.”

Uno heads into the worlds on a high having won the Four Continents last month. In that competition, Uno showed his resolve when he finished fourth in the short program and then won the free skate to claim the overall title. It marked the first time he won a major international competition.

Uno also had an impressive 2018, winning Skate Canada, the NHK Trophy and the Japanese nationals.

The world championships begin with the women’s short program on Wednesday. The men’s short program is on Thursday.

MORE: World Championships ladies’ preview: Japanese, Russian skaters face off for top prize

As a reminder, you can watch the world championships 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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Shiffrin leads slalom, approaches record 15th win of season

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Mikaela Shiffrin posted the fastest time in the opening run of a women’s World Cup slalom in tough conditions on Saturday, positioning herself for what would be a record 15th victory of the season.

No skier, male or female, has won more than 14 races in a single campaign in the 53-year history of the World Cup.

Shiffrin has already wrapped up the World Cup slalom season title, her sixth in the last seven years, and her third straight overall championship.

In dense snowfall, Shiffrin was 0.37 seconds faster than Wendy Holdener of Switzerland. The rest of the field, led by Olympic champion Frida Hansdotter of Sweden, had more than a second to make up in the second leg.

Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, the only skier other than Shiffrin to win a women’s World Cup slalom since January 2017, was 1.33 seconds behind in fourth.

Watch the second run live on Olympic Channel on TV or streaming at 7:30 a.m. ET.