Olympic Gold Medalist Evan Lysacek Analyzes Life, His Future and Skating for Harlem

At the 2010 Winter Olympics, Evan Lysacek brought home the first gold medal in men’s figure skating, for the USA, in over 20 years. Now, a year later and a year older, 25 year old Lysacek is at a crossroads. He has been working nonstop and admits it’s time for a vacation.

However, vacation for the golden skater will not be an extravagant trip. Instead, it will be an opportunity for him to reflect on his future. What Evan presents us with in this CYInterview is soul searching self-analysis about his life. He ponders the question all people think about, at one time or another, “What’s next?”

Having put in six to 12 hours of training a day, in preparation for the biggest moment of his life, the gold medalist knows he missed out on all kinds of experiences. Evan feels his sacrifices were worth it, though. What he gave up paid off.

After the Olympics, Evan jumped into Dancing with the Stars, finishing second. Lysacek thinks his dancing was mediocre yet believes, perhaps, that the ABC show impacted his skating. He says he has kept in touch with everyone from DWTS. Participating in the show gave him an opportunity to experience a sense of family, particularly in light of individual figure skating being such a solitary sport.

His busy schedule has deprived Mr. Lysacek of the opportunity to fully enjoy his personal life.

Evan might be up in the air about many things in his future, but one thing is for sure – he plans on spending some of his time working for charity. For example, he will be at the Skating with the Stars Gala tonight in New York City, as they honor Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes. The event works to spread awareness for the organization, Figure Skating in Harlem. Since 1997, the nonprofit has helped over 1000 girls from the Big Apple strive to meet their potential. [more info here]

This CYInterview with Evan Lyaseck provides all of us with an example of candid introspection. You can read or listen to the entire interview below:

Listen to the Evan Lysacek CYInterview:

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Chris Yandek: You win an Olympic gold medal, you have a great showing on Dancing with the Stars. What now motivates you today?

Evan Lysacek: “Different things. One of them, which ties very closely in with the figure skating in Harlem is that on Monday is charity work. I think that a huge positive that’s come out of me having successful competitions as an athlete has been that, through the years it’s become less and less about personal victory and more about strengthening a platform for me to have a voice in the world and I could really talk about anything I wanted to and I’ve chosen to make my voice be heard and be recognized for some of the charities that I really care about and work very closely with. Figure Skating in Harlem is one that I probably care most about and am on the board of. Of course I don’t have the recognition or the platform of Angelina Jolie or George Clooney, but I can take every opportunity available to me to raise awareness for an organization like that.”

CY: So tell me a little bit more about Figure Skating in Harlem. This Monday night [April 4th] you’ll be honoring Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes. This organization has helped over 1000 girls through educational, artistic and fitness opportunities through the discipline of figure skating. Tell me a little about, more again about Figure Skating in Harlem.

EL: “Sure. I’ll just kind of put in layman’s terms, a little better. This woman, Sharon Cohen is a very good friend of mine. I don’t know if you know Sharon, but she was involved in skating and she started this program with her own two hands and basically wanted to find a way to take adolescent girls out of one of the worst school systems in the country, under performing and under par and put them in a program where they could learn through the values of skating how to manage their lives at a young age, teach them skills that they would need to succeed in anything that they choose to do.

It started small like most nonprofits and it grew rapidly because it did get a lot of attention from the skating community. It caught a lot of attention from some very influential people in Manhattan. One of them being Mr. Trump. Others being Tina and Terry Lundgren of Federated, who runs Macy’s and Bloomingdales, very involved and very supportive. Now there is a program that works like a well oiled machine. They have exceptional education. They have tutoring available to them if they ever feel even slightly that they’ve fallen behind. They have figure skating lessons as a group and as individuals, almost every day of the week and these girls are in shape, they’re focused, they’re motivated, they’re extremely hardworking.

Something that’s been instilled in them that maybe they would not have ordinarily had is confidence. They’re very confident and they’re starting to realize as they get to the middle of the program, which I would say is 12 years old or 13 years old, that they can do anything they want. A lot of the girls once they reach the high school level, not a lot, but some of them have gotten scholarships to the most elite private prep schools in Manhattan and they’re going on to finish their education there.”

CY: You are an Olympic gold medallist Evan and yeah you’re not George Clooney, you’re not Angelia Jolie, but you were the first Olympic Gold Medalist in 22 years [A Man from the USA that won Gold]. I wonder what that meant to you?

EL: “It meant a lot to me. I think I’ve gained perspective as the last year goes on. And in the figure skating world and this may be true in more sporting worlds than I even know, but as you come up in the sport, you lose the experience of true genuine honest reaction after a competition. You either expect to win, so when you do win, you’re relieved instead of excited and if you lose instead of being motivated, you’re embarrassed. So the emotions change a little bit. That only grew. Those feelings only grew as I progressed. The last couple years, I had so few genuine reactions to any event that I participated in.

The Olympics is a different, little bit different animal than any other event. I had thought going in it’s not about the placement. I put in the work that I could. I really don’t know what to expect. I wish that I did because I like to try and attempt to control situations as much as I can. It’s why I’m so superstitious, but I didn’t know what to expect. So I was genuine and honest in my reaction. That was just excitement. I felt like I was a kid again. Not many things can do that to me and give me that feeling. So I guess that’s how I felt about it right away, in the moment.

