vancouver olympics 2010

Ten years later, Queen Yuna’s iconic crown glitters with transcendent brilliance

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How could a 19-year-old woman achieve perfection while bearing an entire nation’s hopes and the baggage of its past, while 50 million South Koreans stood on her shoulders as she tried to stay upright while doing triple jumps on a slippery surface with knife-thin blades?

That is what Yuna Kim did 10 years ago on this date, lifting spirits in her homeland and elevating herself into a singular place in Olympic history by winning the women’s figure skating title at the 2010 Winter Games.

How? Even Kim still marvels over that, as she said in an email interview done this month through her management company. Even now, the moment confounds her, brings back the nervousness she had in Vancouver and, as it did then, makes her teary-eyed because she feels overwhelmed.

“I always wonder how I did it, and every time I watch, it doesn’t seem real,” she said.

She had not only won South Korea’s first Olympic figure skating gold medal but had beaten an exceptionally talented Japanese rival for it, a fact of no small consequence given the complicated history of relations between Japan and South Korea for five centuries. Sports competitions between the two countries had always been freighted with nationalistic implications.

What skater before Kim ever had to deal with circumstances of such significance? The pressure was so great even Kim did not fully realize its magnitude after breaking into tears when she finished a free skate of transcendent brilliance that brought her immortality in South Korea.

“I honestly don’t know why I cried,” she said that night. “Maybe I was relieved, maybe I was satisfied with my performance.”

Ten years later, Kim seemed to have a full sense of the burden she had overcome.

“I think it was more out of relief than joy,” Kim said to a question about the meaning of the tears. “I’d been pretending to be fearless, but I think the moment the program was over, the pressure that had built up inside me came bursting out.”

I’d been pretending to be fearless, but I think the moment the program was over, the pressure that had built up inside me came bursting out.

The four minutes of skating that immediately preceded the tears were simply magnificent. Having also won the short program, Kim beat Japan’s Mao Asada for the gold by 23.06 points, the largest margin in women’s singles at the four Olympics and the 15 world championships scored under the International Judging System.

This is how I described it for the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times:

“Skating a stunningly difficult program without an error, floating like a feather in the wind to the airy, jazzy rhythms of Gershwin’s Concerto in F, unflinchingly bearing the weight of her country’s hopes, Kim crushed her rivals with a performance for the ages.”

Brian Orser, her coach from Kim’s senior-level debut in 2006 through the 2010 World Championships, got an understanding of how tremendous that weight would become when he directed the ice shows in South Korea that Kim headlined in the spring of 2008 and 2009 – especially 2009, when she had won South Korea’s first figure skating world title.

Orser probably understood it better than anyone, having gone into the 1988 Calgary Olympics as the reigning world champion and his country’s top hope for gold at the first Winter Olympics in Canada. He felt he owed Canada an apology after finishing second to Brian Boitano of the United States.

Orser’s coaching colleague, Tracy Wilson, had a similar grasp of Kim’s situation, since she and ice dance partner Robert McCall were expected to win Canada’s first Olympic medal in that discipline in Calgary – which they did, a bronze.

“There were training days with tears from Yuna in the Olympic season,” Orser said last week. “The one thing both Tracy and I could tell her was, ‘We know what you are going through because we have been there.’ I think she kind of took comfort in that.”

David Wilson, who has been Kim’s choreographer for 14 years, saw the pressure taking its toll at a practice a year earlier, before her first event of the 2008 Grand Prix season, which she began as a two-time world bronze medalist. She had been struggling for a few days before he went to observe her, and on that day, she was frustrated and angry to the point of despair over her imperfections.

“I told her you need to find a reason for why you are skating other than winning,” Wilson recalled a few days ago. “You need to have a deep desire for skating that will be a buffer to all the pressure and expectations.”

Kim had taken a form of that approach during my lengthy interview with her in Toronto two months before the 2010 Olympics.

“Competing or winning competitions, it’s not for my country, it’s for me,” she said then. “I’m doing it for myself, not to win awards for Koreans. I am not skating just to win gold. I am skating for skating.”

But Kim also said in that interview she thought her flawed skating at both 2009 Skate America (second in the free, with a fall and three under-rotated jumps) and the Grand Prix Final (second in the short, with one under-rotated jump and a popped triple) might tamp down some of the expectations. “Now they know I couldn’t be perfect every time,” she said.

If only.

