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Sleep is overrated when you are at the Olympics

Icenetwork.com visits "The Today Show" set on Grouse Mountain

Evan Lysacek and Scott Hamilton pose together backstage on the "The Today Show" set at Grouse Mountain in Vancouver.
Evan Lysacek and Scott Hamilton pose together backstage on the "The Today Show" set at Grouse Mountain in Vancouver. (Lynn Rutherford)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(02/26/2010) - What's the first thing you do after you've had the free skate of your life, waded through a sea of television and print reporters in the mixed zone, and maybe had a press conference and/or a drug test?

Set your alarm for 2:30 a.m. Pacific Time and head up to NBC's Today Show's home away from home on top of scenic, 4100-foot high Grouse Mountain, of course.

Once athletes get there, though, no one complains: lounging around a fire pit, eating a to-order breakfast and swapping stories with fellow winter athletes more than makes up for any lack of sleep.

"I'm moving like a slow motion train wreck," said Evan Lysacek.

On his second visit to Today's Grouse mountain site, the Olympic champion took time out to sign autographs and pose with fans in the gondola conveying skiers up the mountain.

"I'm getting about two hours a night sleep," Lysacek said. "Sometimes I think it would be better to just stay up all night."

Scott Hamilton, visiting Today to add to his take on the ladies free skate, disagreed.

"Sleep is overrated, but naps are necessary," the 1984 Olympic gold medalist said.

Lysacek and Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the two-time U.S. ice dance champions who won silver here, visited Today in the wee hours of the morning today, along with U.S. champion Rachael Flatt and U.S. silver medalist Mirai Nagasu, fresh off their season-best free skates.

Also in the Today Show lounge, drinking lattes and munching on French toast and breakfast burritos: Billy Demong, who won first-ever U.S. gold and silver medals in Nordic combined events; Alpine double silver medalist Julie Mancuso; aerial silver medalist Speedy Peterson; and members of the silver medal-winning U.S. women's hockey team, to name a few.

Jennie Thompson, a supervising producer for the Olympics for Today in Vancouver, keeps it all running on schedule. "I'm here to manage the needs of the show, and make sure the athletes are comfortable when they're here," Thompson, a young veteran of eight Olympics, said.

"As far as I'm concerned it's the best job I could ever have, because you have a lot of fun and you meet a lot of interesting people. The only down side here is that we've been up all night, every night, but it's the Olympics, so you can sleep later."

Thompson's duties this morning included finding a hair dryer to touch up Davis' hair, soaked when the athletes went outside to take background shots with Today host Meredith Vieira and Ann Curry around a bonfire.

"We want to make sure everyone has lattes, that everyone looks good on camera, has their hair and make-up done, which is a little hard with running back and forth outside in the snow," Thompson admitted.

Hair now (almost) dry, Davis relaxed with White in front of a TV.

"This place has such a great vibe; it's easy to get into it," White said.

"Obviously, the more sleep you can get, the better, but it's the Olympics and its part of the Olympic experience. Meryl [Davis] and I want everything that comes along with how hard we worked for our silver medal, and this is part of it. We're going to enjoy it, for sure."

Now that the Vancouver sojourn is drawing to its close, everyone's thinking: what's next?

For Davis and White -- as well as Flatt and Nagasu -- it's the 2010 World Figure Skating Championships in Torino next month.

"We've already competed six times this year so just doing one more doesn't seem bad," White said. "Its worlds, it's still a big deal, so we're looking forward to it, definitely."

After that, the team plans some shows with the 41-city Smuckers Stars on Ice tour, kicking off in Ft. Myers, Fla., on April 1.

"That is what it's looking like," White said. "I don't know which shows yet so I can't plug which cities you should definitely come to, just kidding."

Fans can look forward to some fresh material from the innovative couple.

"We're going to have something new," Davis revealed. "We've been doing our show program a lot. I would say don't quote us on that, but you can."

"We're definitely not going to do our "Billie Jean" program; it will be something different, for sure," White added.

Might they consider a re-worked version of the popular "Bollywood" original dance?

"If we did that, we'd probably change it around a little bit, not go for a Level 4 circle," Davis said. "An Indian show program would be really fun."

Lysacek -- who's carrying his gold medal in the back pocket of his Ralph Lauren jeans -- also has Stars on Ice, and a lot more, on his plate.

"I have a full media schedule when I get back home [to Los Angeles]," Lysacek, who has already appeared on Larry King Live, said.

"It's helping me, I guess, allow it to sink in by doing interviews and talking about it and stuff, because honestly I keep pinching myself. It's been such a dream week and I'm kind of getting sad it's nearing it's end here, but it's been more than I've ever dreamed it would be."

Having already announced he will not defend his world title in Torino, the skater plans to focus on preparing a new show program.

"I'm hoping to spend the next month working on a new idea, trying to come up with something really cool," he said.

"[The tour] for me has just again, totally revitalized my love for skating. I can't think of a better way to celebrate than on the ice with my fans and with my skating family on the road."

There may be more feathers in the Olympic and world champion's future.

"My short program here [choreographed by Lori Nichol to Firebird] was so special for me, such an emotional night, I think I'll do my short as well. So, I'll do two numbers."