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Lysacek hasn't slowed down since Vancouver

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

NEW YORK -- Evan Lysacek is headed for the airport. Again.

It's time for another cross-country flight -- not that the Olympic gold medalist needs an airplane to be flying high these days. He's traveling back to Los Angeles for rehearsals for "Dancing With The Stars" after a whirlwind couple of days in New York.

All part of the spoils from Vancouver.

"It's surreal," Lysacek says. "I went to training for 'Dancing With The Stars' right from Vancouver. So I've kept up the pre-Olympic pace if not increased it.

"I think mingling with the A-list celebs in Hollywood in Oscar week and feeling that thrill building for that competition -- and now feeling it for 'Dancing' and not for a skating competition, I'm feeling that energy and anticipation and it is great. ...

"I am the kind of person who likes to gather info everywhere and I've had so many great opportunities to do that from all walks of life."

Lysacek has chosen to skip next week's world championships in Turin, Italy. He doesn't have the fondest memories of the site of the 2006 Winter Olympics, where illness left him weak for the short program. He rallied to finish fourth, which intensified his desire to succeed at the Vancouver Games.

He's the defending world champ, but Lysacek recognized he could never be properly prepared for worlds considering his nonstop schedule outside of skating these days. Still, the 24-year-old is making no plans to leave competition just yet and already is looking for music for next season's programs.

"I already miss the lead-up and the preparation and the couple weeks of anticipation before you compete," he says. "I definitely will watch and will be cheering louder than anyone for our team and for all my friends to do well.

"But I will also be distracted with doing the jive," he adds with a laugh.

What is no jive: complaints registered by the Russian federation when Evgeni Plushenko finished second to Lysacek last month. Plushenko verbalized them by wondering how the Olympic gold medalist could not do a quadruple jump, and even compared the competition to ice dancing.

Lysacek steered clear of any controversy in Vancouver, and he still does. He's developed a thick skin over his career, which spans eight years on the senior level and includes two U.S. titles, a Grand Prix finals championship, and a pair of bronzes at the world championships before his breakthrough in Los Angeles last March.

"I wish that I could say my performance was really strategic," he says of the Olympics, where he was second to Plushenko after the short program, then was flawless while the Russian was ragged in the free skate. "I didn't feel the way I skated was a strategy, it was a special, special night for me and one I probably can't repeat. I wasn't plotting that.

"The Russian federation and Evgeni were plotting for him to win that gold medal 365 days for three years, and that's why he came back in the first place. I am sure it was a tough pill to swallow.

"But just as it is taking a long time for my medal to sink in, I think it's the same for him. I think Evgeni finally will realize it is such a special thing to win three medals in the three Olympics, and I think he will be proud."

While many of Lysacek's teammates directly expressed their pride in his achievements in Vancouver -- the last U.S. man to win Olympic gold was Brian Boitano 22 years ago -- it is the praise from a skater representing the host country that leaves Lysacek at a loss for words.

Well, as speechless as the outgoing, perceptive Lysacek ever gets.

Canada's Patrick Chan, who finished fifth in Vancouver, expressed awe at Lysacek's performance. He also found inspiration from it, and said the American's perseverance provides a lesson every athlete can learn from.

"I think Evan's a perfect image of me, except earlier," the 19-year-old Chan says. "It helped me get through the disappointment of not doing my best in Vancouver, to look back at what he did. It helped me get over the fact that I didn't come home with a medal.

"It's very, very rare someone wins a gold medal -- or any medal -- at their first games. Evan's a big, big help, helping me feel better and move on and look forward to the future."

When told of Chan's comments, Lysacek is silent for several moments before simply saying, "WOW!"

"That is incredible, especially because as a fellow competitor of Patrick I admire him very much and what he's accomplished. It's an honor to hear him say that," Lysacek said.

"It's still incredible for me to think back to what's happened. Throughout years of being a competitive athlete, I've found so much inspiration from athletes in so many sports and watch the way they handle themselves on and off the field of play. Something I have always strived for is that I have tried to emulate so many of them. And then to hear someone I respect in my sport say those nice things ..."

That's sort of how it tends to be in figure skating, where a brotherhood among competitors exists -- aside from the Tonya and Nancy saga in 1994, of course. The camaraderie is particularly apparent within the Olympic community, and Lysacek makes note of how many Olympic medalists from the United States were at the 2010 games: Boitano, Scott Hamilton, Paul Wylie, Kristi Yamaguchi, Michelle Kwan, Peggy Fleming and Sasha Cohen to name a few.

He drew comfort from their presence in Vancouver, and even moreso from their kindness after he finished second at nationals in January.

"For us in figure skating, we are so lucky that so many past champions stay involved and were there," he says.

"There is a level of support there, kind of a family, and it's really crucial to the development of the athletes and it's been crucial to my development. I was disappointed at the U.S. championships that I did not skate very well, not as well as I wanted to. But I got texts and messages or e-mails or I spoke in person to every one of the 12 Olympic champions who were there at the ceremony (honoring U.S. Olympians) in Spokane. I kind of carried a little bit of advice from each of them.

"I was not going in with the expectations of win or plotting to win, but going in to be a positive force and for the Olympics to be a positive experience."

Mission accomplished.