By the 2010 Olympics, Kim’s image was everywhere in South Korea. She had sponsorship deals with five of the country’s major companies. Those contracts were so lucrative that Forbes would rank her fifth on its 2010 list of the highest paid women athletes in the world, with earnings of $9.7 million in the magazine’s calculation period, June 2009 to June 2010. South Koreans called her “Queen Yuna.”

A major Korean newspaper had named her the country’s “person of the year” in 2008 and 2009. Respondents to a Gallup poll chose her as South Korea’s top athlete for each of the three years before Vancouver. Kim was training in Canada to avoid constant attention from South Korean media, but she could not escape the sense that what she did at the 2010 Olympics was not just about her.

That came through in her answer to the question in the email interview of whether she had been able to maintain her mantra of not skating only to win gold for South Korea.

“It’s true that I represent my country, but skating for my country is too much of a burden,” she said. “Before the Olympics, I had to skate for myself first and foremost.

“But the Olympics were definitely different. As an athlete representing Korea, there was pressure to give my country the gift of a gold medal. To free myself from the pressure, I remember concentrating on myself and confronting the feeling that I could fail as a human being. In the end, that’s what led me to the gold medal.”

That tactic clearly was effective. Orser knew it was working from the minute he and Kim arrived in Vancouver three days before the women’s singles event began.

“As soon as we got off the plane, I knew she was going to win,” Orser said. “At that point, it was like she took complete control of what was happening. You could see it in her demeanor and calmness. It was an ‘I’ve got this’ kind of attitude. The whole week (practices and competition) was just perfection.”

You could see it in her demeanor and calmness. It was an ‘I’ve got this’ kind of attitude.

Kim decided she did not want to stay in the Olympic Village, so she and her mother, Park Mee-Hee, plus Orser and David Wilson opted for a low-frills hotel in Coquitlam, about 12 miles southeast of the arena. (Tracy Wilson, an NBC commentator at the Games, stayed at a downtown Vancouver hotel.)

For David Wilson, it would be the first time accompanying Kim at a competition – and the first Olympics he had attended.

“We were trying to keep things normal,” David Wilson said. “I tried to keep her laughing and break the ice whenever it was needed.”

David Wilson did not have a coaching credential for the Olympics, so he sat in the stands with Kim’s mother during the competition. The stress of watching from there was enormous.

“Every time she jumped, I was praying to my [late] mother in heaven to keep her upright,” David Wilson said. “I was too rattled to enjoy it. I had to watch it later to really appreciate it, and then I marveled at what she was able to do. I don’t know how she was able to make it look so easy and be so composed.”

Kim’s sassy, technically virtuosic short program to a James Bond medley brought a record score (78.50) and a lead of 4.72 over 2008 world champion Asada, who had landed the first triple Axel in an Olympic short program. Kim was even better in the free, nailing six triple jumps, including triple Lutz-triple toe and double Axel-triple toe combinations and getting a score more than 16 points higher than the record she had set three months earlier (a stunning 12 percent improvement).

“I succeeded at each of the individual elements during my program and once [my] skating was over, my gut told me I was going to win,” Kim said via email. “That was the only time I ever burst into tears after a performance. It was a whirlwind of emotions.”

That Asada made more history by landing two triple Axels in the free became irrelevant. Even had she not made mistakes on lesser jumps, Asada would not have challenged Kim, who was happiest about having done clean programs to win the title.

“She has jaw-dropping magnificence,” 1976 Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill told me when asked to assess Kim a day after the 2010 free skate. “The height of her jumps, the power, and the fluid beauty of her skating are like magic.”

In South Korea, the stock market ground to a near halt when Kim skated (time difference put it in the afternoon of the following day). The clamor to see the woman who made that magic was so intense she and Orser almost immediately flew to Seoul to meet the country’s president at his official residence, the Blue House.

Eighteen hours later, they were on their way back to Toronto to prepare for the world championships in Turin, Italy. Kim, emotionally exhausted after the Olympics, staggered to seventh in the short program there before rallying to win the free skate and finish second to Asada.

The 2010 worlds would be Kim’s last competition with Orser as her coach. For reasons neither she nor her management team at the time ever chose to make public, Kim split with Orser in August 2010. She posted comments on Twitter and her web site accusing Orser of lying about the way the decision to leave was handled after he had made it public.

Orser said he and Kim have had no real interaction since then.

“That kind of makes me sad,” Orser said.

