LOS ANGELES -- Hometown boy makes good, the kind of story Hollywood loves.
A short skate from the movie capital, Evan Lysacek, an Illinois native now ensconced in Los Angeles, became the first American in 13 years to win the World Figure Skating Championship. He did it thanks to a spectacular free skate Thursday night.
"Well, tonight I wasn't thinking about winning, I wasn't even thinking about medaling." Lysacek said. "I just wanted to skate well for my hometown crowd of L.A."
Skate well? He nearly blew the roof off the Staples Center, even though he admitted he's dealing with a stress fracture in his left foot.
"It sounds so bad, but it's really not that bad," he said. "I have to get it put in a cast for four weeks at some point and it'll be as good as new."
Lysacek became the first U.S. skater since Todd Eldredge in 1996 to take the world crown. He previously won bronze medals in 2005 and 2006 and was fourth at the 2006 Olympics.
"I've been looking forward to this event for last few years, ever since I found out it was coming to the Staples Center," said Lysacek, who slapped his forehead and said "Oh my god" when he saw his marks. "I love this building. I'm here to cheer on the Lakers and Kings as much as I can. I think that nervous energy was a positive for me because I turned it into adrenaline."
Canada's Patrick Chan took the silver and 2007 world winner Brian Joubert of France, the short program leader, slipped to third.
The top two Americans, Lysacek and Brandon Mroz (ninth), finished high enough to secure three spots at the Vancouver Olympics next year.
U.S champion Jeremy Abbott had a disappointing week and finished 11th.
Lysacek, the 2007 and '08 U.S. champion, slipped to third this year, one of the biggest disappointments of his career. He used that as motivation for the biggest victory of his life, creating great personal momentum heading into the Olympic season.
"It's been a slow build for me this season," he said before accepting his gold medal, then slapping hands and exchanging hugs with fans in the rinkside seats, including 1992 Olympic champion Kristi Yamaguchi. "But as I got here, I felt a new aura of confidence. I felt like a calm, new person."
Lysacek was so good that he was pumping his arms in celebration even while doing his final combination spin. Fighting back tears after getting his marks, he then waited for the favored Joubert, the last skater of the night.
Joubert began well, landing a spot-on quadruple toe loop and a triple axel-triple toe combination. Then things went sour. He stepped out of a second triple axel and put his hands down.
He hit four more triples, keeping him in contention for gold until his final jump, a relatively simple double axel which he over-rotated, sending him to the ice on his stomach.
That dropped him to third behind Chan.
"I felt strong at the beginning of the program. After the first two jumps I thought I'd skate clean," Joubert said. "The error on the second triple axel cost me concentration.
"I know I could have done better. I was ready to get the gold medal. I can't complain about the placement, I'm third, that's OK. Obviously I'm very disappointed. I have to take something from this defeat for the Olympic year."
Chan went first of the top contenders, punctuating his routine with exquisite footwork. Early in his program, he went a minute between jumps and those step sequences seemed to last just seconds.
Chan was rewarded for every movement, too. Oh, he also threw in seven triples and was not penalized much for cutting a triple loop to a double.
Then the 18-year-old Chan could do nothing but wait.
"When I drew first in the group, I was disappointed. It's not my favorite spot, but I think now it is," Chan said.
"I felt great throughout the program, and was really in my own world."
But it was Lysacek's world soon after.
And two more Americans are in position for gold.