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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Yuzuru Hanyu tops Grand Prix Final short program

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu is well on his way to a record fourth straight Grand Prix Final title.

The Olympic champion landed two quadruple jumps while his closest rival, Spain’s Javier Fernandez, nearly fell twice in the short program in Marseille, France, on Thursday.

Hanyu tallied 106.53 points, the third-highest short program score under the decade-old scoring system, but said he wasn’t completely satisfied. Hanyu owns the five best short programs, all compiled in the last two seasons, with a best of 110.95.

“This program feels like a concert,” said Hanyu, who skated to Prince music in a purple outfit. “I consider this program cannot be completed without the audience.

“I feel this program has a lot more potential. I really wanted to improve my personal-best score here.”

Hanyu is trying to become the first singles skater to win four straight Grand Prix Finals in the event’s 22-year history.

He leads three-time Canadian world champion Patrick Chan by 6.77 points going into Saturday’s free skate. Chan’s clean short program included one quad and marked his first personal best in three years.

“The first good short program in a long time, internationally,” Chan said. “It didn’t feel any more special than any usual training day.”

Fernandez, who beat Hanyu at the last two world championships, nearly fell on a quad Salchow and a triple Axel and is in third, nearly 15 points back of Hanyu.

Fernandez was followed by Japan’s Shoma Uno and the two Americans, training partners Nathan Chen and Adam Rippon, in fifth and sixth in the six-skater field.

Chen, 17, fell on a quad flip and stepped out of a quad Lutz landing.

“I made two pretty big mistakes, so I’m a little bit upset about that,” Chen said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I was able to land the triple Axel, which I’m happy about because that’s always been my struggle jump.”

Rippon, 27, was the only skater to not attempt a quad.

“I’m trying the least amount of quads so my focus is to skate well overall,” Rippon said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I want to do my best and improve for the rest of the season.”

Chen and Rippon are the first American men in a Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual competition, since 2011.

The Grand Prix Final continues Friday with the short dance, pairs free skate and women’s short program (broadcast schedule here).

Earlier in pairs, Canadian world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford struggled to third place in the short program. Duhamel fell on a throw triple Axel.

Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead by 3.26 points going into Friday’s free skate.

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Men’s Short Program
1. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 106.53
2. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 99.76
3. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 91.76
4. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 86.82
5. Nathan Chen (USA) — 85.30
6. Adam Rippon (USA) — 83.93

Pairs Short Program
1. Yevgenia Tarasovana/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 78.60
2. Xiaoyu Yu/Hao Zhang (CHN) — 75.34
3. Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (CAN) — 71.44
4. Cheng Peng/Yang Jin (CHN) — 70.84
5. Natalya Zabiyako/Aleksander Enbert (RUS) — 65.79
6. Julianne Seguin/Charlie Bilodeau (CAN) — 60.86

IOC president wants life bans for Russian cheats

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 16: IOC President Thomas Bach closing remarks during the fourth day of the 21st ANOC General Assembly at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on November 16, 2016 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images for ANOC)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Russian athletes and officials who are proven to have been part of a doping “manipulation system” should be banned for life from the Olympics, IOC President Thomas Bach said Thursday.

Bach gave his personal view one day before Canadian investigator Richard McLaren publishes a final report into alleged state-backed cheating at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Proof of systematic doping would be “aggravated circumstances” to justify life bans, the IOC leader said at a news conference after a three-day executive board meeting.

“I would not like to see this person again at any Olympic Games in any function,” Bach said, noting that as an IOC disciplinary commission chairman he approved life bans for Austrian team members implicated in doping at the 2006 Turin Winter Games.

However, proving that individual athletes knew of systematic doping involving state agencies could be difficult.

McLaren, who was appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency in May, is expected to give more detail about cheating operations at the Sochi laboratory.

In his interim report in July, McLaren confirmed claims by former lab director Grigory Rodchenkov of a hole-in-the-wall swapping system aided by the FSB security agency to exchange athletes’ dirty urine samples for clean ones.

Earlier Thursday, the IOC member appointed to oversee disciplinary cases that arise from McLaren’s evidence acknowledged they could be tough to prove.

“Can you prove (athletes) were aware?” Denis Oswald, a Swiss lawyer, said on the sidelines of a sports law conference in Geneva.

“It is not that we would be scared to attack high level people in the Russian regime,” the Swiss lawyer said. “The question is more on the legal point of view. Can you punish athletes if they have done nothing and whether they were not aware of what was happening?”

Bach has also appointed a second IOC commission, headed by former Switzerland president Samuel Schmid, to evaluate if McLaren’s report and evidence proves a state-run doping system.

“And then based on that we will see if we can start cases against athletes,” Oswald said.

Meanwhile, United States lawmakers want Bach to attend a congressional committee hearing next Thursday to provide an update on sports’ fight against doping.

“Unfortunately I cannot attend there,” said Bach, adding that the IOC will “provide by other means all the information they may need.”

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