Going for Gold
By Andrew Fish Fain
1948 in St Moritz Switzerland and 1952 in Oslo Norway saw history being made as Figure Skater Dick Button became the first man ever to win back-to-back Gold Medals in men’s skating. It was also the LAST time any man won back-to-back Golds in figure skating.
Well move over Dick, because in 2014 in Sochi, Russia Evan Lysacek has his eyes on repeating the feat that happened more than 60 years ago. With the grit, determination, preparation and ability Lysacek has, there is no reason to believe he will not be able to match Button.
Evan told me (as the modest man that he is), that he realizes he is not the most talented skater on the ice, but no-one is more dedicated to his craft or will outwork him to get to the top.
You would think that winning one Gold and being at the very pinnacle would be enough. But as Evan so eloquently put it to me, “When a team wins the Super Bowl or Stanley Cup do they just stop trying to win and retire? Why should figure skaters be any different?”
When you consider all that Evan has been through, nobody could blame him for taking the Olympics off. He recently underwent surgery to repair his abductor muscle and two torn AB muscles. After going through the excruciating rehab, he was finally able to go back to a full training slate, and he does with everything, is going at it with full gusto.
His training regimen is not for the faint of heart. It is not like he gets up in the morning and is done by 11am or anything. His training starts at 5:30 am and doesn’t finish until 7:00 pm. He barely has enough energy to eat dinner before going to bed and doing it all over again.
His training includes the equivalent of more than 26 miles a day, add that to all the torque he puts on his body from jumping and landing on a thin skate blade (the jump is the same torque as carrying a sofa on your back and the landing is the same torque as carrying a refrigerator on your back), and it is just grueling.
But it is that very regimented lifestyle that brought Evan back to the sport. He loves putting in all the work and the structure that it takes to be at the top of his sport.
It was winning the gold in Vancouver that he realized that the sport was bigger than just him and his dream. When he noticed that all the eyes in the stadium were not on him, but on the American flag being raised up behind him, it gave him a totally different perspective of what it meant to be the Gold Medalist. It gave him a tremendous pride in country that even he didn’t realize he had.
Sure, his work with former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton as the sports envoy for the State Department could have fulfilled his civic duty. Evan was a huge part of the envoy that Mrs. Clinton so desperately wanted funding for.
But Evan had that yearning to get back on the ice, to get regimented, to get back into competing shape and go for Dick Button’s record.
Evan knows it will not be easy. Although there are really no rivals in this sport, he knows the media and the fans will make a big deal about the “rematch” with the great Russian skater Evgeni Plushenko. The most interesting thing about this “rematch” is that in 2010 in Vancouver, for all intents and purposes it was Evan’s home ice. This time around in Sochi, it is Plushenko’s home ice.
But in Evan’s mind the rivalry isn’t with the great Plushenko per say, but with himself. Knowing he needs to do everything he can to get ready to make his run at history.
He does have more chances this year as well, as they have added a team skating event, which by the way, will be the FIRST event of the Winter Olympics. It is a lot like the team gymnastics in the Summer Games, but the events are in the 4 disciplines of skating, Female Singles, Male Singles, Pair Skating and Ice Dancing. The scores will all be added up and the team with the most points wins. Simple as that.
Even though on the ice, Evan is by himself, he is far from alone. He works with an amazing team who do everything from design his costume, to choreograph his routine to deciding on which music he will skate to.
Evan does have a say in all of those aspects, but he has such faith in his amazing team, that he very rarely if ever vetoes what they decide for him.
If you don’t think those are important aspects, think of it as this way. Evan told me that the music choice itself is so very important because you need to have a piece that can lift you up when you’re in the second half of your routine, which is when your legs feel as heavy as lead weights.
But don’t think for a second that Evan’s life is ONLY about the Olympics. While his training for the 2014 games is all consuming right now, he is also very charitable with his time. He is very involved with the Ronald McDonald House where he sits on the celebrity board of directors.
He also very proud of the fact that he works with Figure Skating in Harlem, which takes at risk girls and gives them a safe, disciplined place to learn and grow, with the physical education being skating of course. According to Evan, the most rewarding part of the charity is seeing these girls with seemingly no future, enter the program and work to get into college and make something of themselves.
As if all that isn’t enough, Evan is also working with the prestigious Knopf Publishing on writing his Autobiography. This is going to be a very real look at Evan’s life and what it really takes to be at the top of the Figure Skating world. It won’t be salacious with many sordid details, just an honest look at what his life is like. I for one can’t wait to read it and find out just how difficult it is to do what Evan does.
Just speaking with Evan for the few minutes I did, I could tell that he is one of the most dedicated, prepared and hardworking people in the sport. Evan admits that there is some luck involved of course, but you really do make your own luck. After all, luck is where preparation meets opportunity. No matter what happens, you better believe that NO ONE will be more prepared for Sochi than Evan Lysacek.
I think when it is all said and done, the Star Spangled Banner will be playing, the country will be filled with pride, Dick Button will have some company and Evan Lysacek will realize that all his hard work and effort will have paid off in Sochi.