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 -- Any edge, no pun intended, could enter into the calculation as ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White pursue the Olympic gold medal that just eluded them four years ago.
Will setting their free dance to a famous piece by a Russian composer (Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade") under the guidance of a Russian coach they unabashedly call a genius help them connect with the crowd at the Sochi Games? If they put together the complete package, they said Tuesday at the Olympic media summit.
The duo said they toyed with using the piece a few years ago, but is glad they saved it for the ideal competitive moment. The music is a way of honoring Russian influence on dance in general and coach/choreographer Marina Zoueva's tutelage specifically, they said.
"It never hurts to have the support of the crowd ... at the end of the day, it's really about moving the audience, making that emotional impact," Davis said.
But in a development no one could have foreseen a decade or two ago when the Russians dominated the discipline, Davis and White will have to try to dethrone fellow North Americans for the title: their friends and rink-mates Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada. The tandems have gone 1-2 at the past four world championships, with Davis and White prevailing in the past two editions.
Davis and White say it wouldn't be "healthy" to focus on the Olympic gold medal itself, and manage to be convincing when they talk about refining their already superlative chemistry.
"When we won worlds in 2011, one of the things that helped us [defend] is that we didn't say, 'Let's continue at this level and expect the same results,"' White said. "Our expectations go beyond any given placement ... staying in character from beginning to end, and keeping everyone enthralled."
The short program could prompt a world-wide sing-along. It will be set to music from "My Fair Lady," including, naturally, "I Could Have Danced All Night."
"It's bubbly, light, elegant, fun," Davis said.
Davis and White joked easily about their snail's progress toward undergraduate degrees at the University of Michigan -- they've crawled past the start lines of their junior years and are taking this academic year off for obvious reasons. "Each passing year is bringing us closer to the Guinness Book of World Records [for tenure as students]," White said.
The refreshing thing about them is their obvious desire to keep learning on the ice after all this time.
PARK CITY, Utah -- Evan Lysacek's scintillating gold medal performance at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics had everything but a quadruple jump. Conventional wisdom said that would be the last time a champion could afford to do without the biggest trick. The sport was advancing inexorably, and even though there are still very few men who can land clean quads consistently in competition, there's no doubt the attempt will be necessary in Sochi.
Lysacek knew that, and he had included a quad toe loop in a short program run-through on Aug. 21. He took a violent spill and stayed off the ice for a month because of an abdominal tear. But the pain returned when he resumed training, and doctor-ordered imaging last week revealed a tear to his left labrum that seriously endangers Lysacek's chances of competing at all this Olympic season.
The 28-year-old Chicago-area native had already pulled out of a competition this month and Monday told reporters at the Olympic media summit that he would be forced to skip Skate America, the first Grand Prix event of the season and an important bellwether for Lysacek back in his heyday. (Jason Brown, who won silver at the 2013 world juniors, will take Lysacek's place in the lineup.)
Lysacek joked that his rehab "has all the makings of a gripping reality show -- constantly developing, new characters constantly entering into the list." But his demeanor was subdued. He called his return to training on ice "a recent development" and didn't delve into specifics, saying only that he is being cautious and following doctors' orders.
In order to compete at the Olympics, Lysacek must first log a minimum qualifying score of 25 points in the technical elements of the short program and 45 points in the free skate -- basically, the equivalent of breathing and staying upright -- at an international competition.
The U.S. national championships in Boston in January, where the team will be selected (results generally prevail, but there is some discretion), doesn't count in that equation. At the moment, Lysacek has no other Grand Prix assignment or invitation. He said he is working with the U.S. Figure Skating Association to find an event or events where he can meet the standard and shake off the rust.