Before Johnny Weir stole my dream, I had plans to be the first male figure skater to wear pink tassels and skate like a swan. Laugh if you will, but not long ago, in my early to late middle teens, I dreamed a dream to one day skate like a graceful ballerina.
It was 1994, I was just 13 years old, and that year, like any cold-blooded American boy, I got caught up in the media hurricane surrounding the Ladies Figure Skating event at the Lillehammer Olympic Games.
Better than any soap opera, bigger than any Super Bowl (to me, at least), that year’s competition was fierce. Impossible to look away, I watched (with the rest of world) as the Tonya vs. Nancy rivalry became something the sport had never seen. The duo faced off at every practice, rehearsal and news conference, as so many unanswered questions lingered between the two.
Who would win? Who would crash and burn? Would Tonya pull off her signature triple axel? Who really busted Nancy’s knee with a baseball bat? And would it possibly happen again when she took the Olympic ice?
All the lead up, the hype, the pressure and then just like that, it was over. The Ladies event was claimed by an unknown Russian girl, Oksana Baiul, after Tonya fell apart and Nancy didn’t come through.
Partly inspired by the beauty of the sport and partly by the drama and hype, I wanted nothing more than to become apart of that world. The costumes, the sequins, the kiss and cry, oh my! To lace up some skates, hit the rink, and complete triple jumps for a day job? Yes, please!
But with no frozen corn fields to practice on, and no coach but myself, I had to make do with my Southern California surroundings. Never mind I never skated a day in my life, I was determined! So with my roller skates in hand and my tape player in my pocket, I hit my back alley poised to become the next great American skater.
And, boy, did I practice.
For hours after school, I envisioned myself on Olympic Ice, circling my driveway, marking my jumps, cuing my music and polishing my toe point. I rehearsed programs and committed them to memory. I added flare to choreography. I worked on my footwork, step patterns and spiral sequences. I even mastered the ability to spin on one foot.
Anyone watching could see that my skating combined the grace and poise of Nancy with the athletic thunder thighs of Tonya.
All this with no ice rink, no coach, no formal training, no ear muffs, no nothing. Just a boy in some biker shorts and roller skates with a dream.
In recent interviews, Johnny Weir has spoken about how he began skating after the ’94 Olympics. After watching Oksana Baiul and her pink, lacy perfection and gangling, goose-like body, he says, he dreamed to one day skate just like her. (Sound familiar?)
Tonight the male skaters compete for Olympic glory in Vancouver. Needless to say, I’ll be cheering for Johnny, so that maybe one of our Olympic dreams will come true.
Because a victory for Weir is a victory for young boys everywhere – young boys who dream they can grow up to be fabulous, graceful, outspoken figure skating divas!