Lysacek: 'I'm as prepared as I've ever been'
SPOKANE, Wash. -- While other skaters anxiously went about their preparations for this weekend's national championships, Evan Lysacek seemed so confident of a spot on the U.S. Olympic team that it's a wonder he isn't already lined up outside the stadium in Vancouver to march into the opening ceremonies.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Evan Lysacek, right, goes over his routine with coach Frank Carroll on Thursday.
"This is just practice for me," Lysacek said Thursday of the national championships. "I've made some changes in my program and I'm glad to have this opportunity to get out there and practice them. And of course, I want to do a great job skating in my own country, but I have my own personal goals that I'm concentrating on more so than some other people."
The U.S. Olympic figure skating team selections will be determined not only by this weekend's championships, but also by performance over the past year. By winning the world championships last year, Lysacek guaranteed the U.S. a third slot into the Olympics (the women have only two spots). And as far as he is concerned, everyone else is competing for the other two spots. "Judging by the criteria that they're using -- the 2009 world championships, the 2009-10 Grand Prix series and this competition -- I think I should be OK."
Lysacek is ranked No. 1 in the world, with Americans Jeremy Abbott and Johnny Weir ranked third and eighth, respectively. Lysacek said the key for him is using this competition to prepare himself for the bigger one in Vancouver next month.
"I would like to go into the Olympics as the national champion, but going into worlds last year as the national bronze medalist certainly didn't hurt me," he said. "This competition, I can't think about the results. I'm thinking about my own goals and improvements I've made to my own routine and really testing the waters with those technical jumps because they're tough and they're dangerous. I want to make sure those are smart changes."
Lysacek's coach, Frank Carroll, took a more conservative line.
"Of course, I'm the coach, so I never take anything for granted and I've been in skating for so many years that I know nothing is ever a sure thing,'' Carroll said. "I think he would like to skate his best here and do very well. But the ice is very slippery and he has to earn his spot on the Olympic team, and last year he finished third at this competition. If you want to make your bets, make your bets. I think he is the best skater in the competition."
Lysacek said he feels far less tension than he did four years ago, when he needed to skate his way onto the Olympic team at nationals.
"I'm as prepared as I've ever been," he said. "It's been hard for me throughout my career to not put so much pressure on every single event, but this season has been about building momentum and strength as I go. I'm a very different athlete than I was four years ago. I'm stronger, I'm smarter."
And clearly more confident. Asked whether he thinks he'll be on the Olympic team even if he finishes fourth this weekend, Lysacek replied, "I'm not planning on finishing fourth."
Lysacek said he plans to do a quad in his routine and he has been consistently landing three at practice recently.
"I know I'm ready. I really feel -- knock on wood, God willing -- that I'll make the team," Lysacek said. "I really feel ready for Vancouver. Like I said, I'm glad I have this practice run because I do have some changes I want to experiment with and see if they work. If they don't, I have a proven sort of programmed equation that's worked all season that I can fall back on. But I'm really glad I have this occasion to test it."