(This story was published in 2006).
Renate Linnenkoper of the Netherlands is such a big fan of figure skater Johnny Weir that she wrote a poem for him. Weir is such a big fan of Linnenkoper's poetry that she won his contest, "Johnny Weir: Poetry on Ice."
"I decided to write Johnny a poem because he was having a bad season and I thought it might make him smile," Linnenkoper said in an e-mail to Outsports. "That's all I wanted. The poetry contest hadn't been announced yet when I sent him the poem. A few days later, I read about the contest on his website and although I wasn't sure at first, I entered."
Her entry was one of 100 poems submitted to Weir's website, of which 21 made the final round. Weir said he read all 21 of the finalists and most of the foreign language entries, though attempts to read ones in Russian were thwarted because he was "on a hotel computer and could not get all of the Russian characters to show up correctly on the computer." Damn computers!
Linnenkoper, 20, wins an autographed photo of her hero. "I haven't got Johnny's autograph yet so I'm very excited and I look forward to receiving it," she said.
"I usually write about nature," she said. "But I found writing about Johnny very easy. There are so many sides to his personality. There is his elegant, introvert on-ice persona. His shy, soft-spoken off-ice persona. And his outspoken, honest public persona. When I write a poem, I don't know what I'm going to write about exactly. I just write and let it happen. I tried to describe different aspects of Johnny. The way people respond to him, what his skating is like, his personality. I take it two lines at a time. When I'm happy the way the first two lines turned out, I write the next two." Her poem reads:
The silver mist embraces the moon
Offering shelter to those that come soon
The twinkling stars and twilight glow
Caress the surface of the ice below
And on that ice, a figure stands
His face framed by raven strands
His visage adorned by hazel eyes
Reminiscent of lover's feverish goodbyes
With swanlike elegance he has flown
Into a world entirely his own
Where beauty and love are the order of the day
And not foreign whispers that tell us what to say
He utters a word and all is still
His speech thought poison with eloquent skill
His life a puzzle they wish to unravel
His art not part of their venomous scandal
Fragile he seems to ignorant eyes
He is refulgent and strong like a sunrise
We watch the story he has chosen to tell
In which we secretly relish to dwell
Linnenkoper has become a big fan of Weir only in the last year. "It wasn't until Worlds 2005 I started getting interested in Johnny," she said. "I was just reading a few figure skating forums and they were talking about Johnny's off-ice persona. I got curious and ended up on his official website. I started reading his journals. For hours, I just read about his life. There was something about him that fascinated me. His honesty. His kindness. He was different. He was interesting. That's when I became a fan. A fan of Johnny Weir as a person. After that, I paid more attention to his skating and became a fan of his skating too."
We're also big fans of Weir, who delighted us in the Torino Olympics with his frankness, great sense of humor and not giving a shit what anyone thought. But I do have a bone to pick with this chintzy first prize, which was chosen by FigureSkatersOnline.com, the site that came up with the idea and hosts Weir's web pages. An autographed picture? Whop-de-do. Weir should intercede and demand something better. A guy who buys designer sunglasses like they're packs of gum, knows Dolce & Gabbana on a first-name basis and spent $1,330 in two hours shopping in Turin can afford to spring for more than that. Why not autographed skates? Or the swan costume he wore in the Olympics? Renate seems really sweet and deserves more than a few scribbles on a picture.
In other Weir news, it seems as if he and Rudy Galindo have (figuratively?) kissed and made up over comments Galindo made about Weir at the Olympics. "Why is everybody asking him about his 'style' and not just ask him if he's gay?" Galindo told the Chicago Tribune in an article about Weir's sexual orientation, which he won't discuss publicly.
"I was very upset when I first learned that Rudy made some bad statements about me because as far as I know, we've been friends for a while," Weir wrote on his website. "When I got on the tour this year things were a little awkward and then I decided that we have to work together, it's not a huge deal. I got over it. He did too, and he apologized to me which I wasn't expecting. We get along great and we're having fun so it's all water under the bridge. I can forgive, but I won't forget."
It's not clear what Galindo, openly gay, said that was so bad or what the nature of the apology was. Asking Weir if he is gay is not an offensive question. This is, after all, someone who did an Olympics segment for NBC called "Weir Eye for the Skater Guy," and has said, "I can sleep with whomever I choose and it doesn't affect what I'm doing on the ice, so speculation is speculation." And anyone who says that, "If I could be anyone, I would like to be Christina Aguilera in a concert," is going to attract certain questions. Not asking him is a dodge.
Postscript: After this article appeared, two e-mails came in about the Weir-Galindo flap. They offer a perspective from people who follow skating regularly (unlike me) and thought both made important points:
From one reader: Here is what Rudy said -- "I worked so hard at creating a program, and then I'll see he's copied something later, whether it's a costume or a move ... We don't get along so well because I have no respect for somebody who would copy me. So we've built up this animosity."
Apparently this "animosity" was news to Johnny, who thought they were on good terms, and everyone I've asked about this says that Rudy and Johnny's styles are totally different so that "copying" accusation is complete BS.
Can I give you my perspective on why what Rudy did was wrong and why I still might want to punch him in the face if I ever run into him? It's because of part of the headline [in the February Tribune article]: "Whispers of gay lifestyle creep to forefront, but few skaters or officials want to discuss it." ...
I am just so angry at Rudy because I feel that a lot of what happened to Johnny in the press was retaliation for him making these journalists/sportswriters' dicks hard against their will, so they had to make him the faggot ... and Rudy allowed himself to be used to that end, which is unforgivable to me. It was bad enough, but he jumped in and let the [heterosexuals] use him to hurt another gay person ... what on earth was he thinking, batting for the other team like that? What did he think he would gain by it? There is the possibility he was trying to throw some kind of Biggie/Tupac thing out there to drum up publicity, because he had been quoted elsewhere when asked what could be done to increase interest in skating that "we need me and Johnny Weir to get into a cat fight" I can't remember where I read that, but it was just horrible to me to read this bitchy little article on the 'super-double-secret hidden gay lifestyle creepy-crawling to the forefront' and then have to find out that a gay man is leading the charge against this 21-year-old kid. Just sickening. That's just me. Sorry if that gets on your nerves, but it's how I felt about it."
From a second reader: You made the comment that "it's not clear what Galindo, openly gay, said that was so bad..." Rudy Galindo made several statements to the Chicago Tribune, including that Johnny was stealing "his moves" and "his style" (which is ridiculous) and that Johnny was "over the top feminine" and reporters should ask him if he's gay.
While you may not think the second statement should demand an apology, let's remember the timing of the comment -- in the middle of Johnny's Olympic performance! In fact, right after he stepped off the ice in Torino he was attacked by reporters demanding to know if he was gay! Rudy Galindo CHOSE on his own to "come out" and now has chosen to try and push Johnny to "come out." Besides, couldn't his comments wait one week? Why did he literally have to "steal the spotlight" from Johnny to make those comments that sent the media after Johnny during one of the biggest competitions of his life?
For more perspective, why don't you go to Rudy Galindo's official website, and read his message board. You will see how his own fans turned on him for his comments during the Olympics about Johnny.
Thank you for this article that highlights some of Johnny's wonderful attributes.