The end of Evan Lysacek‘s Olympic comeback leaves a gaping hole for U.S. men’s figure skaters to attempt to fill.
Lysacek is an Olympic and world champion with five Four Continents Championships medals and two Grand Prix Final medals.
No other active U.S. men’s skater has finished better than fifth at an Olympics or World Championships. Without Lysacek, the U.S. qualified two men’s skaters for the Sochi Olympics at the World Championships in March.
That’s the first time the U.S. hasn’t qualified the maximum three men since the 1998 Olympics.
Lysacek’s absence should be bittersweet news for the top U.S. men heading into the U.S. Championships in Boston from Jan. 10-12. The two-man U.S. Olympic Team will be named after the competition.
There will be one fewer opponent for those precious berths, but reigning U.S. champion Max Aaron said he was disappointed not to be able to compete against Lysacek.
“Even here, sitting next to him in the locker room I’m like, ‘Oh my god it’s Evan,'” Aaron said at the Tribute To American Legends Of The Ice in East Rutherford, N.J., on Wednesday. Lysacek, who suffered a torn labrum in his hip four months ago, made an appearance at the event.
“It’s still going to be a great event [the U.S. Championships], and the field is stacked,” Aaron said. “It’s anyone’s game.”
Aaron knows well how unpredictable it could be in Boston. He went from eighth at the 2012 U.S. Championships to winning the title in January. Aaron, 21, was fourth after the short program but leapt to first with two quadruple jumps in his free skate in Omaha, Neb.
He’s not going to change his mindset defending his title now that Lysacek is out of the picture.
“I don’t look at the other men and say he’s doing this or that guy is doing that,” Aaron said. “I look at my capabilities and what I can do and try and perform that.”
Aaron is one of seven U.S. men who competed in Grand Prix events this season. Two men from that group are expected to comprise the Olympic team.
It also includes 2010 Olympian Jeremy Abbott, 2013 U.S. silver medalist Ross Miner, 2011 U.S. silver medalist Richard Dornbush, 2013 world junior gold and silver medalists Josh Farris and Jason Brown and 2012 U.S. silver medalist Adam Rippon.
Brown and Rippon had the highest scores in the Grand Prix season.
“My game plan hasn’t changed,” Rippon said. “I’ve enjoyed training with Evan here and there since we’re both in Southern California and we run into each other. I’m still going to go out there and do everything that I can to skate my very best.”