Orser, Olympic silver medalist in 1984 and 1988, had just begun his coaching career when Kim came to him, and he worried that her departure would make some people think the success with her was a one-off. But he has gone on to coach Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan to two Olympic titles and Javier Fernandez of Spain to two world titles.

Orser had been so respected in South Korea he was made an honorary citizen on Seoul in 2010. He currently coaches the country’s top man, Cha Jun-Hwan.

“It was a fantastic ride,” Orser said of his years with Kim.

Peter Oppegard of the United States, a 1988 Olympic pairs bronze medalist, took over as Kim’s coach for the 2010-11 season, in which her lone international competition was the world championships. She finished second to Japan’s Miki Ando.

Kim would take the next season off before returning to competition in December 2012 with the next Olympics as her goal. Working with her childhood coaches in South Korea, she delivered two exceptional performances to win 2013 Worlds by the largest margin (20.42) in the event’s IJS history and immediately became a favorite for gold at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

“Deciding to make a comeback after winning the Olympics and preparing for competition again following a long break was tough, but I felt less pressure because I was less desperate to win,” Kim said.

The outcome in Sochi will forever be controversial.

Kim won the short program by a whisker over surprising Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, who had been ninth at the 2013 worlds. Sotnikova took gold by building a nearly six-point lead over Kim on technical scores in the free skate and giving back less than a tenth of a point on component scores. Sotnikova’s PCS was nearly nine points higher than her average in four previous competitions that season.

That one judge on the free skate panel was Alla Shekhovsteva, wife of the former president of the Russian Figure Skating Federation, and another judge on that panel, Yuri Balkov of Ukraine, had been suspended for his role in prejudging an event led to Internet outrage. It was magnified when a Korean TV station posted a screenshot of Shekhovtseva hugging Sotnikova backstage after the event.

Sotnikova and Kim on the ice in Sochi. Getty Images

Two months later, the Korean Skating Union filed complaints with the International Skating Union, citing the makeup of the judging panel and the hug. Both complaints were dismissed.

Kim had declined to comment on the result at the press conference after the event. Asked in the recent email interview if she felt any disappointment or anger now over the result, she said her feelings had not changed.

“I already became the Olympic champion, and at that time (2014) winning was not my only goal,” she said. “It was my last competition, and it was a long, hard journey to be there. I was just so happy to finish it.”

Six years later, 10 years after winning gold, Kim remains a revered – and highly paid – figure in South Korea. She also remains very protective about her private life, with infrequent Instagram posts and nothing on Twitter since 2018.

Kim’s mother capitalized on her daughter’s Olympic triumph to create their own management company, All That Sports, in spring 2010. From 2010 through 2014, according to Forbes’ figures, Kim earned about $60 million. She currently has an annual income estimated at $5 million and seven major sponsors – KB financial group, SK telecom Dongsuh foods, E1 oil and energy, J.estina (jewelry), New Balance (athletic wear) and Samsung.

“When I started figure skating, I never imagined I would receive so much attention and encouragement,” she said in the email. “Even after several years of retirement, I’m unbelievably thankful that people still remember.”

Kim had a significant role in helping provide what PyeongChang 2018 bid consultant Terrence Burns called “athlete credibility” during presentations near the end of Korea’s successful 2018 Winter Olympics campaign for International Olympic Committee votes. At 29, she remains such a national icon that the Korean edition of Harper’s Bazaar put her on the cover of its November 2019 issue. The magazine’s simple but evocative headline for the photo: “The Queen.”

Yuna Kim on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar
Yuna Kim on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. Courtesy of All That Sports

Her ice show, All That Skate, has been an annual attraction in Seoul, with last year’s edition featuring world champions from all four of the sport’s disciplines. She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador who has made personal donations of “about $1 million” to the United Nations agency’s global relief efforts, according to a representative of her management company. The latest is $50,000 to the fund-raising effort her fan club is doing for UNICEF in celebration of the gold medal anniversary.

Korean TV editor Han Sung Yun said he considers Kim the second greatest athlete in their country’s history, behind only Sohn Kee-Chung.

Sohn won the 1936 Olympic marathon as Kitei Son of Japan, forced to bear the name and wear the colors of Korea’s colonial master at the time.

It was not until 2011, nine years after his death and 23 years after he carried the torch into the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, that the IOC biography of Kitei Son was amended to include the runner’s full back story. His medal still is attributed to Japan.

