It is unquestionable that John Zimmerman is one of skating's most charismatic leading men. This season, as he sets out on the U.S. Stars on Ice tour without longtime pair partner Kyoko Ina, skating fans will get to enjoy his talents as a soloist. The perfect blend of artistry and athleticism, Zimmerman is known for his strength, poise and flair.
He began skating at the age of 3, but balanced his pursuit of the sport with his love of baseball until he finished high school. Knowing that to reach the top he had to narrow his focus, he chose skating. His first major impact in the sport came at the 1997 U.S. Figure Skating Championships when he and then-partner Stephanie Stiegler claimed the bronze medal and a spot on the World team.
In 1998, he teamed with Ina, who had already won two U.S. pair titles. They decided that in order to compete with the best in the world, they needed to train with the best in the world-spending the next four years under the tutelage of renowned Russian coaches Tamara Moskvina and Igor Moskvin at Ice House in Hackensack, New Jersey. Ina and Zimmerman also received coaching and choreographic input from reigning Olympic gold medalist Artur Dmitriev, and Zimmerman credits Dmitriev with being a huge influence on his understanding of how to be a great male pair skater.
The pair turned pro after the 2002 World Championships and toured with Stars on Ice for six seasons. They have also performed in many shows and have been credited with introducing creative trademark moves such as the "candle lift" and "besti squat" spread eagle.
Adding to his profile as a heartthrob, Zimmerman has also successfully pursued a modeling career and is represented by IMG Models. He has been featured in the Barneys New York catalogue, on the cover of Outside Traveler magazine and in a 12-page photo spread in Spanish Vogue. He and Ina were also featured in an avant-garde photo spread in Rolling Stone.
In keeping with his image as a leading man, in 2002 Zimmerman took his longtime girlfriend, Italian skating champion Silvia Fontana, to a romantic spot in New York's Central Park, got down on one knee and proposed. They married in a fairy tale ceremony in Fontana's native Rome on August 28, 2003. The gala reception began at sunset and guests enjoyed a traditional Italian seven-course wedding feast.
A few months later, Zimmerman was the first athlete ever featured on the celebrated Bravo reality series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, where the Fab Five pretty much agreed John was near perfect, but he could use some new clothes and Italian cooking lessons.
Zimmerman was by Fontana's side in Turin, Italy at the Olympic Winter Games in 2006, when she came out of retirement in order to compete in her home country. While there, he served as figure skating analyst for Yahoo! Sports.
Also in 2006, he appeared on the hit FOX show Skating with Celebrities, partnering TV host Jillian Barberie to a second-place finish. This fall, Zimmerman returns to celebrity partnering, when he joins the cast of Russia's version of skating with the stars.
Zimmerman has long leant his name to worthwhile causes. He and Ina participated in events for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and he and Fontana have been appointed ambassadors for "Right to Play," an athlete-driven international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play as a tool for the development of young people in the most disadvantaged areas in the world.
Although home is now New Jersey and ice rinks around the world, Zimmerman still maintains close ties to his Southern roots. There is a bridge near his high school named after him. And he can still be counted on to cheer for University of Alabama sports teams.
Their competitive eligible career reaped many awards and accolades: 3 US National titles, several Grand Prix medals, and a bronze medal at the 2002 World Championships. However, their proudest competitive moment was their 5th place finish at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, performing two electric programs that were both met with standing ovations. Their bronze medal at the World Championships a few weeks later was the first World medal by a US pair since 1998.
Kyoko and John's height differential works to their benefit in their creative trademark moves such as the "candle lift" and" besti squat" spread eagle. Kyoko's flexibility and athleticism coupled with John's theatrical flair creates a dynamism on the ice that thrills audiences around the world.
John and Kyoko turned professional after the 2001/2002 competitive season, and joined the Stars on Ice tour in Winter 2003. As a professional pairs team, they toured the US and Canada for five months out of the year, as well as participating in various made for television skating shows and professional competitions. They were featured in an issue of Rolling Stone modeling Capezio clothing, and often participated in Charity functions for the Make A Wish Foundation and Right to Play among other charities.