Weir's checklist didn't extend to the bus schedule
TURIN, Italy -- Johnny Weir was busy as he prepared for the biggest night of his life. Getting ready in the athletes' village, his schedule went something like this:
-- Make sure swan costume from short program securely put away. Check.
-- Clean dorm room floor one more time. Check.
-- Glue missing sequins back on outfit. Check
-- Catch bus to arena.
Weir's worst Olympic moment didn't come on the ice Thursday night, where he blew a chance to win a figure skating medal. It came when he was wandering around in the cold wondering if he would ever get to the arena.
Bus schedules? Those are for the concierge to read.
Besides, as much as Weir was talking all week, he didn't have time to listen.
America's only hope in the men's figure skating arrived late and never recovered, skating a tentative one-bear program and dropping from second place to fifth in his first Olympics.
That's one bear, as in only one fan threw a bear on the ice after he was done. Evgeni Plushenko got dozens, and a gold medal to wrap around them.
It was that bad, and Weir knew it.
"I just couldn't get comfortable in this building tonight," he said. "I need to train better. I need to train for every circumstance."
"Being late to the arena."
If there wasn't so much at stake, this could have seemed like a bad "I Love Lucy" rerun with Lucy running around the parking lot frantically trying to hail a cab.
But there was nothing funny about Weir walking out from the village to the bus he expected to be waiting with less than two hours before his skate. It wasn't there because the Italian organizers had changed the schedule and the buses that used to run every 10 minutes were now running every half-hour.
It doesn't take much to shake up the average figure skater. Takes even less to rattle a self-described "princessy" one who complained the minute he came to the village that there was no room service, the bed was hard and there was dust on the floor of his room.
He wanted a hotel and limo service. He got a twin bed and a bus schedule.
If he hadn't found a volunteer with a car after about 20 minutes of walking around, he might have had to walk to the arena.
"It was never brought to my attention it would be changed," Weir said. "I guess it's my fault because I didn't bother to ask."
Maybe Weir could have squeezed the question in between interviews. With Michelle Kwan out and Weir sitting in second place after the short program, he was on NBC more this week than Jay Leno.
One of his less memorable quotes was that he would urinate if he won a medal. Turns out he didn't need to worry about that after a program in which he managed to stay upright but was shaky from the beginning.
Weir planned to try his first quad ever in competition but gave that up because he didn't have enough time to warm up after he missed the bus. He two-footed a triple axel, had a shaky landing on a triple lutz and was thinking too much the whole way around.
By the time his program was over, he knew his medal hopes were, too.
"I was terrified today. I wasn't comfortable and that's why I was so scared," Weir said.
Weir barely waited for his bad numbers to pop up on the overhead scoreboard before storming from the kiss and cry area.
"I didn't feel my aura," he said. "I was black inside."
The fall from contention came after a meteoric rise to stardom. Just a few days earlier, Weir backed up his mouth by skating a short program that put him in second place and gave him a chance to grab an unexpected medal for the United States.
Back home, they were paying attention.
It's hard not to, though, to a skater who dresses as a swan, admits to being pretentious and said this week that he doesn't like to be called a jock because it makes him think of spandex-clad football players.
Dick Button he's not. Tonya Harding acted tougher than this guy.
But, hey, you have to respect anyone who dresses like a swan in public.
Weir said he had 25 fan mails day before the short program. When he checked before his final skate, he had 897.
"I talked to one of my friends and they said, `You made this person's Web site as a D-list celebrity.' Great. I'm Kathy Griffin."
Weir talked about being mad at himself, but he didn't sound all that upset afterward. He ran the media gauntlet, stopping to talk to anyone who wanted to listen, and said he would be back in four years to try again.
Meanwhile, he still had something to take from the Olympics. He said he learned he can compete on a big stage, and more.
"I learned I definitely want to stay in a hotel," he said.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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