Ice Network

Ice Theatre of New York to honor Lysacek, Cohen

2010 Olympic champ works for Vera Wang Industries, follows sport closely
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Two of the sport's biggest stars during the 2000s, Evan Lysacek and Sasha Cohen will take center stage at the Ice Theatre of New York's benefit gala this Friday. -Getty Images

Somewhere deep inside, Evan Lysacek is taking his skate guards off, handing them to coach Frank Carroll and heading out onto the ice for his six-minute warmup.

"I still dream about competition," Lysacek said. "And no, they're not nightmares."

These days, as vice president, creative services for Vera Wang Industries, the 2010 Olympic champion oversees everything from advertising campaigns to the look and feel of stores. But get him on the phone for an interview and he eagerly asks, "Any skating gossip? What's new?"

"I follow skating as much as I can," he said. "I have my icenetwork login; I'm a proud subscriber. I'm trying to keep up with it. I miss it."

Sasha Cohen is different. Busy with a new marriage, new career and charity work, the skating world is a bit distant to the 2006 Olympic silver medalist.

"I keep up with the Olympics, but other than that, I'm a little out of touch," said Cohen, who wed Tom May in August. "Of course, I'll always be a skater, but my focus is on my new life."

On Friday, Lysacek and Cohen will be honored at Ice Theatre of New York's benefit gala at Chelsea Piers, where three-time European medalist Kiira Korpi and former U.S. competitor Rohene Ward will join ITNY for a special performance.

"Evan and Sasha were both inducted into the U.S. Hall of Fame this year, they are both New Yorkers now, and we want to welcome them to New York, in a way," ITNY founder and creative director Moira North said.

"They both have incredible work ethics and are really great role models. It's not just about talent; it's about the work, following the rules, putting in the time to be as proficient as you can be in all components of skating. They exemplify that."

Lysacek, who lives in New York's fashionable SoHo district, is still ambivalent about calling himself a New Yorker.

"New York was not home at first, and I'm not sure about it now, over two years in," said the Chicago native, who spent 12 years in California. "The pace, the energy is so challenging. When you live in New York, you feel that vibrancy, that excitement."

Lysacek's competitive career effectively ended after he won Olympic gold. He wanted to try for a third Olympics, but a torn labrum ended that plan.

"I would always think, 'God, I hope my career doesn't end like that, not on my own terms,'" he said. "For someone who devoted 23 or 24 years of their life to something, it was heartbreaking. I had to move away from skating to help heal. I had to build something else I was passionate about."

Carroll would often say to reporters, "Watch Evan, he's smart. He'll make his mark in business."

Turns out, the coach was right.

"Working with sponsors -- Coca Cola, AT&T, Ralph Lauren, Hilton, Citi, Smuckers -- I learned a lot about how to act professionally," Lysacek said.

"One recommendation to young skaters is to develop your brand, figure out what it is, hone it, make it real. If an opportunity comes up, ask yourself: 'Does this align with my brand? Is this going to make me a champion?'"

A lengthy performing career wasn't an option.

"I always admired Scott Hamilton, Kurt Browning for their long, incredible careers," he said. "My injured body limited me. I knew I wasn't going to make it 10-20 years as a show skater."

Mentors like Ralph Lauren and Dan Zelson, a U.S. Olympic Foundation trustee, advised Lysacek on how to enter the business world. In 2014, he took a job working for Zelson at Charter Realty and Development, a commercial real estate firm.

"I did a lot of tenant representation, which was not glamorous but was exciting," he said. "I learned a lot about contracts, negotiating, leasing, how people use real estate to manage balance sheets."

Lysacek developed an interest in how real estate and architecture could help define and represent a brand, and began talking to longtime friend Vera Wang about how he could fit in at her fashion and lifestyle firm.

"I've been working with Vera coming up on two years, and I handle anything that can come up in a smallish company," Lysacek said. "I'm appreciative of that opportunity; in massive corporations, structure exists. I'm focused on how, in a soft retail climate, the company can continue to grow."

Despite his travel schedule, which includes frequent meetings with Vera Wang licensees in the U.S. and abroad, Lysacek -- who still skates occasionally -- wants to get more involved in the sport.

"I've discussed with the USOC, the IOC where I would fit in, given my limited time," he said. "I migrated away from the sport for personal reasons, but that doesn't mean I don't keep track of it. I love talking about the new rules, the jumps. That will never change."

He will certainly watch Skate Canada, where one of his favorites, Patrick Chan, squares off against Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu.

"[Chan] is one of the supreme talents of the sport," Lysacek said. "He was born to be great, and he's fascinating to watch, and he does quads. The other side of it, the Chinese (Boyang Jin), he's incredibly exciting because of his multiple quads. I find it equally entertaining to watch. Everybody can play up their strengths under IJS (international judging system)."

Cohen, on the other hand, will not be watching Skate Canada. In their free time, she and May, a hedge fund manager, explore what New York City has to offer -- theatre, ballet, museums -- and spend weekends in upstate Hudson, an upstate town known for its history and outdoorsy charm.

"You can make a fire, go for hikes, go apple picking, have farm-to-table dinners," Cohen said of Hudson. "It's relaxing and unwinding after a busy week in the city."

Like Lysacek, Cohen had a relatively brief show career.

"At a certain point, it's difficult on the body to keep up the demanding training regimen," she said. "It's not something you can do half way. I had a long competitive career and an amazing touring career. I had a great relationship with Disson Skating. I opened Rockefeller Center. I really feel I left no stone unturned, and I wanted to focus on school, other interests."

In June, the Columbia University graduate began work at ZIG, an iPhone app that collects and delivers entertainment content directly to mobile devices.

"I like the entrepreneurial aspect of the job," Cohen said. "I'm learning a lot about the start-up world, the media world."

"We aggregate content in a consumer-friendly place," she continued. "I'm in charge of content, which means I focus on daily events and tread, but in a start-up of two people I also do advertising, marketing campaigns, branding -- a little bit of everything."

Work with the Orphaned Starfish Foundation, a nonprofit that addresses the challenges facing orphans, victims of abuse and at-risk youth by providing them with technology training, is close to Cohen's heart. A few weeks ago, she returned from a trip to Columbia, where the foundation sponsors a computer development center.

"CNN just did a series on [Orphaned Starfish]," she said. "It's important work."

Cohen, who skates "once or twice" a year, isn't contemplating a return to the sport, although she certainly won't rule out future opportunities.

"I have ambitions to move into hard news and the international sphere," she said. "There are so many talented people doing (figure skating) commentary, and that's just not my main interest.

"Right now, my focus is on family, establishing a new career. [Skating] will always be a big part of me, and I'll definitely be watching the Olympics. ... And you never know what will unfold in the future."

On Friday, ITNY will also honor an alumnus, Josh Babb, director of the Skyliners synchronized skating program, as well as longtime ITNY supporter and trustee Mary Gaillard. The Patina Restaurant Group will accept the Arts and Business Award.