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Friday, August 10, 2012
Evan Lysacek of U.S. to return

Associated Press

LONDON -- Olympic figure skating champion Evan Lysacek's decision to return took all of an hour.

In training for the past year, Lysacek made his return official Friday and announced that he is entered for Skate America in October -- his first competition since winning the gold medal in Vancouver in 2010.

He will aim for a spot on the U.S. team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Both his programs are done, he's got a quad, and he's eager to defend his Olympic title, something no man has done since Dick Button in 1952.

"I'm locked and loaded, so to speak," Lysacek said. "Nothing's made me happier than training every single day."

Lysacek's life was a whirlwind following his gold in Vancouver, the first by a U.S. man since Brian Boitano in 1988. He competed on "Dancing with the Stars," did skating shows, made appearances for sponsors, did speaking engagements and, most recently, worked with the State Department as a sports envoy.

He enjoyed all of it. But the whole time, Lysacek was feeling the pull of the ice.

"I'm an athlete. I love to train, I love to compete," Lysacek said. "It just took me trying other activities to realize this is what makes me happy."

Before he made any promises or commitments, though, Lysacek figured he'd train a few days and make certain this really was what he wanted.

"After about an hour of training, I just knew I was going to do this," he said.

Lysacek is still working with longtime coach Frank Carroll, meeting him at a rink in Ontario, Calif., halfway between Los Angeles and Carroll's new rink near Palm Springs. On the days he and Carroll don't meet, Lysacek works with Karen Kwan in the Los Angeles area.

Lysacek had considered competing last season, going so far as to get a long program done and put his name back in the pool for Grand Prix assignments. But negotiations with U.S. Figure Skating over his return hit a snag, and he wound up not competing.

All of that has been resolved, and Lysacek said the extra few months turned out to be a bonus. His short program is done, and he's put more emphasis on building strength and stamina for the second half of his free skate, where elements are worth more.

Every last point is sure to be important in Sochi in 2014.

Patrick Chan has won the last two world titles, putting up one monster score after another. Always one of the most expressive skaters, Chan now has the tough tricks to match, with quads in both of his programs.

Evgeni Plushenko, the 2006 Olympic champion and silver medalist in Vancouver, returned late last year and promptly won the European title.

"I feel strong now, I feel prepared and, dare I say it, even better than in Vancouver," Lysacek said. "I really feel the most important thing for me was not to come back as the same athlete in Vancouver, but to come back better."

Lysacek's return is sure to be a boost for the Americans, who are down to just two spots at the world championships after having three from 2005 to 2011.

The Americans will have to finish with a combined placement of 13 or better at this year's worlds to earn three spots in Sochi, but no U.S. man has finished higher than fifth the past three years.

Lysacek, the world champion in 2009, has never finished lower than fifth at an Olympics or world championships.

"This year is probably the most crucial going into Sochi," Lysacek said. "It's an important time for us as a U.S. men's team to take a stand and show the skating world and Olympic world that we're still a powerhouse and still a force to be reckoned with."