“Sohn’s gold medal is a symbol of Korean pride,” Han wrote in an email. “Yuna is next to Sohn.”

Significant circumstances, indeed. And the two champions also are linked by the quality of their triumphs: Sohn’s winning time was an Olympic record, and Kim’s winning total score a world best that lasted seven years.

“Yuna’s Olympic performances rank right up there among the greatest ever,” Orser said. “Even more, just look what she did for women in Korea. The thousands of little girls skating in Korea now were two or three years old in 2010.”

In 2003, when Kim won her first national title, there were eight competitors in senior women’s singles at the South Korean Championships. This year, there were 32 (plus 24 in juniors), with the first nine senior finishers all succeeding on the difficult triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination in the free skate.

The current national champion, 15-year-old You Young, just did triple Axels while winning the silver medal at the Four Continents Championship, making her the first Korean to win a medal at an ISU championship since Kim in 2013. Kim would present her and the other medalists with stuffed animals during the awards ceremony.

“I always wanted to be like Yuna,” You told the Olympic Channel four years ago. “That was why I became a figure skater.”

At 11, You won her first senior national title. Kim was 12 when she won her first.

At 13, You was first to carry the flame in South Korea during the torch relay leading to the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Games. Last in that relay was Kim.

YUNA KIM
Yuna Kim during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Getty Images.

Dressed in all white, with beading on her coatdress and hat sparkling, Kim skated on a tiny patch of a platform high above the stadium in PyeongChang as she performed the ritual of lighting the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony. She did a brief spin before being handed the torch, gave a few shy waves, then glided over to dip the torch into what looked like glowing shards of ice.

“I was worried I might make a mistake like not lighting the torch properly or falling over,” she said.

She need not have worried. With skates on her feet, Yuna Kim was Queen Yuna, firmly in command of her realm with the world watching. Like her 2010 Olympic performances, this one was magic.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

MORE: Evan Lysacek, 10 years removed from Olympic victory in Vancouver, reflects on his changed life

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Evan Lysacek, 10 years removed from Olympic victory in Vancouver, reflects on his changed life

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Last month, when Evan Lysacek was speaking to students in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in his role as a sports envoy for the U.S. Department of State, the presentation included a showing of his figure skating short program and free skate from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Lysacek rarely skates these days. He last did something that could be called a public performance when Ice Theatre of New York honored him in October 2016. With an ankle ligament still sore from a misstep injury that threatened to have him in a cast for his wedding last Dec. 14, he shuffled briefly around the ice while working with skaters in Malaysia.

That detachment from the sport has made it difficult for him to believe what he was seeing in the video of the greatest performances of his career.

“It’s surreal to watch,” Lysacek said. “When I think of what it took to get there, I think, ‘How did I ever do that?’”

Lysacek, 34, was speaking by phone from Bangkok, Thailand, where he will be living about half the year while he and wife of three months, Duangpatra “Dang” Bodiratnangkura, work together on a real estate development project outside Bangkok. Most of the other half will be spent in Los Angeles, where they are about to start another real estate project.

Evan Lysacek wedding photos
Duangpatra Bodiratnangkura and Evan Lysacek’s December wedding at Nai Lert Park Heritage Home in Bangkok. Courtesy: Evan Lysacek

The physical distance from his landmark achievement as an athlete and from all the rinks in the United States where he trained on that journey seems to add to Lysacek’s disconnect from images of his winning the men’s figure skating gold medal on this date 10 years ago at the Pacific Coliseum on the east side of Vancouver.

When his mind travels back to Feb. 18, 2010 in Vancouver, it conjures up the joy of a success both shared and personal, evokes pride both individual and national, recalls long days of lonely practices in frigid, nondescript rinks and refocuses on the disappointments and failures that preceded his seven minutes, 20 seconds of glory with the world watching. His most vivid memories are of the things that came to him during the awards ceremony, with the rising flag and the sound of the National Anthem as a music video in the background.

“To have my whole crazy life justified by winning the gold medal is still an incredible feeling that is hard to put into words,” he said.

It is the only Olympic singles gold for a U.S. man since Brian Boitano in 1988. It was a once-in-a-lifetime gold for not only the skater but also for his renowned coach, Frank Carroll, who had resigned himself to having his six-decade coaching career end without one of his many celebrated skaters winning one. Lysacek trained under Carroll for 12 years.

