Some of the loudest buzz at last year's U.S. Figure Skating Championships was about a skater who wasn't competing.
Johnny Weir, the three-time national champion and two-time Olympian who had left the sport to delve into writing, music, fashion and reality television, showed up to tell reporters that he was back — and “98 percent sure” he'd be skating for another national title in Omaha in 2013.
But by late 2012, after pulling out of an international competition with a hip injury, Weir, 28, announced that he was going to slow down his return. He said he wouldn't compete at nationals but still had hopes of qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Team in 2014.
Weir said he'll likely watch this year's championships at home in New Jersey.
Earlier this month, he answered questions from The World-Herald about his decision and his plans for the future.
OWH: What was the final tipping point in your decision not to compete in Omaha?
WEIR: Of course I withdrew from the event in Russia due to injury, but more than that I saw firsthand how much work I needed to do on my own skating to remain relevant and competitive leading into Sochi, and I knew the only way I'd have time to work was to end my season early.
OWH: What's your plan for the next year to stay competitive? Any significant changes planned for your training program?
WEIR: There are already significant changes I've put into motion to improve my jumping abilities and stamina. I also have a very good frame of mind at the moment, and I'm not distracted from my goal of competing in Sochi. One important piece of the puzzle I'm still looking for is sponsorship for my Olympic dream. It is much easier to train and focus solely on figure skating when you don't have to worry about finances or performing in every skating show or appearance you're offered to make ends meet. It is no secret that figure skating is an expensive sport, and even the top-level athletes need support from sponsors, myself included.
OWH: What are your predictions for the competition in Omaha?
WEIR: The U.S. National Championship is the hardest event of the season. You never know what is going to happen, which is what makes it so exciting. For the ladies, I am hoping to see Ashley Wagner defend her title and also continue her success from the early season. Other ladies I'm looking forward to are Agnes Zawadzki, Gracie Gold and Samantha Cesario. For the men, anything can happen. My personal favorites are Jason Brown, Max Aaron and Adam Rippon, but I'm also excited to see how Jeremy Abbott and Ross Miner perform.
OWH: Any tips for fans who will be seeing skating live for the first time?
WEIR: Marvel at the speed of figure skating. Appreciate that even if someone falls down, it takes guts to perform for the world and it also takes years of hard work to be at center ice performing for you. I'd also like people to cheer for the favorites, but don't forget to clap and scream for the underdogs, the unknowns and the rivals. This is an amazing event being brought to Omaha, and I hope that the audience can catch the skating fever.
Reporter Erin Golden, left, and photojournalist Rebecca S. Gratz will lead our coverage team this week. Erin and Rebecca have been tracking U.S. skating developments since attending the 2012 championships in San Jose, Calif.
Go to Omaha.com/skating for full coverage of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, including athlete profiles and ticket information.