Evan Lysacek

Evan Lysacek will not compete at Sochi Olympics (video)

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Evan Lysacek will not defend his Olympic figure skating title.

Lysacek, 28, was unable to recover fast enough from a torn labrum in his left hip to qualify for the Sochi Olympics, he said on TODAY on Tuesday morning. The Chicago Tribune first reported the news overnight, saying Lysacek would not compete at all this season.

“It’s very difficult for me to say that, but my road to Sochi ends here,” he said. “A lot of what played into that decision was my doctor warned me that if I continued to train, with 100 percent certainty, the injury would get worse. The pain would get worse every single day, and I could be doing permanent and severe damage.

“This has been my whole life, so it’s a difficult decision for sure,” said Lysacek, who got choked up in interviews with TODAY and The Associated Press. He told the AP the pain was “like you’re being electrocuted.”

Lysacek is not retiring. He will refrain from skating until the injury is completely healed, which could be several months, according to U.S. Figure Skating. Surgery is an option, according to the AP.

“Right now my focus has to shift from training, preparing for Sochi, to getting healthy and trying to heal this injury once and for all,” Lysacek said. “The last several weeks have been so painful for me that I don’t want those to be my last moments on the ice after such a great career. I love to represent my country, and I’m determined to be healthy and skate again and really be the one that decides when it’s over.”

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Since he hadn’t competed since winning gold in 2010, Lysacek needed to enter an international figure skating event before the U.S. Championships in Boston from Jan. 10-12 in order to be eligible to compete in Sochi in February.

Lysacek, his agent and U.S. Figure Skating said for two months that they were working to find a competition to enter in November or December.

All of the entry deadlines for those events had passed by Nov. 15. The final event, the Ukrainian Open, said last week it would accept an entry as late as Tuesday for its Dec. 18-21 competition. But Lysacek was unable to get fit in time, even for the extended deadline.

Lysacek’s career through the years

The announcement capped a run of injuries, illnesses and absences between Olympics. In 2010, Lysacek became the first U.S. man to win Olympic figure skating gold since Brian Boitano in 1988.

He took the 2010-11 season off after finishing second on “Dancing with the Stars.” He began training for 2011-12 but pulled out of Grand Prix assignments due to a disagreement with U.S. Figure Skating.

He was set to return at Skate America in 2012, only to withdraw with a groin injury. He had sports hernia surgery in November 2012, which caused him to miss the U.S. Championships in January.

On Sept. 30, Lysacek revealed at the U.S. Olympic Media Summit he suffered a torn labrum in his left hip falling on a quadruple toe loop at Champs Camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Aug. 21.

Lysacek said he was skating better than he had been at the 2010 Olympics before the injuries.

“From the beginning, I was very clear with my doctors as to what my goals were, to be 100 percent healthy and prepared for Sochi, and before that to compete in December in a qualification event,” Lysacek said. “My doctors took an aggressive course of action with treatment and physical therapy. We all remained very optimistic. In fact, I had no doubt that I would overcome this, just like I had the other injuries that I had throughout my career.”

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On Oct. 28, Lysacek said he was doing triple jumps in practice, but apparently he was not able to get back to full strength in time for a qualifying event.

“As the training intensified, so did the pain,” he said. “It’s become, in recent weeks, unmanageable.”

Lysacek was bidding to become the first man since American Dick Button to win back-to-back Olympic figure skating titles. Button did so in 1948 and 1952.

Lysacek’s announcement comes two months after the retirement of his longtime U.S. rival, Johnny Weir. His international rival, Russian Yevgeny Plushenko, is expected to compete in Sochi.

But the Olympic gold-medal favorites are Canadian Patrick Chan, who took silver behind Lysacek at the 2009 World Championships, and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, who beat Chan at the Grand Prix Final last week.

The two-man U.S. Olympic Team will be named after the U.S. Championships. Contenders include reigning U.S. champion Max Aaron, world junior silver medalist Jason Brown, two-time world junior champion Adam Rippon and 2010 Olympian Jeremy Abbott.

Olympic figure skating team event qualifiers set

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross win World Series of Beach Volleyball

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Rio bronze medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross bounced back from an Olympic upset to win the biggest annual tournament in the U.S. on Sunday.

Walsh Jennings and Ross captured the Asics World Series of Beach Volleyball title in Long Beach, Calif., for the second time in three years. They beat Spanish pair Liliana Fernández and Elsa Baquerizo 21-16, 21-16 in the final.

