"Crazy fur people" force Weir's hand

VANCOUVER Sat Feb 13, 2010 1:49pm EST

U.S. skater Johnny Weir reacts following his third place finish during the championship men's free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, Washington January 17, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

U.S. skater Johnny Weir reacts following his third place finish during the championship men's free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Spokane, Washington January 17, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Johnny Weir was forced to abandon his vow to never again live in the confines of a "communal athletes village" after the "crazy fur people" issued death threats against the American fashionista.

The figure skater felt the full wrath of animal rights activists PETA after he wore a fur-trimmed outfit at last month's U.S. Nationals.

The self-styled diva makes no secret of liking his own space and creature comforts but for the second Winter Games in succession, he has been forced to "rough it" -- albeit in a room lit with scented candles and decorated with pink bath mats.

"All these crazy fur people definitely changed my mind. Security wise, staying in a hotel would be very difficult," Weir told reporters after turning up for an 0800 news conference sporting a striking red and white silk scarf looped around his neck and with his nails manicured.

"There have been threats against me. Threats of harming me personally and I didn't want to get hurt. So I decided to stay in the village and my team has made it as comfortable as possible.

"I don't want any outside influences to hurt my chances here. Even though I'm not always comfortable rooming with somebody or being in a communal village sort of situation, it's what I've got to deal with."

Weir, who plans to join the fashion world once he has hung up his "leather skates made of cow" for good, felt he was unfairly targeted.

"There was a lot of attention put on a tiny piece of fur," said the 25-year-old, the 2008 world bronze medalist. "While I do understand anti-fur activists views about fur and the fur industry, they aren't part of my life.

"One thing that is horrible is when somebody pushes a belief on you like a religion. I was definitely threatened and felt very threatened. People are nuts.

"I'm an easy person to pick on because I'm very open I like fur and I like things that come from dead animals. It's easy put your cause against an athlete going to the Olympic Games, it's good free publicity for these activists.

"I'm not a huge politician that gets these threats all the time. I mean I'm a figure skater. It's not normal to receive a threat that really threatens your life. It's a very scary thing."

However, while the uproar forced him to ditch the costume and pick a more tame outfit for the Vancouver Olympics, Weir has no plans to change his taste in wearing fur again.

"If I still want to compete, if I felt the costume needed fur, I would wear fur. If all this happens again I get a bodyguard," he added with a smile.

(Editing by Miles Evans)