“I remember every time someone would mention the Olympics around Frank, they would say, ‘Do you think you are going to get it? Will you retire it you get it?’” Lysacek said. “The first thing that went through my mind when I realized I had won was, ‘Frank got it.’”

When Carroll finally did retire, not long after his 80th birthday in July 2018, he said Lysacek’s gold medal was “was basically a complete, utter, delightful shock.”

But no one ever had been better prepared mentally, physically and strategically to pull it off than Lysacek, even if it took him longer than many recent Olympic champions to have all the pieces fit into place.

He would finish 12th, 12th, 7th and 5th at his first four U.S. Championships as a senior. Once Lysacek made the podium for the first time at nationals with a bronze medal in 2005, he would finish off the podium just twice in his final 25 competitions – a fourth at the 2006 Olympics, when he let a medal slip away with uncharacteristic short program mistakes, and a fifth at the 2007 worlds.

Lysacek won medals at his last 15 competitions. His three world medals are the most by any U.S. man since Todd Eldredge won a sixth in 2001. He was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2016.

“What I liked most about skating was competing,” Lysacek said. “I’m not ashamed to say I liked to win and hated to lose.”

That is why his performance at the 2009 U.S. Championships was galling, unnerving and a catalyst for what followed.

After winning the two previous U.S. titles, Lysacek staggered into third overall in 2009 with a fourth in the free skate. Judges gave him a myriad of reasons for his poor scores. At a loss to sort through the criticisms, he called Tatiana Tarasova, the Russian coaching legend who had choreographed his 2009 programs.

“At the time, all I could think was, “It’s only a year from the Olympics, and I’m not ready. What do I do?’” Lysacek recalled.

Tarasova’s advice? Don’t worry about what anyone on the outside is saying but seek some answers from Lori Nichol, who had choreographed his programs the year before and would do so again in the Olympic season.

“It was very big of Lori to welcome me back with open arms,” Lysacek said. “We spent two weeks together, with her reminding me of basic things – be faster, hold your landings longer, strengthen your positions. It was what I needed to hear. That was a real turning point.”

Two months after his disappointment over nationals, Lysacek won the world title, becoming the first U.S. man to do that in the 13 years since Eldredge’s 1996 triumph.

But one week before the 2009 worlds, the reigning Olympic champion, Yevgeny Plushenko of Russia, announced he had resumed training with his longtime coach, Alexei Mishin, with the intention of ending his three-year break from competition in the 2010 Olympic season.

Plushenko and Lysacek would have the leading roles in what became part drama, part soap opera, and part hissing match in Vancouver. The key element in the plot was a quadruple jump.

The redoubtable Plushenko, 27 years old at the 2010 Olympics, returned to competition at the 2009 Grand Prix of Russia and followed that with impressive victories at the Russian and European Championships. Lysacek, then 24, was a distant second (third in the free skate) to a flawless Jeremy Abbott at the 2010 U.S. Championships.

The Russians sensed that Lysacek, as 2009 world champion, was more of a threat to Plushenko at the Olympics than Abbott, who had finished 11th at both the 2008 and 2009 worlds. So Mishin and Plushenko began a lobbying campaign in the press, deriding men like Lysacek who did not do a quadruple jump.

Retorted Carroll: “He (Plushenko) is doing a 6.0 (old judging system) program. He is not getting the bullet points and difficulty of the new system. I am not impressed.”

That controversy took on another dimension when the French sports newspaper, L’Equipe, revealed that longtime international judge Joe Inman of the United States had emailed some other judges questioning what Inman felt were overly generous scores for Plushenko at Europeans in the “transitions / linking footwork” component score category. Even though Inman was not judging in Vancouver, his email looked like backroom lobbying in a sport famous for that.

Neither Lysacek nor Carroll let the quad brouhaha affect their plans for the jump content in Lysacek’s Olympic programs. There would be no quad. Lysacek landed a quad toe loop at the 2007 nationals but struggled with the jump repeatedly after that, eschewing it altogether in winning worlds.

“In 20 years of competing, I don’t think I ever competed in a field where I would say I was the best skater, but I never doubted I could win,” Lysacek said. “To me, sport was about strategy, and I would think I could use it as a way to beat everybody.

“At the time, the quad was high risk for me, and it wasn’t a risk I felt was worthwhile. I believed I could accumulate enough points elsewhere.

