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.

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Michael Phelps to participate in Shark Week

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NEW YORK (AP) — Olympic champ Michael Phelps is participating in Discovery network’s Shark Week this summer, although he won’t be asked to outswim one.

It’s not immediately clear what Phelps will be doing, although Discovery President Rich Ross said Tuesday he’s intrigued about seeing the fastest human swimmer interact with nature’s fastest. Perhaps Phelps can be encouraged to go underwater in a shark cage, he said.

The week of shark-themed programming in mid-summer is annually Discovery’s biggest event. Now that it is approaching its 29th year, programmers are on the lookout for a new wrinkle.

Phelps has won 28 Olympic swimming medals, 23 of them gold.

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World Figure Skating Championships ice dance preview

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Alex Shibutani says he and sister Maia have made a statement the past two years.

“With our ability to perform when the stakes are highest,” he said.

The stakes don’t get much higher than this week.

The Shibutani siblings, breakout world silver medalists a year ago, lead three U.S. couples who finished in the top six at the 2016 World Championships into this year’s worlds in Helsinki.

It is the strongest ice dance field since the Sochi Olympics. The PyeongChang Winter Games medal contenders will be confirmed this week.

The clear favorites are Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the 2010 Olympic champions competing this season for the first time since taking silver in Sochi. Virtue and Moir returned from their two-year break to post the three highest total scores of all time in their last three international competitions.

“This is probably the most prepared we’ve been for a world championships,” Moir said, while adding, “this was a warm-up season.”

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The Shibutanis finished second (with a personal-best score) to Virtue and Moir at the most recent event, the Four Continents Championships at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea in February. The margin separating the two couples — 5.1 points — was considerable.

“We’re sort of in a way in a race against ourselves to try and see how good we can get and how good we can become,” Alex Shibutani said. “Each competition along the way is another step to that eventual goal [the Olympics].”

At worlds, the Shibutanis are in the medal mix with France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who won the last two world titles.

The French, already the youngest world champs in 40 years, are trying for the first ice dance three-peat in 20 years.

But they have not progressed this season, unable to match or better their winning score from the 2016 World Championships.

Papadakis and Cizeron train in Montreal with Virtue and Moir, but they struggled (held against their own standard) in both competitions outside of French borders this season. And in different areas — step sequences, twizzles, lifts.

Conversely, it looks like the Shibutanis’ biggest obstacles are well behind them. They went from a world bronze medal in their first senior season together in 2011 to four straight years off the podium.

The Shibutanis hit a nadir at the Sochi Olympics with a ninth-place finish, worst of the three U.S. couples. Maia’s tights snagged on Alex’s sequined jacket during a lift.

The devoted vloggers countered doubts after Sochi by stressing their youth — Alex was 22 then; Maia was 19. They talked about weathering the journey and sticking to a meticulous creative process.

It paid off with their first U.S. title last year, followed by that world silver medal in Boston.

“Last year’s results at the world championships were very energizing for us,” Alex Shibutani said. “People are aware of the career trajectory that we have had. We’ve set ambitious goals because we were so motivated following that result and that exciting string of competitions that we had last season.”

The Shibutanis were actually outscored by two-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates in the U.S. Championships free dance in January. They stormed back with that personal best at Four Continents, though, erasing any doubt that they are the U.S. couple expected to make the podium in Helsinki.

The U.S. has earned 12 ice dance medals at the last 12 World Championships. In that same span, the U.S. brought home eight medals combined from men’s, women’s and pairs.

The Shibutanis feel confident they will extend recent American success in their discipline.

They would also create more history for sibling skaters. They’re already the most accomplished brother-sister duo since Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay of France won three straight world medals followed by Olympic silver in Albertville.

“We really elevated the way that we compete and perform,” at Four Continents last month, Alex Shibutani said. “Our skating has reached another level.”

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