Friday, June 17, 2016

Father and Son

Johnny with his dad, John Weir, at Art2Skate rehearsal. Exclusive photo © David Keyser.

Today we break away from FaOI for a moment as the US prepares to celebrate Father’s Day this weekend.

(Pretty much everything you need to know about Johnny’s continuing Fantasy on Ice adventures up to this point can be seen on his Instagram and you should go there — and here, here, here, and also here — right now. I’ll wait.)

In 2006, Johnny’s dad, “Big John” Weir — a man seldom in the spotlight, preferring Patti Weir to take the more visible role there — gave a couple of interviews in the run-up to Johnny’s first Olympics in Torino. Those Winter Games would be one of the few times John, linebacker and captain of his high school football team, had ever seen Johnny skate live. From one of the articles, a fascinating Washington Post piece long since archived, comes this beautiful quote that I have never forgotten:

John Weir doesn’t know whether his son will medal, but he knows for certain he will be proud.

“My child’s not weird,” he told a reporter when queried about Johnny’s reputation. “Everyone else is.”

Ten years later — a decade likely more tumultuous for his son than John Weir might ever have imagined — this quiet man stood in a modest rink in Wilmington, Delaware, minding his son’s purse, skate guards, and other assorted paraphernalia while watching Johnny rehearse for his performance that evening.

After the first few minutes, Johnny glided over to drop off his red-and-white Bosco vest, often the first thing he sheds as he begins to heat up from his practice. But instead of just laying the vest across the boards next to his other things, Johnny draped it gently across his father’s broad shoulders with a smile, then skated away to continue his run-through.

That’s where this post begins, as seen in the photo above.

This exclusive photo series features selected shots of Johnny during his warmup. At the end is video of that same practice session that also offers some glimpses of John, who stood — despite excruciating back problems that have affected him for many years — throughout the 20 minutes or so while his son jumped, spun, and flew across the rink, his gaze rarely leaving the beautiful lone figure on the ice. And then John continued to stand and wait, with uncomplaining patience, as Johnny spent additional time signing autographs for wide-eyed young skaters who had also been watching his practice.

In fact, John has stood with Johnny his entire life, always there, always protective, always on his son’s side, no matter what.

During the Art2Skate Q&A, Johnny was asked what parents can do to best support their young skaters. He explained that both his parents had offered tremendous support to him throughout his career in different ways. “My mother felt everything with me,” he said. “Every medal, every disappointment, every triple axel, every fall, she felt it in her heart as much as I did. She always understood.

“My father kept me grounded,” Johnny continued. “’Hey, you won today! That’s great. Now go do the dishes,’ he’d say. Or: ‘So you fell down on national television today. OK. There’s firewood outside that needs stacking.’ He helped me get perspective even when it was very hard to do.”

Later that evening, seated with a number of Johnny fans at the show, John Weir leaned over to one at the start of Johnny’s BeyoncĂ© program and said softly but with great pride:

“That’s my baby.”

This Father’s Day, in the face of the unspeakable tragedy in Orlando and the challenge of ending societal prejudice against those who are “different” in some way — a task that necessarily begins at home, where children first receive or are denied unconditional love and acceptance — the unshakeable, unending, very grounded love of John Weir for his boy gives me hope.























A Father’s Day tribute to Big John and Johnny.
Video link.

Exclusive photos © David Keyser.