“We love those girls so much, they are dear friends of ours,” Walsh Jennings said. “We wanted to beat them down.”

Absent from Long Beach were Olympic gold medalists Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany and silver medalists Ágatha and Bárbara of Brazil.

Walsh Jennings and Ross, who lost to Ágatha and Bárbara in the Olympic semifinals, dropped a total of two sets in seven undefeated matches this past week.

They earned their fifth international title of the year after winning none in 2015, last season shortened by Walsh Jennings’ fifth right shoulder surgery.

In the men’s final, Brazil’s No. 2 pair, Pedro and Evandro, beat top U.S. pair Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena 19-21, 21-17, 15-9.

Olympic champions Alison and Bruno of Brazil did not compete in Long Beach.

The beach volleyball season continues with the FIVB World Tour Finals in Toronto in two weeks.

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Monica Puig’s unlikely Olympic tennis gold reminded her of ‘Miracle’ scene

Monica Puig
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NEW YORK (AP) — Monica Puig gazed out at her fellow Puerto Ricans jamming the parade route, and in their eyes she saw hope.

They hailed her with “a sense of satisfaction,” she recalled Saturday, “and a sense of belief that things are going to get better.”

Throughout her stunning run to the Olympic tennis gold medal, Puig embraced the symbolism of each upset victory. An economic crisis is devastating the island of her birth, and she appreciated that if she could prove the impossible is possible, that message would reverberate far beyond sports.

“If Puerto Rico channels that same energy and belief that things will get better and working for the better of the island, the better of the community, things will improve,” Puig said four days after the U.S. territory honored its Olympic team and, above all, its first gold medalist.

“I really hope I gave them a lot of confidence moving forward,” she added, “that things will actually get better.”

The world’s 34th-ranked women’s tennis player met with a roomful of reporters Saturday, exactly two weeks after she beat Australian Open champ Angelique Kerber in three sets in the final in Rio de Janeiro. Poised and philosophical in ways that bely her age, the 22-year-old realizes some people deem her gold medal “a fluke.”

After all, Puig has never made it past the round of 16 at a major. And at the U.S. Open, which starts Monday, she’s never advanced beyond the second round. Puig is already bracing herself for the reality that her run at Flushing Meadows could fall well short of what took place in Rio.

“I’m 22 years old. There’s still a long way for me to go, a long stretch of career,” she said. “If anything happens, any kind of slip-up, it’s not really going to be a big deal, because I have a process and I have a long-term view of where I want to go.”

Which isn’t to say she expects a slip-up.

“I know that the Olympics wasn’t a fluke for me, because I have worked very hard to get to where I am,” Puig said. “I know the hours and the tears and the sweat and everything that’s been put into my practices. It’s been very difficult for me.

“But that moment, nobody will be able to take away.”

Even she considers that Olympic moment to be like something out of a movie script. When spectators chanted “Si se puede!” (“Yes you can!” in Spanish) during the final against the second-ranked Kerber, Puig flashed back to a scene from the film “Miracle” about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.

With fans roaring “U-S-A!” coach Herb Brooks tells his players: “Listen to them. That’s what you’ve done.” As Puig said Saturday, “I needed to listen to the crowd.”

Her gold might not have been quite as unlikely as the Miracle on Ice, but it wasn’t too far off. The night after her victory, Puig slept with the medal on her nightstand, waking up every few hours to make sure it was real. She still feels the need to check up on it during the day.

“I see the videos and I’m like, ‘Did this really just happen?'” Puig said.

When they showed the clip of her medal ceremony when she was honored in Puerto Rico, she started crying again. Through it all, she insisted Saturday, she felt she kept her focus, knowing the U.S. Open was looming.

After Rio, Puig spent some time with her family in Miami, where she lives. Then it was on to the island “where the big party was waiting.” It’s been hard to squeeze in sleep and alone time and practice — all the things she needs to recover from one big event and prepare for another.

Puig faces 60th-ranked Zheng Saisai, who upset Agnieszka Radwanska at the Olympics, in the first round Monday. She originally wasn’t seeded at Flushing Meadows, which meant she could have faced a top player in her opening match, but she moved up to the final seed when Sloane Stephens withdrew because of an injury Friday.

It’s the first time Puig has been seeded at a major, and in what was a breakthrough season even before her golden moment, she’s starting to grow comfortable with those sorts of roles.

“I feel like I finally understand what I’m doing when it comes to tennis,” she said.

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