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Lysacek finds himself at a career crossroads

Beset by injuries, Olympic champ undecided on future plans
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Olympic champion Evan Lysacek is having to face the very real possibility that he may never skate competitively again. -Getty Images

For most of Evan Lysacek's skating career, he has moved in one direction, mainly with the end game being the Olympic Winter Games.

But now, at 28, having spent much of the last four years trying to reach the pinnacle of his sport once more, he has instead reached a crossroads. Because of a torn labrum in his left hip, Lysacek announced Tuesday that he has ended his comeback attempt for the Olympic Games in February.

An emotional Lysacek, who has not competed since winning the gold medal in Vancouver nearly four years ago, has not ruled out skating again, but he is unsure at what capacity he might be able to do so. 

"Fortunately, I have had a great career," said Lysacek, who in addition to winning an Olympic gold medal also has a world title and two U.S. titles to his credit. "I hope that it doesn't end this way. I hope that it doesn't end on this note."

Lysacek first made his announcement on NBC's TODAY show, saying it was difficult walking into a studio he has visited many other times under much happier circumstances.

Lysacek's attempt to reach Sochi has endured its share of ups and downs. Following his victory in Vancouver, where he beat Russia's Evgeni Plushenko for the gold medal, Lysacek took some time away from competitive skating. His most notable endeavor was being a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, where he finished runner-up. He tried to jump back into skating, but one injury after another kept him sidelined from competitions.

While training in late August, Lysacek tore the labrum in his left hip. He took time off the ice, strictly followed his doctors' orders and endured grueling physical therapy. In October, he managed to return to training and said he believed he was on track to make his competitive return.

"But in recent weeks, the pain has become excruciating," Lysacek said.

What he thought were initial signs of healing were in fact anything but, and he said doctors told him to shut down his training. According to Lysacek, doctors warned that if he continued training at the level he was, he could suffer "severe and permanent damage."

"I felt I had no choice," a subdued Lysacek said.

Lysacek said he made his decision to end his comeback training last week. Knowing he needed to post an international score in order to be eligible for the Olympics, he said he had planned to compete in an event in Ukraine later this month, but, he said, he knew "time was ticking." In the end, the pain proved to be too much.

As disappointed as Lysacek was in making his announcement regarding Sochi, he did not go so far as to say he was retiring from the sport. When asked about how he viewed his skating career in the future, he said he is trying to understand the magnitude of the announcement of the day.

"At what capacity," he said, in reference to his future skating, "I don't know yet."

"This has been my whole life," he added.

Lysacek began skating when he was 8 after his grandmother bought him a pair of skates for Christmas, and he has spent almost his entire life around ice rinks. Known for his intense dedication to training, his longtime coach, Frank Carroll, often had to force Lysacek to take time off the ice. (Lysacek would even sometimes travel to other nearby rinks in search of additional ice time.)

It was this work ethic that helped make him into the champion he became. He won national titles at the juvenile, novice, junior and senior levels, earned two world medals and competed in two Olympic Winter Games, finishing fourth in 2006 and first in 2010.

Lysacek said he has been touched by the outpouring of support and encouragement he has received from friends, fans and sponsors in the wake of his news.

He is not sure what his future plans might include or whether he would be attending either the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston or the Olympic Games in Sochi in a capacity other than "athlete."

"I haven't really thought that far (ahead)," Lysacek said. "It's been a blow for me, and I'm crushed. Because I'm an athlete, I never let my mind go there. I'm still processing things."

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