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Oct. 26 2009 - 11:24 am | 3,692 views | 1 recommendation | 11 comments

How Johnny Weir can fix his season

U.S.

Johnny Weir

Johnny Weir’s had a rough week. It seemed like he came to last weekend’s Rostelecom Cup with something to prove. After a tough time at the ‘09 Nationals, where he missed the podium for the first time in five years, Weir spent the past few months pondering whether or not to stay in and compete for one more Olympic season.

After a lot of soul searching and a pep talk from his mom, Weir decided to give competitive figure skating one more try. I’m sure he came to Moscow last week with the hopes of regaining his place as a force on the Grand Prix, but unfortunately the script he wrote for the event didn‘t run as planned.

It must have been disheartening for Weir to open his Olympic season with two mistakes in his short program and multiple stumbles in his long. Although his new programs looked strong, and he skated with more speed than we’ve seen from him in the past, I’m sure Weir’s fourth-place finish left him feeling very deflated.

At this point, Johnny Weir has two choices. He can either let last weekend’s disappointment overtake him and kill his confidence, or Weir can leave those performances in the past and fight through the rest of his season. We all know what option he wants to choose, but it’s going to take some work.

Here’s what he should do.

Weir needs to fix the technique on his triple axel. During the past few events, his triple axel has become increasingly dangerous. Instead of stepping up in to the jump with his hips square and making the jump travel in a straight line, his takeoff has become too circular. Because of this, it’s been hard for Weir to stay over his skating hip, his air position is too loose, and the landing is completely out of his control. Keep the jump linear. This will take some tweaking, and it may be frustrating for him to rework his technique, but it’s worth it. Weir’s axel has always been one of his stronger triples, and he’ll need to regain the consistency on it if he wants to contend for a fourth national title and a medal at his next Grand Prix event, the NHK Trophy.

Johnny Weir via AP

Johnny Weir via AP

That said, if Weir ends up missing his axel or any other jump in a future event, he can’t get bogged down in that mistake. If you miss something, move on. The jump is over. It’s in the past. Trying to make up for or getting stuck in a past mistake will cause a skater to lose their focus. It seemed like this happened to Weir last weekend in Moscow. He allowed the pops on the triple axels in his long to lead to a downward spiral. He has to learn from what happened there. Next time, Weir should focus on taking one thing at a time, and go into each element like it‘s the first jump in his program. He has to leave the past in the past.

Like missed jumps, this thinking can be applied to missed opportunities and past failures. Those events are done. Weir can’t make up for them by skating well in future events. It doesn’t work like that. Everyone has a bad season, but it seems like Weir’s become so focused on making up for last season that it’s started to weigh on him. It’s okay to have a few bad outings, and it‘s okay that he didn‘t make the world team last year. He’s an athlete; sometimes things don‘t go as planned. But what isn’t okay is carrying the shame from those failures with him to future events. Just move on.

Part of learning how to move on from the past is learning to keep things simple. It seems like Weir’s putting too much energy into designing his costumes and the stories he’s trying to tell on the ice, and it’s causing him to forget about what’s focal. He’s also been filming his reality show over the past few months, and I’m sure it’s fun, but it can present a distraction. Right now, that stuff doesn’t matter. For the next few months, Weir’s focus should be on landing his jumps and skating strong programs. That is what’s important.

Adding to this, trying to present a certain image or be the most outrageous on the ice isn‘t going to win it for him. What it comes down to is whether or not he delivers when it counts. If Weir can try to skate for himself, it will help with this. At the end of the day, the mistakes are on him. He can’t lose sight that this is his career, not anyone elses‘. Johnny’s the one who has to live with his performances and who gets up every morning and makes it to practice. Johnny’s the one who has to put in the work and push himself through those tough long program runthroughs. Not his fans, not his friends or parents, and not his coaches. He is responsible for his performances. Weir’s support system wants him to do well, but they’re not the ones out there competing. If he puts their expectations out of his mind and skates for himself, the pressure of competition won’t seem as daunting. Weir will only have to answer to himself.

