Q&A: Figure Skaters Johnny Weir And Tara Lipinski On Their Partnership and U.S. Nationals Predictions

by Lisa Costantini

(L-R) Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir prepare for the start of the pair skating short program at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 14, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.


When NBC first asked Olympians Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir to commentate figure skating at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, they never dreamed it would turn into a new career path.
Now, fresh off their trip to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 — where the broadcasting duo received the honor of co-hosting the Closing Ceremony coverage — the two will head back to their home base, the ice rink. Starting Jan. 6, they’ll be covering the 2022 Toyota U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Nashville, Tennessee.
“We’re so thankful that so many have invited us into their living rooms and allowed us to unfold these stories of these incredible athletes and go on the journey with them,” Weir said about their role for NBC. 
Next month the three-time U.S. champion and Lipinski, his partner-in-primetime who won gold at the Olympic Winter Games Nagano 1998 at 15-years-old, will leave for Beijing for the Winter Olympics.
“We have front row seats to the best show in our sport, and we have the best time bringing it to our public,” Weir said. 
But it’s a role he said they take seriously, especially in Beijing.
“We are going to be one of the few people that are going to be in the building that isn’t from China, or in the athlete’s bubble,” Weir said. “So we have a great responsibility not only to tell people what they’re seeing on the ice but to tell people about the experience of being over there.” spoke with the two on the phone where they shared everything from their favorite experiences together to the skaters they think will come out on top at nationals.
What is the hardest part about your commentating job?
Lipinski: I feel it every time I'm in the booth to be the voice for these athletes and skaters, and we've been on their journey for years — and at an Olympic Games. If you have a casual fan that's just tuning in, you want to give them as much backstory and have them on the edge of their seats. And I think it's our responsibility to figure out how to story tell, educate, set up these skaters, and the competition in a compelling way. And it takes a lot of work and study. But at the end of the day, I'm doing it with my best friend and our partner in crime, Terry Gannon. I couldn't imagine not being in the booth with these two guys.
Weir: While every skater is a champion in their way — and everyone made the Olympics — we still have to tell people the truth as to why "Skater A" did not beat "Skater B." Sometimes that's hard because Tara and I have both been those skaters that didn't have their best day and lost the competition. As ex-athletes to tell that story and be quite blunt about it to explain why that person didn't win, it's hard to be the person to tell millions of Americans why somebody didn't win. So I think that's very difficult.

(L-R) Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir attend the Kentucky Derby 144 on May 5, 2018 in Louisville, Ky.


Any predictions or favorites for U.S. nationals?
Lipinski: The obvious favorite in the men's event is Nathan Chen. I think everyone is getting excited because we've been waiting for this moment for him. He's been on this journey since we first saw him as this 12-year-old prodigy, and everything has been falling into place. He's been so incredibly dominant, winning practically every event since the last Olympics. Now the time has come, and the one title that he needs to add to his collection is Olympic champion.
In the ladies' event, I think that a couple of really talented women are going to be vying for the Olympic team, and it's going to be exciting because they're not clear favorites for each spot. I think Alysa Liu is a frontrunner with her success this season. But, it's skating. It's constantly changing and never predictable.
Weir: The ice dance competition will be riveting with another face-off between Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue versus Madison Chock and Evan Bates. Both teams are exceptional and going to the Olympic Games as the national champion for the United States will be huge for both of those teams. So we're going to see a nice challenge there.
Looking back over the years, what has been your favorite experience the two of you have had together?
Lipinski: I am so grateful for what we've been able to do outside of skating. I never dreamed that would be possible when we were sitting in the booth in Sochi. I thought, oh wow, this is incredible, we are going to call skating for the rest of our lives, but I never imagined in a few months we'd be at the Super Bowl together —you know, showing up in places that we had no reason to show up to. Whether it's a dog show, the Super Bowl…
Weir: The Oscars! And not to be cheesy, but every experience is tremendous because not only are we getting to do a job that we love, but we're getting to do it with someone that we love, and that is something that we never take for granted.
Is there anywhere you haven't traveled yet and still want to go?
Lipinski: Johnny needs to go to Greece. He and I have talked about this.
Weir: Greece is a must. All of my friends have been, and I have yet to go. Israel is a place that I desperately want to go to, and Estonia, of all places.
Lipinski: My husband and I have been talking about Israel as well. And I have never been to St. Petersburg, so I would love to go there.

Now for a round of rapid-fire:

Which one of you is funnier?
Weir: We both laugh our butts off. I mean, that's the fun of doing these trips — knowing I will laugh the whole time. I do extra abs before I go anywhere with Tara because I know I will need strength to get through.

Which one of you is more patient?
Weir: I would say me. [Laughs]

Lipinski: Yeah.

Weir: Tara is an Olympic champion for a reason, and that is that her personality is so driven, and it's inspiring for me to be around because I'm not the same. We're both perfectionists but in a very different way. Tara is so driven that she won't wait for the world to give her something. She works hard and takes it for herself, and I think that's an admirable quality that she has, and that's why she's been so successful – on and off the ice. And I will wait until the wind blows correctly to make things happen. And Tara blows the wind herself.
Which one of you takes longer to get ready?
Lipinski: I don't know. It depends on the hairdo that Johnny is doing — that's what it comes down to.
Who is more stubborn?
Lipinski: I think I am, right, Johnny?

Weir: Yeah, I just wanted you to say it and not me. [Laughs]
The 2022 U.S. championships start Jan. 6 on NBC Sports, as well as additional coverage on Peacock, which is the exclusive streaming home of U.S. Figure Skating. At the conclusion of the event, US Figure Skating will name the team who will be traveling to compete at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. The Olympics begin Feb. 4.

Lisa Costantini is a freelance writer based in Orlando. She has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications, and has contributed to since 2011.