Greatest Of All Time
The ESPN Sport Science search for the greatest athlete of all time turns to track and field. Will it be Usain Bolt, Michael Johnson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Carl Lews or Ashton Eaton? Cast your vote! »Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
Evan Lysacek is an expressive athlete who spent years perfecting polished and elegant body language. His ability to channel emotion and couple it with athleticism on the ice carried him to an Olympic figure skating gold medal in 2010. Conversely, Lysacek does not have much of a poker face, and he looked worried when he spoke to a room full of reporters at the Olympic media summit in early October.
Worried but resolute, which was natural for an elite competitor who had won the mind-over-matter tussle many times. Lysacek fell and injured himself while training in August, but he had recovered from injuries efficiently before. The world saw a shrinking time frame to qualify for Sochi. He saw a deadline he thought he could meet by following a rational plan. But the torn labrum in his left hip didn't mend and became a literal thorn in his side instead, putting him at risk of permanent damage if he continued to stress it.
"As the training intensified, so did the pain," Lysacek told reporters on a conference call Tuesday.
The call came hours after Lysacek had announced via an appearance on NBC's "Today" and elaborated on in an interview with Nancy Armour of the Associated Press what had appeared inevitable as the autumn went on and he couldn't compete: He would not be able to defend his title in Sochi, and hasn't plotted any course beyond that.
"I'm still processing what's going on with my health, and that devastation will take me quite a bit of time to get over, mentally," Lysacek said during Tuesday's call. "I haven't looked beyond that. I want to get back on the ice. In what capacity, I don't know yet."
Many counted him out long ago, but Lysacek refused to let go of the ladder until late last week, when it became obvious he couldn't enter an event in Ukraine, the last possible competition that would have enabled him to earn the minimum technical score required to be in the Olympic mix. "I never let myself think about the possibility of it not working out," he said.
And if it had? Lysacek's biggest risk in returning was not the competition with other, younger skaters with better hops. It was the comparison he would have provoked with his younger self. The image Lysacek left on the ice almost four years ago was a sublime, game-winning fadeaway jumper.
He defied the predictions that skating's modern scoring system would favor the steeplechase style of his Russian rival Evgeni Plushenko over a more complete program. As a bonus, Lysacek ended the Olympic championship shutout for his indomitable coach, Frank Carroll.
Lysacek has not competed since, first by choice, then because of a dispute with the U.S. federation, then because of injuries and lack of form. All his chips stacked up on this season, and he said in some ways he put more effort into it than he invested in the lead-up to the 2010 Vancouver Games. He was insistent that he had been on pace to compete to his own high standard. Lysacek injured himself practicing a quadruple jump, the trick he had won without in Vancouver but knew he had to have in his pocket for Sochi.
"Neither of us would have gone through what we did with the intensity we did if we didn't think I had a chance to win," Lysacek said of himself and Carroll.
His absence means the United States will send two far less decorated male skaters to the Winter Games. It may not mean the end of Lysacek's career, but if it does, it should be some comfort to him that he closed it with a performance that was nothing but net.
PARK CITY, Utah -- So is the German Olympic team making a political statement with this rainbow-hued uniform? Or is it simply trying to top the old Houston Astros' rainbow jerseys for the worst look in the history of sports?
I suspect the latter.
Few Olympic federations are willing to go out on a limb to make a strong political statement. They are, however, quite willing to make bad fashion statements.
Plus, I would imagine whatever fashion company responsible for this mess was drawing up the designs months before Russian president Vladimir Putin signed the new anti-gay law. I mean, you don't come up with something that ugly overnight. It takes months and months of carefully planning. I know! How about we add orange-patterned pants in a salute to Marcia Brady?!?!
Many people probably are eager to see what political reaction the uniforms get when the German team marches into Olympic stadium during the opening ceremonies in Sochi. Personally, I am more eager to see what Joan Rivers has to say about them on "Fashion Police."
PARK CITY, Utah -- There were a couple bits of interest that came out of Lindsey Vonn's teleconference at the Olympic media summit Wednesday.
The most important is that Vonn says her right knee feels great and she could be healthy enough to race when the World Cup season opens at the end of October in Solden, Sweden. If not then, she definitely plans to compete at the World Cup race in Beaver Creek, Colo., at the end of November.
Her other interesting response was when she said she was speaking from Ohio. Ohio? What mountains are in Ohio? Oh, wait. That's right. Tiger Woods is competing in the Presidents Cup there this week. Vonn did not mention Tiger by name, but did say "my boyfriend" had provided a lot of support during her rehabilitation after knee surgery.
There are no reporters from the National Enquirer at the media summit, so there were no questions about Vonn's relationship with Tiger. Instead, the focus was on her return from February's devastating knee injury. Vonn crashed in a race and tore her right ACL and MCL, and she also fractured a bone in her lower right leg.
"My knee is great," Vonn said. "It has no pain, no swelling. ... I'm definitely quite a bit further along than I anticipated, or anyone else anticipated. The surgery was very successful."
Vonn said the key remaining issue in her recovery is getting prepared to push her knee to the limit in a race.
"I don't have any trust issues. I trust my knee is 100 percent. It's just that I haven't pushed my knee to 100 percent yet; I haven't tried it in a race," Vonn said. "That's as much mental as anything else. I have to be in that racing mindset. But it's not that I'm doubtful or don't trust my knee or body. ... There are other athletes who don't trust their knee [after injury], but that's definitely not me."
Vonn said she did not completely rule out competing in slalom sometime this season, but added it is unlikely due to the stress on her knee.
"I'm definitely more excited to be back on skis than I normally am," Vonn said. "I haven't raced since February when I crashed, so the excitement has increased since being injured. But I am someone who thrives on chaos. I need a lot going on. I need to be skiing and training."
That is certainly true. There is always drama around Vonn, even before she and Tiger started dating. She had to be airlifted off a mountain following a training-run crash at the 2006 Olympics in Torino. She resorted to placing layers of a rare cheese on a severely bruised shin to help it heal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. She fought off severe flu early last season and then shredded her knee in February.
Yet there isn't much that stops her for long. So what if she completely shredded her knee just eight months ago? She is looking to make Sochi her fourth Olympics, and ahead of schedule.
"I'm going in as the defending champ in the downhill," Vonn said. "I'm coming back from knee surgery and I still have a lot of expectations, both that I put on myself and what everyone else puts on me."