SOCHI, Russia — Johnny Weir used to get in trouble for being outspoken and outlandish. Now he's getting paid for it.
After competing at the last two Winter Olympics, Weir is on the other side of the camera in Sochi, working for NBC as a figure skating analyst. Though he's only a few months into his new gig, it's already clear it fits him as perfectly as those costumes he once wore.
"I really love the challenge," Weir told USA TODAY Sports prior to Sochi but after working the U.S. Nationals. "I love sitting there and being able to be free and being able to give my opinion. There are a lot of conglomerates that wouldn't let me do that."
That Weir found his way into broadcasting was no surprise. As a skater, he was candid and colorful – he described one particularly gaudy costume as a "Care Bear on acid" – and he could be counted on to give a thoughtful opinion on a variety of topics, not all of which had to do with skating.
He also was one of the few skaters who was always willing to speak his mind, even when he knew it wouldn't go over well with figure skating officials and judges.
So when Weir formally retired last fall, NBC moved quickly to hire him.
"He knows the sport and the competitors thoroughly, and is unafraid to offer an opinion," said Jim Bell, NBC Olympics executive producer. "With our expanded live figure skating coverage to include every performance on NBCSN, we are thrilled to have Johnny's perspective on the competition for our audience."
He and Tara Lipinski have gotten rave reviews for their Sochi coverage, with some viewers even lobbying that the duo be used for NBC's primetime show. Weir's wardrobe generates a lot of the talk, but he's also been praised for his insights and objective commentary.
Making the transition from athlete to broadcaster isn't as easy as it looks, though. Plenty of athletes and coaches who were great interviews during their competitive careers struggle to sound natural when they're the ones asking the questions. And it can be even worse when they have to analyze a friend or former teammate's performance.
(The next player former Oakland and Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden criticizes on "Monday Night Football" will be the first; perhaps that why at least one person on Twitter has suggested Weir do Monday Night Football.)
"It's a hard horse to straddle, broadcasting about people I know or people I respect," Weir acknowledged. "The hardest part is actually talking about people I don't like because I have to find way to be genuine. I have to find a way to perform with my voice."
Weir said he didn't study tapes of other analysts before the Grand Prix series began, deciding it would be easier – and more authentic – to find his own style on the fly.
He manages to give viewers enough technical expertise so they understand what they're seeing, but not so much that he becomes a distraction. He doesn't feel pressured to fill every second with commentary, letting the skater's performance speak for itself until he has something worthwhile to add.
In his pairing with Olympic champion Tara Lipinski, the chemistry and camaraderie between the two is readily apparent, making viewers feel as if they're watching skating with two of their best friends.
"We take great responsibility for what we say and how we teach people about the sport," Weir said. "Honestly, as a broadcaster, all I want is for people to skate so well that we're struck dumb, that we're unable to speak. But when it's called for, I'm not afraid to explain the judging system or why somebody beat somebody else. That's who I am.
"My job is to help bring skating back, and to help educate the masses about what's going on in skating."
Or outside, either. Openly gay, Weir has been critical of Russia's anti-gay law. He also said before the games he had no plans to tone down his flamboyant appearance, and has kept to that. (He joked that he was taking three suitcases to Sochi, "each about the size of a Ford Focus.")
But just as when he was competing, Weir is at the Olympics to do a job, one he enjoys more than he ever imagined.
And one he hopes to be doing for years to come.
"I am open to covering everything at the Olympics. I will do golf. I will do the Summer Olympics," he said. "I will do whatever NBC asks me because I just love it."