World title brings new attention to Lysacek

Transplanted Chicagoan goes Hollywood, but keeps eyes on prize

Evan Lysacek wears the U.S. flag after getting his gold medal for winning the 2009 world title.
Evan Lysacek wears the U.S. flag after getting his gold medal for winning the 2009 world title. (Getty Images)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(06/17/2009) - To the winner go the spoils, and Evan Lysacek is no exception.

A cast on his fractured left foot forced the skater off the ice for five weeks but didn't slow him down. Photo shoots, commercials and personal appearances -- including presenting the game ball at an L.A. Laker game -- have kept the 24-year-old world champion hopping.

"I feel really lucky to have these opportunities. With the Olympics coming up, I guess the timing this year was just really good," a tanned and relaxed Lysacek said on a break during U.S. Figure Skating's "Champs Camp" last weekend.

"I think there's going to be a lot of attention on all the skaters going into Vancouver, [considering] the success companies had using athletes from the Beijing Olympics [to promote] their products. Especially in this economy, they'll be looking to [capitalize] on the kind of attention athletes are going to get."

The two-time U.S. champion (2007 and 2008) is making the most of both his world title and training break. The Naperville, Ill. native, who moved to Los Angeles in 2003 to train under Frank Carroll, has given no thought to a vacation; work with sponsors and charities takes up all his down time.

"I'm a workaholic anyway, there's nothing I'd rather be doing," he admitted. "I haven't been home for four out of the five weeks.

"I got to reconnect with friends in Chicago, because I was there for a doctor's appointment. DuPage Figure Skating Club has been my club since day one, they've been so supportive, so I surprised them and went to their brunch. I'm doing [scholarship] grants right now for the Stephanie Joseph Memorial Fund [founded in memory of a friend]. I've kept so busy, I haven't had enough time to sit and get bored."

There have also been more glamorous commitments.

"I'm really lucky I was chosen by NBC as one of their five athletes to promote the Games, so I did the most incredible commercial on the ice with Sarah McLachlan," Lysacek said.

"She's from Vancouver, she lives there still, and she wrote a song about working hard, achieving your goals and everything the Olympics are about. I was out there getting chills just skating to it. There were also crazy stunts with ATV's on the ice and incredible lighting and it was just a great experience."

Lysacek also had a two-day photo shoot for a Coca-Cola campaign as one of the brand's "Six-Pack" of athletes for the Vancouver Olympic Games. (U.S. pair champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker are other members.) To top it off, the 6-foot-1-inch athlete, who signed with New York-based DNA Model Management in April, inked a deal with menswear designer Ralph Lauren.

"I'm shooting for their new campaign three days this week," he said. "It's going to be direct mail, postcards, and special product displays in stores. A bunch of other athletes are doing it, too -- I know that (Olympic ski champion) Ted Ligety has been finalized."

The sojourn into the commercial and entertainment realm is ending, at least for now. It's time to get back on the ice.

"I had a really good MRI report," Lysacek said. "My bone is clean and a lot of the damage to the ligaments and tendon is much improved. The doctor gave me the go-ahead to slowly get back into training, so we're going to take baby steps and hope it snowballs from there."

The skater, who discovered the injury just two weeks before winning worlds in March, fulfilled touring commitments with Smucker's Stars on Ice and led the U.S. to victory in the inaugural ISU Team Trophy before getting his cast. Now that it's off, he turns his attention to getting new choreography from long-time collaborator Lori Nichol.

"I'm going to Lori starting June 28 until July 10. I have no music, I have no idea what I'll be doing, it's all speculation at this point," he said.

"I love my "Bolero" [short] program, but I don't know that I'll keep it. About all I do know is Vera Wang is doing my costumes. I've had a couple of meetings with her; she's never done menswear before so she's excited, but she also told my agent she's nervous."

Lysacek himself admitted to being "excited, but not nervous" as he heads into the Olympic season as one of the favorites for gold.

"If I've ever thought about placing or winning, I don't do well," he explained. "If I say, 'I have to win,' it doesn't happen. I didn't go into worlds thinking 'I have to win, I'm going to win, I can win,' I just went in with my blinders on and did my job. That has a lot to do with my coach, Frank Carroll, he said, 'You don't have to do anything except skate your best.' That's definitely going to be my approach."

Olympic gold would not only cap Lysacek's career, it would complete Carroll's success. A member of both the U.S. and World Figure Skating Halls of Fame, he has taken U.S. skaters Linda Fratianne (1976, 1980); Christopher Bowman (1988); Michelle Kwan (1998); Timothy Goebel (2002); and Lysacek (2006) to the Olympics. So far, his medal haul is two silvers (Fratianne and Kwan) and a bronze (Goebel). Lysacek placed fourth.

"Frank has been around the block with Olympic hopefuls and favorites, triumphs and disappointments. Anything that happens, I'm sure he's been there before and will know what to say about the situation. I'm lucky to have a weapon like that in my arsenal."

Carroll recently added a new pupil, Mirai Nagasu, the 2008 U.S. ladies champ who is trying to regain her form after placing fifth at the 2009 U.S. Championships.

"It will be interesting, having her at the rink," said Lysacek, who trains alongside the Lakers and L.A. Kings at El Segundo's Toyota Sports Center.

"When Frank and I work together, regardless of who else is there, we work one-on-one. It will be the same as it always is. I'm happy for him; I think he loves to be busy, he's a workaholic just like me."

Future training sessions will feature the quadruple toe loop, which Lysacek would like to include in his programs. He missed the jump at the 2009 U.S. Championships, dropping to third behind Jeremy Abbott and Brandon Mroz, and didn't need it at worlds. Still, he wants it in his repertoire in Vancouver.

"Before nationals and [the 2009] Four Continents I was doing quads consistently in practice and getting a little nervous or tense in competition, and they were hit or miss. That happens, it's a sport.

"At worlds I was forced to take the quad off the table because of my foot, but now it's back on. Whether I do it or not is going to depend on my own consistency, but I think in Vancouver someone will skate two clean programs with a quad. I think that person will win. And I would love for it to be me."