Evan Lysacek

Evan Lysacek finds challenges away from skating in new setting

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NEW YORK — Figure skating serves a different purpose for Evan Lysacek now, in a new city, with a new career.

The 2010 Olympic champion said he’s skated a few times on rinks around New York since moving here and starting a real estate job in September.

“It’s the only time I have space from other people in the city,” he said of being on the ice.

Lysacek, 29, hasn’t competed since winning gold in Vancouver. He missed a chance to defend his title at the Sochi Olympics due to a hip injury. There’s no competitive skating in his foreseeable future. There’s no mention of retirement, either.

“I think it’s a little ridiculous to make these big, grand announcements,” Lysacek said at the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park in Manhattan on Tuesday, where he performed at the park’s rink.

The Chicagoland native who spent years training in Los Angeles is now in a line of work that he had thought about as far back as five years ago.

He’s still traveling on weekends for sponsor events and will continue to do Saturday and Sunday non-competitive shows with Stars on Ice next year.

Lysacek said it took him a year to fully heal from a torn labrum in his left hip, suffered from falling on a quadruple toe loop at Champs Camp, a U.S. preseason training camp, in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Aug. 21, 2013.

He went to Sochi anyway, as a spectator, and served as a special correspondent for TODAY. But Lysacek found unbearable pain watching the men’s figure skating competition in Russia.

“I left. I had to leave after [the men’s free skate],” said Lysacek, acting on a feeling that surfaced on the first night of the team competition eight nights earlier. “I was really upset by it, watching it. Watching the men’s competition and wanting so badly to be out there, it was just too soon for me to go and put myself through that.”

Lysacek went to St. Petersburg, Russia, and then to New York for sponsor appearances while the Olympics finished.

More recently, Lysacek returned to Chicago for Thanksgiving, with his father on his mind. Don Lysacek was in a city hospital with cancer in his brain, leukemia and melanoma.

“He’s up and down,” Lysacek said.

Lysacek’s agent since 2012, Shep Goldberg, died of pancreatic cancer on Nov. 11.

“We connected right away,” Lysacek said of Goldberg. “We just saw things the same way. … I deal with a lot more people now than I ever did with skating, because he protected me. But now I deal with many people. To see someone with that level of loyalty, ethics, honesty, just is amazing. He really lived his life with honor. It’s rare.”

Lysacek said he watched three of the six figure skating Grand Prix series events this season. He’s been most impressed by Gracie Gold, his former training partner in California.

“She’s sort of coming into her own,” Lysacek said of Gold, who announced Thursday she has a stress fracture in her left foot. “It is, as you know, a difficult year, post-Olympics. There’s some letdown there. It’s a very busy offseason, trying to tour and deal with sponsor obligations and photo shoots and this huge amount of attention. Just like that, it goes away, and you have to go back to this old life you once knew, pre-Olympic fame.”

Lysacek said men’s figure skating is “a big mess,” from what he’s seen this season.

“I’ve never seen so much falling in my life,” Lysacek said. “But I didn’t see all the events.”

Lysacek also said he doesn’t like a new rule allowing skaters to perform to music with vocal lyrics.

“I think that it’s strange, but I’m an old dog,” Lysacek said. “I knew the sport only as it was. I don’t really feel that it needed to have all this change. There’s so much change with the judging and everything.”

Lysacek is also filling his time with a new athletic passion — running. He said he logs up to 10 miles at a time in near-daily treadmill work.

“I’m psycho,” he said, adding he might want to run a half marathon.

The five-year anniversary of Lysacek’s last competitive skate will pass in two months. If the Vancouver Olympics prove to be his farewell, it will make Lysacek a rarity. An athlete whose final competition was his greatest moment, albeit it was followed by a groin injury, sports hernia surgery and that torn labrum.

“How lucky was I that [injuries] didn’t happen before Vancouver or Torino [in 2006],” Lysacek said. “I don’t know that I would want that to define my entire life, that moment. But I am very proud of the small, tiny, little part that my moment in Vancouver played in the Olympic movement.”

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Michael Johnson took Olympic mindset in stroke recovery

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Michael Johnson‘s first walk, reportedly three days after suffering a stroke in the summer, was 200 meters down a hospital corridor.

“It took about 15 minutes,” Johnson said in a BBC video, detailing his full recovery in recent interviews.

Johnson, who at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics swept the 200m (in a world-record 19.32 seconds) and the 400m, suffered what he called “a mini stroke” after a home workout in late August.

Johnson felt not pain but tingling leaving his home gym and underwent a 20-minute MRI. The 50-year-old, who worked out regularly and was in otherwise great physical shape, almost fell rising out of the machine.

“Couldn’t put any weight on left side, no longer could really move my left leg,” Johnson said in the BBC interview. “The numbness of my left arm, which was sort of mild at the beginning and up to that point, was really intense at that point. I couldn’t feel a lot of my arm. You immediately start to think about, what’s my life going to be like going forward?”

There was no immediate answer.

“You start to think about loved ones — is my wife going to have to take care of me for the rest of my life?” Johnson said, according to the Telegraph. “Am I going to be able to walk again? Am I going to be in a wheelchair? Am I going to be able to stand in the shower or go to the restroom alone? You’re forced to think about what your life might be like if that worse-case scenario is reality.”

He began physical therapy early the next week. After that first walk, the distance equivalent of a half-lap of the track that he owned in the 1990s, he told his wife, “I will make a full recovery, and I will make a full recovery faster than anyone has ever done it before,” according to the Telegraph.

Within two weeks, Johnson was backing that up. He tweeted a photo of himself on Sept. 13, his 51st birthday, grimacing while lifting a square-shaped weight with each hand. “Almost back to normal. No days off! Even today. My birthday!” the caption read.

On Sept. 27, Johnson tweeted that it had been grueling, but he relearned to walk and made a full recovery.

“Once I knew that I will make a full recovery, and once I started to believe that, it’s very similar to the type of situation that I experienced as an athlete training for the Olympic Games, then all of a sudden suffering a pulled hamstring,” said Johnson, who fell to the track in the 2000 Olympic Trials 200m final with an upper left leg injury, then won the 400m at his last Games in Sydney. “The reward, in this particular situation, was going to be even greater, was going to be able to walk again, regaining my mobility, regaining my independence.”

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Tatjana Hüfner, 2010 Olympic luge champion, to retire after this season

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Tatjana Hüfner, a 2010 Olympic luge champion and five-time world champion in singles, said she will retire after this season, according to German newspaper Bild.

Hüfner, 35, cited recent health problems, including back and leg injuries leading into her last Olympics in PyeongChang, where she finished fourth, missing a fourth straight medal by .69 of a second (Hüfner dropped from second place going into the last run). Plus breaking a rib in a training crash this preseason, plus suffering food poisoning, according to the report.

Hüfner, who reportedly said before February’s Olympics that they would be her final Games, has been arguably the most integral luger in Germany’s recent dominance in female sliding.

Her Olympic career began as a spectator at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, watching Sylke Otto lead a German medal sweep. Later, Hüfner would break Otto’s record with five world singles titles, plus join Otto on the podium at Torino 2006, earning bronze. Hüfner took gold in Vancouver, then silver behind the new leading woman, Natalie Geisenberger, in Sochi.

Huefner spent offseasons scaling European peaks such as Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, the Matterhorn, and the Sella in northern Italy.

This season’s world championships are in Winterberg, Germany, in January.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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