Weir caught in crossfire for stand on Games

Thu Jan 16, 2014 7:01am EST
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By Pritha Sarkar

LONDON (Reuters) - As an openly gay American athlete who is a self-confessed Russophile, Johnny Weir feels he has been caught up "in a crossfire" for not backing a boycott of the Sochi Olympics in the wake of the country's anti-gay policies.

Yet the flamboyant figure skater, who had hoped to compete in next month's Winter Games until his aching body let him down, is adamant that an issue that affects a minority group should not ruin a "lifetime of sacrifices" made by thousands of athletes.

"I've come under so much hate and scrutiny from within my own LGBT community for my views on the Olympics," two times Olympian Weir told Reuters in a telephone interview from his home in New Jersey.

"But as somebody who watched my parents sacrifice everything so that I had at least one chance of making the Olympics, I could never boycott the Olympics whether they be in Pyongyang (in North Korea), in Uganda, in Iran or Mars.

"I would have competed there because my whole life has been about going to the Olympics. Being gay isn't something that I chose, being gay is something I was born into.

"But being an Olympic athlete was something that I chose and something I worked hard for and I'll see it to any necessary end.

"The entire Olympic team is not made up of LGBT people. It's people who've sacrificed their livelihoods, it's people who've sacrificed their parents' finances and health and sometimes even marriages to get that one chance at glory.

"As an athlete who's lived it, I could never turn my face to that. While equality is necessary all over the world, the Olympics is not the place for me to make a stand."   Continued...

Johnny Weir of the U.S. performs during the men's short program at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, November 9, 2012. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor