The Road to Gold, Part 2

by Jake Duhaime, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Evan Lysacek
Photo by Michelle Harvath

Lysacek sees 'Carmen' as ticket to Torino

(11/29/05) - 2005 World bronze medalist Evan Lysacek admits he doesn't know much about the role “Carmen” plays in skating history. Yet he knows that his new free skate now has an Olympic feel to it.

“I was trying to find something that sounded Olympic, and I think ‘Carmen' really, really does,” Lysacek told U.S. Figure Skating Online in mid-November.

Lysacek was only 2 when “The Battle of the Carmens” took place at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary between Katarina Witt of Germany and American Debi Thomas. While some fans may express disappointment in hearing “Carmen” once again in competition, it's still new as far as he's concerned.

“I've only been in the sport the last 10 years, and, yes, I've heard a lot of those comments,” said Lysacek, who appears on SKATING magazine's November cover. “It's so new to me. I'm in love with the music, and if I have the opportunity to expose this music to the world another time, then why not?”

Lysacek made the switch following his second-place performance at Smart Ones Skate America in Atlantic City, N.J., in late October. While Lysacek is a fan of the movie “Grease” and its music, he felt that the program didn't represent him the way he would have liked.

“I had a meeting with (coach) Frank (Carroll) the Tuesday after Skate America, and we made the decision (to change),” Lysacek said. “The old program was a lot of fun, but it just wasn't serving its purpose. It was something I really didn't feel represented me or my own realm of personality.”

Lysacek also admits that it's difficult to skate to something upbeat in competition.

“When you're in an intense competition with a lot of pressure and a lot on the line, you aren't feeling light and fun,” Lysacek said. “You want to get into an intense character, and the program didn't allow me to do that.”

Switching a program mid-season isn't uncommon. Stephanie Lambiel of Switzerland, for example, took a new program into last year's World Figure Skating Championships in Moscow and walked away with gold.

Evan Lysacek at the 2005 World Championships
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla
But previous success doesn't mean that making a switch isn't a risky move. For Lysacek, the switch in program means gambling a spot at the Grand Prix Final. A strong performance at this week's NHK Trophy in Japan could qualify him for the final, where he will have another chance to perform the program in front of judges. If he does not qualify, Lysacek will have to wait until possibly the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in January to compete in front of international judges again.

However, for Lysacek, this week's competition is more about the experience than qualifying for the Grand Prix Final.

“I think because this is only my second year on the senior circuit that I'm just trying to gain as much experience as possible,” he said. “I'd rather go out and take every risk knowing that I'd learn a lot more from it then not take any risks at all.”

Many skaters have noted how they've upgraded various elements of their preexisting programs to garner more points. Lysacek's choreographer, Lori Nichol, was instrumental in the development of the ISU judging system. This gives him what he feels is a distinct edge in maximizing his point totals with this new program.

“I would say that this program is being choreographed to be much more difficult than the one I already had,” Lysacek said. “I don't know many people who would know the scoring system any better then Lori. Having her on my side is like killing two birds with one stone.”

Lysacek also feels that there's an advantage to seeing what his opponents have done so far this season.

“Now I'm able to see what everyone else has done and say, ‘How am I going to beat that?' Technically, if I did my new program to the best of my ability, the scores would be higher than anything we've seen so far this season. It's all about execution at this point.”

In the end the move all comes down to the Olympic Winter Games. Lysacek is a medal hopeful who feels that his best shot comes skating to “Carmen,” both technically and emotionally.

“I might have stuck it out with ‘Grease' if this wasn't an Olympic year,” he said. “But right now I don't feel that there will be a great Olympic moment for me if I don't have any feelings for my program.”