Icing Johnny Figure skater Johnny Weir goes out of his way to piss off critics. So it's fitting that the 21-year-old Olympian will skate to Frank Sinatra's "My Way" at this afternoon's Champions on Ice, an exhibition starring Michelle Kwan, Victor Petrenko, Irina Slutskaya, and 11 other skaters. "I have my own opinions about life in general," says Weir. "This is sorta my message to the world. I like putting out controversial ideas."
For proof, ask any animal activist. During the Olympics in Turin, Italy, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals slammed the outspoken Weir for his fondness for wearing fur coats. "They started sending me nasty videos and letters," he says. "I can see their side of things, but I think it's more important that people in the fur industry have jobs, as opposed to animals living longer."
When Weir tumbled from a second-place showing in the men's short program to a fifth-place overall finish in Turin, a thousand hateful e-mails poured in. His flamboyant style off the rink only fueled the fury. "[Critics] have a problem with the kind of image I'm portraying for the country," he says. "They don't like that I was pushed as one of the stars of the Olympics. The more people support you, there are going to be just as many who don't. You have to have a thick skin."
Weir credits his resilience on his upbringing in Pennsylvania Dutch country. "I came out of someplace surrounded by farms," he says. "If I'd stayed in Pennsylvania, things would be quite different. Being exposed to the glittery world of figure skating has shown me a lot about the different sides of people. You can't put a price on that." Champions on Ice lace up at 3 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena, 100 Gateway Plaza. Tickets range from $32 to $92, available by calling 216-241-5555.
By Cris Glaser
Sat., May 6, 3 p.m.