U.S. skaters hit Vancouver; reality of Olympics sinks in for Abbott | AspenTimes.com

U.S. skaters hit Vancouver; reality of Olympics sinks in for Abbott

Rachel Cohen
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jeremy Abbott reacts after competing in the men's free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, Wash., Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010. Abbott finished first in the competition.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

RICHMOND, British Columbia – Johnny Weir brought his blankie, his favorite brand of fabric softener, and the picture of Lady Gaga.

The figure skater learned from his first Olympics how to make the athletes’ village feel like home. Weir was surprised by the spartan accommodations in Turin in 2006. This time, he intends to be totally comfortable.

“I definitely can make any village work now,” Weir said. “I’m in a place where every room can work – especially if you have a giant Lady Gaga picture, anywhere can work.”

Weir and other American athletes went through team processing by the U.S. Olympic Committee on Wednesday, a big step in getting settled in Vancouver. After filling a giant rolling bin with U.S. gear, Weir planned to move into his room – and decorate it.

He brought three 70-pound suitcases stuffed with everything from candles to his teddy bear. Weir has all the details covered, down to ensuring that his clothes will smell of a familiar scent if he does laundry.

Weir is sharing a room with American ice dancer Tanith Belbin, which will feature “our icon,” Lady Gaga, on the wall.

“She needs to be there watching over us, protecting us,” Weir said.

Weir’s favorite piece of U.S. gear was a white puffy vest from Ralph Lauren – but they didn’t have one in his size. So his coach will wear it in his stead. Weir also liked the stretchy, fitted white pants American athletes will wear at the opening ceremony.

“They’re very slimming and sucks in everything you don’t want the world to see,” he said.

Leading to the Olympics, people kept asking him, “How excited are you?” Weir would say, “You know, it’s coming. It’s a competition; I’m ready. I’m going to do it.”

“I didn’t really get those butterflies and the excitement until I stepped foot out of the airplane last night,” he said.

The reality of his first Olympics started to hit teammate Jeremy Abbott, an Aspen native and the two-time defending U.S. champ, as he picked up the red, white and blue gear.

“To get all this stuff that has USA across my chest or across my back, it’s a really proud moment,” the 24-year-old Abbott said.

The first Olympics he remember was 1992, when he was 7. He cheered American Paul Wylie, who had an exhilarating silver-medal performance. Now, Wylie is Abbott’s mentor.

“It just reminds you that you’re representing your whole country and that you have the support of a whole nation behind you,” Abbott said. “This competition is unlike any other. It’s more than just your family and your friends and your coaches. It’s the whole country.”

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