Ice Network

Lysacek, Meissner reflect on world title runs

Last U.S. skaters to win world championships discuss state of sport
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Former world champions Evan Lysacek and Kimmie Meissner are enjoying their time as cast members on 'Stars on Ice.' -courtesy of 'Stars on Ice'

The last two U.S. world figure skating champions -- Evan Lysacek and Kimmie Meissner -- were about as far away from Shanghai as possible this week. The two were together, sitting rinkside while some of their fellow Stars on Ice cast members were finishing up rehearsals in Hershey, Pennsylvania. 

Just a couple of hours before Lysacek and Meissner were to take the ice themselves, they took some time to reflect on their world titles and shared their thoughts on who might win gold medals at the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships. Lysacek was the last U.S. man to win a world crown, back in 2009 in Los Angeles. Meissner claimed her world title in Calgary, shortly after placing sixth at the Torino Olympics in 2006.

In addition to touring this month, Lysacek and Meissner have each been busy. Lysacek works in commercial real estate in New York City, while Meissner is a freshly minted graduate of Towson University and also coaches. She worked for NBC as a researcher during the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Icenetwork: Evan, you have spent some time away from figure skating recently. How are things in the commercial real estate business in New York?

Lysacek: I am really enjoying learning the business and doing something new. My heart was kind of broken when I couldn't compete in Sochi. I had put so much into coming back, and it was so hard to be in Russia, to be in Sochi with the Olympics going on and to do things for the State Department. I had the first surgery and it made me want to go to Sochi even more. When I was potentially facing a third surgery, it was just heartbreaking. So, I am enjoying real estate. I've always been interested in real estate and business, and I am working mainly with big box and some development, and gotten some deals done. I like that it has nothing to do with skating, that it is a new chapter for me. 

Icenetwork: Can you really escape from your figure skating background? How often do people recognize you in the business world?

Lysacek: Yeah, people do recognize me sometimes, but I want a new chapter and this has given me a base to create a second chapter. I get recognized, but it's not even really part of the overall discussion. They want to get business done. There is no playing around in this world. 

Icenetwork: How much were you involved in the business side of your own skating career, and how much did you learn from your manager, Shep Goldberg? 

Lysacek: I was always involved with my endorsements, and I learned a lot from Shep. He was a very smart businessman. He was tough, but honest and very ethical, and I think I'm the same way now handling business deals. My boss now is the same way, too. 

Icenetwork: How much had you been skating in New York? 

Lysacek: I had skated about two times in six months. When I was offered to come and join the cast of Stars on Ice (around October), I was working a lot and really was getting the hang of it. I wasn't sure I wanted to skate. But then I thought about what Stars on Ice really is and what it meant to me when I was younger. I remember when I saw it as a kid. Scott Hamilton. Kurt Browning. Kristi Yamaguchi. Paul Wylie. I think even [Jayne] Torvill and [Christopher] Dean. ... It was so captivating to me and I saw all the tricks and I was so inspired. Nowadays, you see things all the time which are overproduced and, maybe I shouldn't say this, vulgar. So to see a live, powerful show like this -- not every person in the crowd will see it and take up skating, but someone might. And I'm really proud to be a part of this cast and this show. 

Icenetwork: What are you skating to on tour?

Lysacek: "Take Me To Church" and then Black Swan, which would have been my short program in Sochi. 

Icenetwork: You will be touring quite a bit this month, but will you be watching and following the world championships? 

Lysacek: Yes, I will. I watched nationals and I think we will have maybe the deepest talent pool in a long time for the U.S. Polina [Edmunds] is seriously tough mentally. I remember when she would come and work with Frank [Carroll]. I could see her discipline. He doesn't put up with anyone who doesn't work or is weak.

And I love Gracie [Gold]. She is a true role model and she can deliver when the chips are down. She is so talented. I was never the most talented. That's no secret. But Gracie…she works hard and she's really talented.

Meissner: And Ashley [Wagner]. At nationals, she was the best I've seen her in a long time. I don't want to say she's the old Ashley. Maybe let's say the old and new-and-improved Ashley. And I think she did the best job of anyone of incorporating lyrics in her program.

Icenetwork: What about on the men's side. Who are you watching?

Lysacek: I like Jason [Brown] a lot. He's a good kid and he works hard. Denis Ten has crazy talent, and sometimes I would just kind of look at him at the rink in amazement. He's a real star back in Kazakhstan. He invited me to skate in one of his shows, and they worship him there.