“Of course, that was a gamble. I could have made mistakes on other things, and then the whole plan would be completely foiled.”

In the short program, neither Lysacek, whose toughest jump was a triple Axel, nor Plushenko, who landed a quad toe-triple toe combination, made a mistake. Plushenko (90.85 points) won it by just .55 because Lysacek had a 2.25 margin in component scores, more than half of that difference from the transitions / linking footwork category, where two judges gave the Russian only 5.0.

That would make the results of the free skate two days later seem especially ironic and satisfying to Lysacek.

Skating to excerpts from Russian composer Rimsky–Korsakov’s “Scheherazade,” Lysacek was first to perform in the final group of six. He made minor errors on two jump landings but did a seamless interpretation of the music, with three exceptionally strong spins.

When he finished, Lysacek did five double fist pumps above his head, celebrating having skated to his full capacity, no matter the outcome.

Evan Lysacek
Lysacek on ice in Vancouver with his gold medal.

Then he had to wait, as Plushenko was the event’s last skater. Lysacek finished nearly 50 minutes before the Russian’s scores were announced.

“The time went really quickly,” Lysacek remembered. “I did the mixed zone (interviews) during the first couple skaters after me. Then I sat (backstage) and watched Yevgeny skate.”

He saw a Plushenko who did another quad-triple in a typically Russian men’s program – all the hard stuff at the beginning, missing out on second-half bonus points. Lysacek did five of his eight jumping passes in the bonus period, Plushenko just three of his eight. Plushenko, skating to “Tango of Love” by Edvin Marton, filled time with posing, hip swivels and pelvic gyrations.

Plushenko gave away 1.26 points in technical scores to Lysacek on spins and .9 on footwork – but less (.7) than in the short for PCS transitions / footwork. Lysacek won the free skate by 1.86 and the gold by 1.31 – 257.67 to 256.36, the smallest margin between men’s gold and silver in the four Olympics scored and judged with the new system.

The way it broke down would be especially rewarding to Lysacek. He lost just .3 to Plushenko on free skate jumps. His winning margin had come from the technical scores in the free skate; the component scores were tied.

“It justified my strategy,” Lysacek said. “I extracted as many points as I could from the technical side of that program.”

When the results appeared on the monitor Lysacek was watching, his reaction developed in stages. First came a smile. Then a broad laugh. Then he briefly jumped up and down with Nichol and hugged Carroll while registering disbelief by saying, “No way.” Then the Chinese pairs gold medalists, Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, whose programs Nichol also had choreographed, gave Lysacek a hug.

Plushenko’s reaction would not be gracious. “If the Olympic champion doesn’t know how to jump quad, it’s not men’s figure skating; it’s dancing,” he said.

Lysacek took the high road in his national TV appearances a day later, relentlessly praising Plushenko for having the guts to make his comeback and for the quality of his skating. But Lysacek had admitted to me a couple hours after the free he was saddened by Plushenko’s reaction, and he expanded on that late the next afternoon.

“I guess I was a little disappointed that someone that was my role model would take a hit at me in probably one of the most special moments of my life, that I will never forget, regardless of what anyone says,” Lysacek told me at that time.

In the years since, Lysacek has seen Plushenko only a few times.

“He was always very civil,” Lysacek said, “but we never really talked about anything. There was no reason to reignite an old argument.”

Plushenko would go on to compete at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. He won gold in the new team event, giving him medals in all four Olympics in which he competed, but he withdrew from the singles event with a back injury just before the short program.

Lysacek never competed again.

“My life changed right away,” he said. “My focus for 20 years before the 2010 Olympics was very singular and linear. You had good days or bad days, you performed well or performed poorly, very black or white. After winning, my life got a lot more gray.”

Lysacek went on Dancing with the Stars in the spring following the Olympics, finishing second. He toured with Stars on Ice in 2010 and 2011. He was named a sports envoy in 2012. His intention was to seek a spot on the 2014 Olympic team, but persistent injuries forced him to abandon that goal in December 2013.

Lysacek went to Sochi for one of his sponsors, did some work for the Today show and learned quickly he was, by his own admission, “not good at TV.”

“After that, I dove right into a whole other life,” Lysacek said.

Evan Lysacek in Osaka
Evan Lysacek in Osaka. Photo credit: US Consulate General Osaka-Kobe

He moved from Los Angeles to New York to work for a real estate development company but left that job in 2015 for a final go-around with Stars on Ice. When that tour ended, he joined the Vera Wang Group, spending four years doing licensing and marketing for the famous designer, a former figure skater who has created competition costumes for many of the sport’s biggest names over the past quarter-century.

