Re: The Evan Lysacek Appreciation Thread
Lysacek closing in on his Olympic dreams
Skater enters U.S. Championships as favorite to secure spot at Turin
The Associated Press
Updated: 3:51 p.m. ET Jan. 12, 2006
ST. LOUIS - Evan Lysacek started thinking big after his very first national championships, known back then as the Junior Olympics.
At 10, he’d only been skating for about a year and was competing against boys who were two and three years older. So when he skated off with the title, he figured it was just a matter of time before he was at those other Olympics.
“I didn’t know exactly what it meant,” Lysacek says now, laughing. “At the time I was doing the Junior Olympics I thought, ‘Well, I won that, how hard can it be to do this other Olympics? It’s just another step.”’
It was, of course, a little more involved than that. But 10 years after that first title, Lysacek heads to this week’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships as a favorite to win the men’s crown and secure a spot at the Turin Olympics.
The men’s competition starts Thursday with the short program. The free skate is Saturday afternoon, and the winner is guaranteed one of the three spots on the men’s Olympic team.
A selection committee will choose the other two athletes.
There also are three spots open in ladies and dance, and two in pairs.
“I think when I was about 14 or 15 I decided, ‘I think I’m going to go to the Olympics,”’ Lysacek said. “So for about the last five years I’ve been thinking about it every day. Every single day.”
So much so that when he moved to Los Angeles to work with Frank Carroll in the summer of 2003, he held onto his suburban Chicago cell phone number that has 2006 as its last four digits.
“The last few years really have been sort of a whirlwind,” said his mother, Tanya. “He’s gone from a little bit known in the sport — he did have three junior world medals — to catapulting to a whole new level.”
After winning U.S. titles at the novice (1999) and junior (2000) levels and three silver medals at the junior world championships, Lysacek established himself as someone to watch. But it was his success last year that made him the one to beat.
Despite being sidelined for two months in the summer of 2004 with a stress fracture in his left hip, Lysacek finished third at nationals. A few weeks later, he won the Four Continents Championships.
Then, at his first senior worlds, he took the bronze medal.
“It would have been easy for me to go home and say, ‘Well, I’ve got a world medal and you know, I can kind of relax now.’ But I did the opposite,” Lysacek said. “I didn’t rest at anything because I knew that with this new judging system, name recognition is really diminishing in our sport, which is good, and if I wanted to stay at that level and continue winning that I had to work really hard. That world medal was going to do me no good this season.
“So I went home and ... I’ve worked the hardest I’ve ever worked.”
Harder than he initially expected, too.
Off the ice, Lysacek is friendly and outgoing, a people magnet who’s been charming admirers since he was a 3-year-old dancing with a line of old ladies at an Oktoberfest in Chicago. His free skate last year, “Singing in the Rain,” captured that personality perfectly.
So when it came time to select his programs for this season, Lysacek thought he should stick with something similar and chose a medley from “Grease.” But the program didn’t get quite the reception he’d hoped for, and he scrapped it after a second-place finish at Skate America in October.
He replaced it with “Carmen,” and it’s a much better fit. Though he’d only had the program for 1½ weeks, he won the free skate at the NHK Trophy and finished second overall. That qualified him for the Grand Prix final, but he had to withdraw with tendinitis and bursitis in his right hip.
Now that he’s healthy again, he’s back on track for Turin.
The men’s competition will be the toughest it’s been in several years, with Lysacek, two-time defending champion Johnny Weir, Olympic bronze medalist Tim Goebel, former U.S. champ Michael Weiss and Matt Savoie all vying for the three Olympic spots. But even with the injury and scramble for a new free skate, Lysacek has had the best season of all of them.
And he hopes his best performances are still ahead of him.
“One thing that just gives me chills to think about is if you look back at Sarah Hughes at the Olympics. People come to the Olympics and they win. But how often does someone have the absolute best performance of their entire life at the perfect moment in their life?” he said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that.
“So that’s my wish, that’s my dream for this year,” he said. “All I can do is be the absolutely best prepared that I can be. That’s all I can control, and hope that that happens.”
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