NEW YORK — The optimism and confidence oozing out of Evan Lysacek are worthy of an Olympic champion.
He hopes to make that a two-time gold medalist next year at the Sochi Games.
Even though Lysacek hasn’t competed since winning at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, he believes – make that expects – to be representing the United States in 10 months.
“I don’t want to come back the same,” Lysacek said Monday. “I want to come back stronger.”
It has been a long and sometimes difficult three years since his triumphant performance in Vancouver, where Lysacek outskated defending Olympic champion Evgeny Plushenko and everyone else. After a break from the sport so he could enjoy the spoils of victory, including a well-received appearance on Dancing With The Stars, Lysacek has aborted each attempt to get back to competitive skating. The biggest challenge has been simply staying healthy.
The 27-year-old Lysacek’s latest setback came in the just-concluded season, during which he planned to skate in the Grand Prix series, U.S. nationals and, if he qualified, the world championships. Instead, a torn abdominal muscle that required November surgery short-circuited a comeback.
The setback made Lysacek even more determined to re-establish himself in 2013-14 — the Olympic season — and seek to be the first repeat men’s gold medalist since Dick Button in 1952.
“I love competing and the training and love a physical challenge,” he said. “It will be sad when the day comes I can’t do it, but for now I don’t see that day. My body feels really great now after I’ve given it TLC, and that was probably much needed after all the years of pounding.
“It’s been a long road, but I am healthy now and back to training for a couple months and skating well. I am right where I would normally be in April.”
Physically and mentally.
Lysacek always has prided himself on being psychologically better than his competitors.
To Lysacek, a strong mind is as important as a fit body, which is saying a lot considering what a workaholic Lysacek is; longtime coach Frank Carroll often has had to ask Lysacek to cut back his time on the ice.
“My focus is like a laser right now,” he said. “I guess in a way I am lucky to have so much experiences, all those competitions throughout my career and to really know what works for me and what does not.
“It can be kind of an experimental process for the younger skaters, but I am able to have that laser focus and know what I need to do and, just as important, what I need not to do.”
One thing Lysacek didn’t need much of before was the quad. His presentation, technical strength, emotion and attention to detail were his trademarks and carried him to the top of his profession.
But now ...
“I have a firm plan to put in a quad toe,” Lysacek said of the four-revolution jump that, to him, has had a somewhat negative effect on the sport. “It was going really well before all the complications of the last year, and it is a strong jump for me.
“A totally different question is what I think of the quad in competition, I still think it is more important to skate cleanly, which is still my goal and what I go for. I want to nail every trick and every pass. When I take off my skater’s hat, I like to watch everyone skate clean.”
Lysacek was in New York on a spring-like Monday for Figure Skating in Harlem’s annual showcase. A member of the club’s board of directors, Lysacek set aside all other activities and flew from his Lake Arrowhead, Calif., training base with Carroll to participate.
He not only is supporting the only organization in the country that offers academic and fitness programs to “underserved” girls in an urban area, Lysacek is championing bringing such programs to other cities.
“It is amazing,” he said. “I have been working with them the last eight years and gotten a chance to know a lot of girls through the program and to see their success above and beyond anyone’s expectations, maybe even their own. FSH provides them a chance at a life they will not ordinarily have.”