Johnny, would Curt say he missed a bus? We think not

Updated: February 17, 2006, 12:10 PM ET
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

TORINO, Italy -- Where is Ralph Kramden when you need him?

Nice week for our figure skaters. Michelle Kwan dropped out due to a pulled groin Sunday and then Johnny Weir lost a chance at a medal Thursday because he -- get this -- missed his bus.

Actually, that's not entirely accurate. Johnny's lackluster performance in the men's final wasn't completely due to missing the bus. He said his biorhythms were off, too.

Johnny Weir
AP Photo/Kevork DjansezianEven coach Priscilla Hill, left, said transportation problems had nothing to do with Johnny Weir's poor performance.

"I never felt comfortable in this building," Johnny said after dropping from second to fifth. "I didn't feel my inner peace. I didn't feel my aura. I was black inside."

Yes, Johnny's a real beauty. He makes Dick Button seem like Tony Soprano.

His favorite male singer is Justin Timberlake and his Web site also lists his favorite fashion designers (Balenciaga), boutiques (Barneys), models (Kate Moss) and teams (Gordeeva and Grinkov, Berezhnaia and Sikharulidze, and -- surprisingly -- the Boston Red Sox). He wears costumes that Elton John might wear for Mardi Gras, including a red glove in Tuesday's short program that he named Camille. He used the phrase "I did a little hoppy-hop like a bunny" while describing Thursday's performance, which is something you rarely hear from say, Brett Favre.

And he owns not one, but two Chihuahuas.

That flamboyant behavior has turned Johnny into a minor cult hero. "My best friend e-mailed me and said, 'You made somebody's Web site as a D-list celebrity,'" Johnny said. "Great. I'm Kathy Griffin."

The Chicago Tribune even ran a poll Thursday asking whether fans care if Johnny is gay.

"I think it's funny that people care," Johnny said. "I don't have a problem with people saying anything. They could run a poll on Bode Miller or on Michelle Kwan and whether she's a lesbian. Who I sleep with doesn't affect how I skate on the ice or what I say in a press conference."

Unfortunately, unreliable public transportation does affect how he skates.

Now, no one was going to beat Yevgeny Plushenko, the 2002 silver medalist and three-time reigning world champion, but Johnny was in great position to take the silver after finishing second in Tuesday's short program. Then, his mood ring went dark at the bus stop.

Johnny was scheduled to skate third in the last group, at about 10:30 p.m. He said he planned to catch a bus from the Athletes Village a little after 8:30, hoping to arrive about 8:50. Unfortunately, there was no bus, so he panicked, rushing around and shouting and looking for a ride and generally expending a lot of useless energy.

"Buses had been coming every 10 minutes all week, but they changed the schedule to every half hour today, I guess," Johnny said. "I didn't want to wait until nine o'clock because then I wouldn't get there until 9:15 or 9:20. Which is what happened anyway. I was yelling at people in English and they only spoke Italian.

"I was swearing. I was calling people and swearing. I was very unprofessional."

It should be noted here that the Athletes Village is about a 30-minute walk from the ice rink.

Johnny eventually caught a ride in a car and reached the arena around 9:20. He acknowledged that he was only a half hour later than planned, but that was a big half hour. After all, he said, he had to put on his uniform and go to the bathroom twice.

"He may have been a little rushed, but not out of the ordinary and he warmed up well," said his coach, Priscilla Hill. "I feel it was a great deal of pressure he's never dealt with before. It just wasn't as perfect as he's capable of. He just had an off night. Personally, I don't think the schedule had anything to do with it."

Well, perhaps it was the hands Johnny had around his throat.

Curt Schilling would have shaken off the bus problem and skated out there with bloody sequins. Johnny, however, missed jumps, skipped a combination and performed several elements awkwardly. When he saw the scores, he darted from the kiss-and-cry zone without so much as a wave.

"I was terrified today," Johnny said. "I wasn't comfortable out there, that's why I was scared."

Plushenko, on the other hand, evidently showed up on time for his bus. He skated a mistake-free routine to the "Godfather" theme and blew away everyone, winning the gold by 27 points over silver medalist Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland.

Meanwhile, Johnny's fellow American (it's hardly accurate to refer to figure skaters as teammates), Evan Lysacek, spent the day in the village infirmary with IV needles plunged into his body, and yet he somehow turned the performance of his life to move from 10th to fourth. Had bronze medalist Jeffrey Buttle of Canada fallen, Lysacek would have finished the day on the podium.

"I've been dreaming about the Olympics for upwards of a decade, but it never involved having the flu with needles in my arm and basically being in a coma," Lysacek said. "I thought the Olympics were coming in and being perfect, but I learned they're about courage and accomplishing your goals."

And figuring out the bus schedule.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com