After a rough skate it’s natural that Weir’s confidence would take a hit, but he has to learn to block out any doubts. Weir needs to skate with the conviction of someone who deserves to be on the podium. I’m sure last weekend’s event was tough, but he has to brush himself off and get back to work. Johnny Weir is one of the most talented skaters in the world and has been doing these elements for the past ten years. With the amount of training he’s put in, he owes it to himself to come out fighting in Japan. Weir should spend the next two weeks working on his triple axel technique, forgetting about last weekend’s errors, and reminding himself that he is responsible for his skating. If he does that, he will be fine this season.

And remember, Johnny: It’s just figure skating.


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  1. collapse expand

    A good sports psychologist would also help Johnny…if he was open to it. There is a part in his documentary where they talk about something inside him holding him back and no one knowing quite what it is. When Johnny was asked about it, he kind of brushed it off. A sports psychologist really helped out Nancy Kerrigan after 1993 Worlds.

    Johnny does focus on redemption and the drama of it all. It is great that he is into his programs and probably needed to get into it in order to get his love and motivation back.

    The axel issues are odd because it has always been such a good jump for him. He needs to learn to go for that triple loop no matter what. Johnny is so talented in practice but he tenses up during competition.

    Why isn’t he able to do triple-triples anymore? He is landing really strangely, especially in the knee. It didn’t look like he opened up his combo into a a triple-double in the short. The landing was just all wrong.

    Johnny has done well proving himself in the past. He was a mess during the fall of 2005 until Nationals came around. There are too many talented men in the US to fuck around this year.

    • collapse expand

      I agree about Johnny needing to see a sports psychologist. It seems like he just gets in his way when he’s competing. He needs someone to teach him how to quiet his mind and not pay attention to any doubts he may have.

      In terms of his triple-triples, it looks like his air position is very loose this season, and he is landing many of his jumps on his heel. This makes it hard to try a second triple. His technique has also become too swingy. He needs to simplify his takeoffs, so the rest of the jump is in his control. Right now it looks like he’s throwing himself into his jumps.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    I have wished for several years now that Johnny would work with a sports psychologist. He looks so nervous when he takes the ice, particularly before his free skates, that there is no way it isn’t affecting his performance. The pressure is only going to get worse as the season progresses, not easier.

    Evan Lysacek and Jeremy Abbott both struggled with nerves in the past and have worked with sports psychologists to overcome them. The result is that they have both pulled ahead of Johnny, who I think is a superior skater. Being the better skater is just not enough if others are better competitors and can handle the pressure of competition and stay focused after a mistake when you can’t.

    Johnny has great natural talent, but he is very stubborn about doing what needs to be done to fix his problems. He continues to insist he doesn’t need a sports psychologist despite his mounting trouble with nerves. All the practice in the world isn’t going to help him if he panics in competition and gives up after one mistake.

  3. collapse expand

    I like how you included both physical and mental things that Johnny could try to improve. Aside from Nationals last year, the rest of Johnny’s season had been quite good. That’s why I’m slightly confused how his jumps and mental state could currently be in slight disarray. Eventually you have to pick yourself back up. I don’t even mind so much that his triple axel and triple triples have escaped him… It’s only the first competition of the season… But mentally, he seems out of it. I’m pretty sure he only tried one jump in combination in his free skate. Aren’t you supposed to do three?

    I wonder if seeing a nutritionist/dietitian would also help him in preparation for competitions. There’s only so long you can get away with having coffee for both breakfast and lunch (if indeed this is what he still does) and expect your body to keep functioning properly. Someone needs to teach him to eat healthy and fuel his body with the necessary nutrients so that he can train well. But I guess if he hasn’t learned proper nutrition by now, he probably won’t.

    4th isn’t that terrible anyway. Maybe we are concerned over nothing.

    • collapse expand

      Johnny looked very thin last weekend. I hope he isn’t trying to lose weight or eat only a set amount of calories, as he has said he’s done in the past. He needs energy to get through his training sessions and competitions this season.