Late in 2018, Lysacek renewed acquaintances with a woman he had met seven years earlier, a woman whom a couple of Lysacek’s friends in Los Angeles had predicted would be his wife when the friends had first met her at an early 2011 dinner in Bangkok.

Their relationship remained largely dormant as each pursued busy careers: he in New York, she as a real estate developer in Los Angeles, Bangkok and London.

“The timing never was right,” Lysacek said.

That changed when 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan was murdered in July 2018 in his hometown of Almaty, Kazakhstan. Lysacek and Ten had trained together under Carroll.

Ten’s death left Lysacek so at sea he began wondering whom he would regret not telling how much he cared about them. He realized Dang was one of those people and flew to Los Angeles to say that in person.

After he went back New York, she texted him to ask if he thought the relationship would work if they were together. Lysacek replied that he had thought about that all the time. She came to New York for much of the next year. They were engaged in April 2019 and married seven months later with lavish festivities in Bangkok.

Evan Lysacek wedding photos
Duangpatra Bodiratnangkura and Evan Lysacek’s December wedding at Nai Lert Park Heritage Home in Bangkok. Courtesy: Evan Lysacek

Lysacek has been out of the United States since last June. When he and his wife return in late February to their house in Beverly Hills, he hopes to find time to skate more regularly.

He spent the 10th anniversary of his Olympic triumph at a considerable geographic remove from where it happened, doing a sports envoy appearance at the Naniwa Ice Rink in Osaka, Japan. He worked with skaters and talked to a general audience of students, emphasizing how to set goals.

Tuesday’s presentation happened to be called, “Go for Gold!” Yet he and his sport have moved on.

“For a while after winning the gold medal, everyone recognized me, and that was fun,” Lysacek said. “Then my life went back to what it always was.

“I wouldn’t expect anyone 10 years later to remember what I did, especially because it’s such a young athletes’ sport. If anyone did, I hope they would say I represented the sport and the country well.”

In Osaka, as in the other places where Lysacek represents the State Department, they will undoubtedly show some video of his 2010 triumph.

It will make him realize again how such a personal moment can have such far-reaching resonance because of the Olympics’ global impact and because of the common language of sport. It will make him marvel again at how he did it and at how the kid who grew up in a largely homogenous Chicago suburb has become a man of, and for, the world at large.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

MORE: In figure skating, a radical proposal to reshape the sport

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Vancouver Olympics declared debt-free

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The Closing Ceremony for the Vancouver Olympics took place on February 28th, 2010, but only now can those Games be officially declared over.

The Vancouver Operating Committee (VANOC) has published its final report on the finances and operations of the 2010 Winter Olympics, showing that they broke even on the operating budget of CAD 1.9 billion (approximately USD $1.8 billion).

The report stated that the Canadian federal government, the British Columbia government and the International Olympic Committee all assisted in covering the tab. Contributions from ticket sales and licensing and merchandising also helped put the Vancouver Olympics in the black.

The CEO of VANOC, John Furlong, told CBC News:

We made commitments in the name of the country, we made commitments to the IOC and we made commitments to the Canadian public that we would deliver the Games in the black and so we set out to do that.

I look at our situation and think we are a very good model of how to do these events. This is, to me, very good for the Canada brand of being reliable, being trustworthy, keeping your promises, being on time and on budget, being responsible about the things that really matter to the public.

In other Vancouver legacy news, the full-size costumes of the mascots Quatchi, Miga and Sumi have been removed from display at the Museum of Vancouver, reports The Province. Fans off the cuddly sasquatch, sea bear and animal guardian spirit will not be able to see the set at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, either, as the costumes are also in storage there. A third set of costumes is at the IOC in Switzerland.

source: Getty Images
From left: Sumi, Miga and Quatchi

Maureen Douglas, who headed the mascot program during the Vancouver Olympics, said that most of the mascot costumes didn’t survive past the Games.

We had 20 sets of mascot costumes (Quatchi, Miga and Sumi in each set), and most of those (less the three sets for museum/archive purposes) were destroyed shortly after the Games to guard against inappropriate use, ambush marketing and other such concerns.

Spokespeople for both the Museum of Vancouver and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame said the mascots would return to display in the future.