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For Lysacek, celebrity whirlwind starts fast

February 19, 2010 |  2:02 am

Evan
Evan Lysacek was about to have the best sleepless night of his life.

The Today Show has him booked for their opening segment Friday, which means being in their studio across the water in North Vancouver at 4 a.m. Pacific time.

Next, three hours later, comes a live-by-satellite appearance on Oprah for her Friday show (9 a.m. in Chicago), then a newss conference at the Main Media Center.

Between then, he was to finish doping control at the Pacific Coliseum on Thursday night, make a victory appearance at USA House, where the U.S. Olympic Committee entertains sponsors and other guests, pack up his room at the Olympic Village and move into a downtown Vancouver Hotel.

Such are the immediate spoils of being the first U.S. man to win an Olympic figure skating gold medal since Brian Boitano in 1988.

Lysacek, from Naperville, Ill., will undoubtedly get a boost in his appearance fee on the upcoming Stars on Ice tour, and he could likely begin to have a financially secure future as "America's Guest" -- public appearances, working for his sponsors, etc.

But, as he left the news conference at the rink Thursday night, Lysacek told reporters that he plans to continue competing.

"Right now, I want to keep skating," he said. "I don't know, maybe one more year. It might change.'"

Lysacek, 24, said he is almost certainly done for this year, so he will skip next month's World Championships at the Palavela in Turin, Italy, where he finished fourth in the 2006 Olympics.

"I need a little break," he said.

He won't get one from the celebrity circuit for awhile. The other network morning shows, plus Regis and Kelly, already have turned in requests.

When things slow down, Lysacek can look back and see himself not only as Olympic champion but as one of the few who delivered the best skating of his life under the greatest pressure.

The scores said it: personal bests in Tuesday's short program, Thursday's free skate and, obviously, the total, for a 1.31-point victory over defending Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko of Russia, who took his defeat like a graceless churl.

"I was positive that I won, but I suppose Evan needs a medal more than I do," Plushenko said at the post-competition news conference.  "Maybe it's because I already have one. I think that two silver and one Olympic gold, that's not too bad."

Plushenko, who also won silver in 2002, was put out because Lysacek became the first man to win the Olympic title without a quadruple jump since Russia's Alexei Urmanov in 1994.

In the media mixed zone area after the competition, Plushenko derided Lysacek's accomplishment even more.

"I think we need to change the judging system," Plushenko said. "If the Olympic champion doesn't know how to jump quad, it’s not men's figure skating, it’s dancing."

Lysacek was taken aback by Plushenko's remarks.

"I'm a little disappointed,'' Lysacek said. "He has been a role model for me.'"

Only a few minutes earlier, Lysacek had been effusive in his praise of Plushenko, noting how impressive it had been for the Russian to come back after three years away from competition.

"I've admired him for many years,'' Lysacek said.  "When he was winning senior worlds and I was a junior, I was cheering along with everyone else.  I thought he skated great tonight.''

That didn't stop Plushenko from harping on the quad.

"First and foremost, I want to state that I respect my competitors," Plushenko said. "My basic position is that movement must go forward, never stop, never go back. . . . I think people need to do lots of quads."

Plushenko did one, although it was shaky, as were two of his other jumps. His spins were weak, and his footwork sequences relied more on pelvic gyrations, hip shimmying and posing than anything else.

Lysacek made up a .55 deficit to Plushenko after the short program and created his margin of victory on the scores for his execution of spins and footwork.

His advantage over Plushenko on spins was 1.36 and 1.0 on footwork.  The quality of Lysacek's jumps -- eight triples -- was good enough that he lost only .3 points on that component to Plushenko, who did the quad-triple combination and six other triples.

"I think Evgeni went up and down," said Frank Carroll, Lysacek's coach. "Brilliant jumping and then down.  Evan stayed on a plane from the start to the finish. That consistent plane and getting the pluses (for execution), it adds up."

Lysacek was, as skaters always strive to be, the whole package.

"For several years, I have worked on the quad, and I know how many hours and how much energy it takes," Lysacek said, "and that pales in comparison to the amount of time it takes to work on those spins and get those perfect and to get those transitions down and to get the stamina to put all that into 4 minutes and 40 seconds of skating."

To get through the most important 4 minutes 40 seconds of skating in his life, Lysacek needed a nudge from Carroll to help him keep things in perspective.

"It's hard when you're in second place at the Olympic Games to not think of a medal," Lysacek said. "I started to think about the outcome. (Frank) could see it in me and he came up to me Thursday and said, 'You can do your absolute best and not be the best tonight. But your job is to perform every step of your program to the best of your ability.' I just started thinking, 'That's what I do every day in practice, so why should it be any different today.' "

Lysacek began working with Carroll after leaving Neuqua Valley High School in 2003.  After two years, he became a consistent national and world medalist, with two U.S. titles and a world title before the Olympic gold.

"Frank has a real understanding of psychology," Lysacek said. "He told me you can't win until you learn to win, you can't be a champion until you learn to be a champion. He taught me how to compete.

"I never let myself think about winning for myself because it's not a helpful thought. I was concentrating on my work and daily grind. I did think a couple times about winning for him."

Carroll, 71, previously had two Olympic silver medalists, Linda Fratianne (1980) and Michelle Kwan (1998), both of whom were favored for gold. Christopher Bowman, whom Carroll calls the most talented skater he ever coached, wasted that ability with drugs before competing at the Olympics. Timothy Goebel, whom Carroll also coached, made the most of his ability to finish third behind Russians Alexei Yagudin and Plushenko in 2002.

So when Plushenko returned this season and began racking up high scores, it looked as if Carroll might still be looking for his first Olympic champion. His other 2010 Olympic skater, 16-year-old Mirai Nagasu, is four years from challenging for gold.

"I never obsessed about it," Carroll said. "People think it has meant so much to me, but it hasn't.

"I've had a great career, and I have really been satisfied with the Olympic medals my kids have won. It's not about me anyway. It's about him. And I think coaches have got to get that in their head, that they are just a vehicle for the skaters to do well."

Evan Lysacek would disagree.

"Winning for Frank, so far that's the best part," he said before rushing off to doping control.

It was just one of many stops on a long night's journey after what Lysacek called the best day of his life.

-- Philip Hersh, reporting from Vancouver

Photo: With choreographer Lori Nichol to his left and Coach Frank Carroll to his right, Evan Lysacek crosses his fingers while awaiting his free skate scores Thursday night. Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune
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