      I agree that Johnny isn’t at the top of his game mentally, and as Dave and Tevyah mentioned, working with a sports psychologist would probably help him. I don’t think this is something he will do, but it would definitely help.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  4. collapse expand

    I didn’t realize Johnny was not using a sports psychologist. I guess that’s the reason he spends so much time blogging and interacting with his fans. Perhaps he’s trying to get what he needs from them, but as the other two people pointed out, that won’t work in the heat and pressure of competition. If I were Johnny, I would use EVERY tool available to get me on that US team and onto the Olympic podium. He’s too much into his “Diva-ness” and like you said, being distracted by other things. His distractions cost him the U.S. title when he first lost to Evan in 2007, and I feel his reality show is also affecting his training and focus. I also think he was freaked out by Plushenko at the Rostelecom Cup–I know he greatly admires Evgeni, but I also think he lets himself get intimidated by him. As you’ve mentioned, Plushenko is beatable, and a good sports psychologist would help Johnny to realize this. He needs to rebuild his confidence and get more of a killer instinct, especially for this season. He and his coaches need to take a more professional approach instead of allowing Johnny’s moods, whims and extracurricular activities getting in the way. I was so disappointed with him in Torino–had he used a sports psychologist back then, he would have been on the podium, as the psychologist would have given him tools to calm down after missing the bus. Johnny is so EXTREMELY talented, and I, along with many others, want him to do well, especially since this year might be his last in skating. To me, he has yet to skate the ultimate program that he is so very capable of doing. I would have thought by now he would have been world champion, but as you and others have pointed out, he is his own worse enemy. And instead of taking responsibility for his skating, I think he avoids it by taking on extracurricular activities. Maybe he no longer wants it badly enough, and that’s the reason for the distractions and no sports psychologist. Like Johnny, I am an artist, and like him, I allowed my “artistic temperament” to get in the way of success. I’ve since learned my lesson, but it took me years to realize this. I hope Johnny realizes this now and reevaluates and revamps his approach to his skating.

  5. collapse expand

    I like your final line “Its only figure skating” so true, so true.

    Sorry to be a naysayer, but I just think its over for Johnny, maybe he’ll get lucky and the other US men will really screw up and he will make it to the Olympics, but I would give Johnny a very slim chance of winning a medal there.

    Sadly I think the USFSA needs to work on building back up American figure skating, chances are very good that America will not make the podium for ladies (the first time in what, like over 40 years)!! We haven’t been on a pairs podium in the Olympics since 1988!

    Perhaps its very cold of me, but I say forget these veterans, like Weir, their time came and went, now lets focus on the future, building strong skaters who are consistent!

  6. collapse expand

    This is the video of Johnny’s FS practice in Moscow.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFl2topS9c8

    Jennifer, look please if his 3A technique is wrong in practice either or it happens only in competition?

    • collapse expand

      Thanks for the link. Even on that axel it looks like Johnny’s left leg is swinging too wide on his takeoff, and he isn’t jumping from the front of his skate. This is making it difficult for him to stay over his skating hip in the air and have control over his rotations and landing. You can see on the landing his right leg is swinging really wide, and he’s struggling to hold on to his edge. He needs to focus on stepping between his arms on the takeoff and allowing the jump to move away from the circle, instead of around it. Does that make sense? haha, it can be hard to understand “skating talk.” Thank you for the video, and to answer your question: Although the axel looked better there (he rotated it), it still seems like his technique isn’t as strong as it used to be.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  7. collapse expand

    I wonder Johnny leaves out such big sections of his programs in practice? I know this is a trend with skaters and I understand them leaving out a certain spin, jump or step sequence here or there but it seems to me that if any skater leaves such huge sections out each time they practice the week prior to a big competition, over the course of even several days they would lose stamina and not have the endurance to complete a strong finish in their programs when it comes right down to the actual day of the performance…just MHO :-)

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    About Me

    I’m originally from Boston, living in LA, with a passion for the world of figure skating. During my career on the ice, I was a world junior champion, a five-time U.S. national medalist, and a three-time world team member. Since retiring from the sport, I have dedicated myself to attaining my college degree with a major in broadcast journalism. I’m looking forward to sharing my views on the ins and outs of the skating world, along with my opinions and thoughts on various issues coming from the ice. I welcome you to my blog!

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