Thursday, February 18, 2010

Johnny Gets Gipped

Sitting in what's known as the "kiss-and-cry" station after his superb Long Program performance, with a crown of red roses perched on top of his head, Johnny Weir sat next to Galina, his Russian coach, and waited patiently for his scores. When they came, they were jaw-dropping, but not in a good way. He had placed fifth, with Evgeni Plushenko, two-time Russian Olympic medalist, yet to skate. So in actuality, Johnny would finish sixth in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Poor guy didn't even make the podium. And what's worse than all of this? His scores were tailing behind those of two men, Stephane Lambiel from France and Daisuke Takahashi from Japan, who had each fallen once during their own Long Program performances. But Johnny had not.

How does a man, who skated an almost-flawless four and a half minutes on ice, come up short-changed like that? Well, politics has a lot to do with it. It's a known fact that most judges don't like Johnny, but no one can really extract the reason why. Is it his flamboyance? His brashness? His feathery costumes? Possibly a combination of all these things and more. But I think it's because Johnny is different, and with difference comes uneasiness, and with uneasiness comes low marks on the score board for Mr. Weir.

Those roses on his head might as well have been thorns. Okay, maybe that's an extreme analogy - but like Jesus, Johnny was wronged. More than wronged. He was robbed of a bronze medal. Sure, he was never going to win the gold, which, by the way, wasalso stolen from Evgeni Plushenko by American Evan Lysacek, whose outfit kept reminding me of Mugatu's, the fashion designer played by Will Ferrell in Zoolander. With a silver sequined serpent adorning the neckline of Mr. Lysacek's costume, I couldn't help but notice how intense and stiff this guy was - how incredibly unlike Johnny. So naturally, I don't like him.

Still, I'll give it to the guy - his performance was outstanding. However, he did not attempt a quadruple axle. Plushenko did, and landed it. Both men were as close to perfection as any male figure skater could hope to be. But as Plushenko's score lit up, so did Lysacek's eyes - he had won! Even Evan didn't believe it. Right before he hugged one of his family members, he belted out the words "Nooo way!", in obvious awe of the results - most likely because he knew he didn't deserve it.

Yes, I'm bitter. My favorite skater came away from this year's Olympic games empty-handed. But I should probably bite my tongue here, because even after hearing the news of his placement, Johnny was still smiling. The kid skated his heart out - the best performance of his career to date. As he held his head in his hands, kneeling on the ice for the last time ever as an Olympian, you felt happy for him. And even if he didn't win a medal, he has certainly won the hearts of many a fan across the globe, including my own.

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