Icenetwork: Why do you both think the Americans haven't produced a world champion in men's and ladies skating since the two of you won? Is it just a cyclical thing or do you have any other theories?

Lysacek: I think this is a generational thing. When I skated, I didn't look at my cell phone when I was competing. I wasn't taking selfies at the Olympics. I think my coach would've flown home if I had. I was simply willing to do anything and I sacrificed everything. I look at someone like Mao [Asada], who I think is one of the most talented skaters, and she just now joined Instagram. She was just totally focused. I follow Gracie on social media, and she really doesn't post all that much. She's very focused.

Meissner: Back then, there was no distraction from social media. You didn't follow all the follows or likes. People liked you because of your accomplishments.

Lysacek: I also know from being around the Olympics that the U.S. Olympic Committee is one of the few (National Olympic Committees) in the world which doesn't receive money from the government. It relies on corporate and private donors and TV, and that money gets spread out. I don't know what the Russians or Japanese have, but it's tough for some of the Americans.

Icenetwork: What are some of your favorite memories from winning at the world championships? Evan, for you, it must have been extra special considering you won in Los Angeles, where you were living and training at the time.

Lysacek: I loved the building, Staples Center, and for me it was really special. It was an incredible worlds, and I remember the men's free skate was sold out. I got nervous, but I always get nervous. I'm nervous for the Stars on Ice show in Chicago (his hometown). But I was so ready back in 2009. I was like a machine. I would've been shocked if I had missed a jump.

Meissner: I agree. You do feel like a machine. You're so ready. I was so trained because I had just competed in the Olympics, and that month leading up to the Olympics was one of the hardest months of my life. I felt completely prepared, and then when I was about to skate, I got nervous.

Lysacek: I know. People outside of skating just do not understand how hard this sport is. They do not understand the margin for error is zero. It is just such a hard sport.

Meissner: That is so true. That's why as an athlete I just really relished the training and the little accomplishments you made every day and how they add up.

Lysacek: Everyone who has made it through is the first one on the ice and the last off. I took it to a point where it really was not healthy for a while. Once I got to the real world, I found it was so different. It was so gray. I would work really hard for 13 hours some days and I would come home and wonder, 'Was that a good day or a bad day?' With skating, I always knew.

We lived very abnormal lives. We had to grow up very fast and have struggles psychologically and with our health because we were so obsessed with being the best. I know I paid the price. I missed those Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners with my family, and I will never get those moments back. That's why, when I was on the podium at worlds, I thought about those moments that it took to get there, to hold that medal up and look at it and know how much work it took to do that. That felt really good.

Meissner: I remember that, too. I mean, growing up, sometimes you can't establish friendships outside of the rink. You basically lose them because of your training. People invite you to things, and after a certain amount of times of saying no, they just kind of stop asking. I didn't have any huge struggles, but I worked really, really hard for this. It's a small medal, actually, but it's not really about that -- it's about all the work it took to get there.

Icenetwork: Where do you keep your medals?

Meissner: It's in my room. I know where I can find it.

Lysacek: I have them, and my niece likes to look at the medals. I think she's likes the bronze ones I have the most because they kind of look pink.

Icenetwork: Kimmie, one of the competitors at worlds, Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, recently landed a triple Axel at a small competition in Russia and could try one in Shanghai. You were the last American to land one in competition back at the 2005 U.S. Championships. Have you been following her, and what do you think about seeing triple Axels again?

Meissner: I would totally love to see her win worlds with a triple Axel. I think it's great for her and great for the sport. I know she landed it. I saw some videos. I would love to see her do it, especially since Mao isn't there.

Icenetwork: What motivated you to try the triple Axel and how long did it take for you get it consistent?

Meissner: It took me about a year. I did them in the harness, and I will never forget trying the first one off the harness. I went around the rink like three or four times before I just told myself, 'You gotta do it.' I always felt that I was one of the best jumpers, and I would see Shaun Rogers (with whom she trained at the University of Delaware) land triple Axels in front of me, and we had a really friendly relationship, but I wanted to be just like the guys. That's what really motivated me. And (my coach) Pam [Gregory] helped me. She told me, 'Yeah, you should do it.' So I remember doing that first one, and I went around like two-and-a-half times and face-planted. I got up and said, 'OK, I'm good now. I can try them. I got that out of my system.' Then, I started working on them all the time. I love seeing them. I will be watching for it at worlds.