He may not be taking the ice in Pyeongchang, South Korea, but Johnny Weir’s definitely a part of the 2018 Winter Olympics. He and Tara Lipinski, another former Olympic skater, are now NBC’s lead analysts for its primetime figure skating broadcasts. The dynamic duo previously gave insights at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi — in addition to their Kentucky Derby, Super Bowl, and National Dog Show coverage — but not everyone loves their commentary as much as NBC.
“Am I the only one that finds Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir a touch harsh?” wrote one Twitter user amid the duo’s Feb. 8 coverage. “‘Abysmal,’ ‘outrageous,’ ‘disaster.’ The slightest amount of empathy would be nice.” Another added, “A moment ago they were praising [figure skater] Nathan Chen as if he were a god, and he makes a mistake — he is human — and now they are crucifying him."
Others, however, loved Johnny and Tara’s icy comments: “I support Mean Johnny Weir,” tweeted New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik. “He’s an announcer, not the skaters’ damn publicist.”
It’s not the first time the 33-year-old has been at the center of controversy on and off the rink. The Pennsylvania native — who competed in the Olympics in 2006 and 2010, won the bronze at the 2008 World Figure Skating Championships, and won gold three years in a row at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships — sparked outcry at the 2010 Games for the fox fur on his costume. He even had to change his accommodations in Vancouver out of safety concerns.
That same year, Johnny was the target of homophobic comments by two Canadian commentators who said his body language “sets a bad example” and joked about how he should “compete in the women’s division.” To the outside world, Johnny was still in the closet at the time. He publicly came out the following year in his memoir, Welcome to My World. “I hope that even just one person can gain strength from my story,” he shared at the time.
This January, the skater defended his choice to keep his sexual orientation private for so long. “I wear my sexuality the same as I wear my sex or my skin color,” he tweeted. “It is something that simply is and something I was born into. I never ‘came out’ in sport because I didn’t imagine it as a great secret [and] it had nothing to do with my skating or my dreams … I was extremely lucky to grow up in a family/community of acceptance and perhaps that’s why I don’t see my sexuality as something that needs addressing. I am forever indebted, however, to the warriors who came before me that allow me to lead the life I do so openly.”
Johnny married Georgetown Law grad Victor Voronov in 2011, but they divorced in 2015 after Victor accused Johnny of physical assault and Johnny accused Victor of rape. Through all his ups and downs, though, Johnny remains philosophical.
“My name is Johnny Weir,” he wrote in a 2014 Falls Church News-Press column. “I have succeeded many times but I am just as proud of many of my great failures. I failed to win a medal at the Olympics, but I went twice and skated the performances of my lifetime. I failed to have a successful first marriage, but I allowed myself to love.”