As it started to sink in, I felt a great deal of fulfillment. I think that is coming from, I can only speculate because I’m not a psychologist and sometimes I wish that I could take a step out of my own head to analyze it further, but I think that’s coming from the fact I sacrificed everything else in my life. I wanted so badly to go to school and I put that off. I wanted to have a normal social life. Like so many athletes I searched for balance between normalcy and between training and I never found it.

I always chose to sacrifice everything else for the sake of training and I was training maybe six hours a day or eight hours a day. The last couple of years I figured, oh God, if I’m not doing anything else, I might as well train 10 or 12 hours a day. I mine as well literally put all of my eggs in this basket. So the fact that it worked out appropriately was so fulfilling and in a way gave me justification for the way that I lived.”

CY: So then with that being said, what are your future plans?

EL: “It’s difficult for me to say at this point because I haven’t had any downtime to decompress and wipe the slate clean and see I guess and ask myself questions what do I want? What kind of life do I want to live? Where do I want to live? How long do I want my next goal to take? And I’ve been working quite a bit. This is my second tour actually since the Olympics and it’s been one year exactly. So this five month tour is quite time consuming. In the interim I went to Asia and I toured over there.

For the summer I did many sponsor appearances and speaking engagements and photo shoots and really occupied every ounce of my time for the last year, but I’m starting to get to the point now where I can actually say it. But it is hard for me to say, I need a vacation cause I’m not the type of person that enjoys downtime. I owe myself that time and even if I have to buy the time to sit still and just listen to what’s in my own head and kind of figure out what I want.”

CY: So with that being said, before we move on to everything else, where do you want to go on vacation?

EL: “Well, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an extravagant trip. It just needs to be a quiet place for me to sit down and explore my options.”

CY: There you go, moving forward, everybody of course saw you on Dancing with the Stars and all the success you had, what comes to mind from that and do you still keep in touch with Anna [Trebunskaya]?

EL: “I keep in touch with almost everyone from my cast, dancers and celebrities. For me, it was an extremely healthy experience because skating is a very individual sport and I had just finished a momentous occasion, experience, event is the word I’m looking for in my life and I went directly into the show literally the day that I landed from Vancouver. And I started to realize that almost everyone that was doing the show had just gone through something really huge, either a break up or a new change in their life. So we kind of needed each other as a cast. And of course it’s a TV show, of course it’s for entertainment. Of course it could be very cheesy at times.

But the bigger picture, which I don’t know whether or not this came across to the audience and why maybe that’s the reason that it was the most successful cast as far as ratings go, but we were very close to each other and with every minute that we were together, we just became closer and closer. We over time developed a support system for one another and we were each other’s support system. That’s what I take from it. I mean I take a support system and a new family from the show and of course I learned to dance in a very mediocre way. I wouldn’t consider myself an experienced or educated dancer, but I did have a very good time learning to do something new. But what I take most from the show is that support system from the other cast members.”

CY: Did Dancing with the Stars influence your skating in any way?

EL: “It may have. It may have opened my eyes in some ways to different genres. It also perhaps helped me perform and be less of a technical performer. I was criticized for a long time in skating that I was robotic and not fluid. My argument to that, not that I need to argue it, but that is a style that I appreciate and I like, the certain modernity that I appreciate in architecture and in clothing style and fashion and design. That’s a lot more difficult for people to understand. So I think maybe in some ways my own style made people think a little too much and dancing forced me out of that box and forced me to appeal to the masses and also to learn to do things very differently. Not just how I liked it or how I saw it.”

CY: I was told that you have a great sense of humor and are an uncle two times over. Tell me about that.

EL: “That’s true. I’m an uncle. I have a different sense of humor. Like I said, it’s not sometimes easy for everyone to understand, but my friends get it and laugh with me. I don’t know. I think sometimes people tell me this and I’ve started to think about it lately. They say I have an evasive personality and I maybe use my sense of humor sometimes to defer questions or defer real feelings that I have. So joking and telling jokes or making light of situations has kind of become a coping mechanism for me. But I still try to always be engaging with people and sometimes I’m distant. Sometimes I’m engaging, but distant, but I always try to be engaged in a conversation or even in a lunch with a friend when I have tons of things running through my mind I try to sit down with them and listen.”

CY: I think it’s interesting just to note that you’re going through this self discovery period for yourself and a lot of your fans wonder, is Evan happy, does Evan have a significant other? What is your message to your fans?

EL: “Well, right now, my lifestyle is not conducive to really sharing it. And I think in the world, I have this mix of balance between presence and absence. When I go to the events like the one on Monday for Figure Skating in Harlem, I’m very present. I’m there for one reason and I’m devoting all of my attention to basically raising awareness for that event. There will be press there. There will be other ice skaters. There will be other celebrities there. So we want to accomplish our goal.

That being said, I think without sounding, hopefully without sounding arrogant when I send a goal out into the world, I’m pretty good at strategizing and accomplishing it. So in a way I feel that in my life I jump from one goal to the next goal to the next goal to the next goal devoting all of my attention to the goal at hand and sometimes they’re very public. So that makes me feel like I said, that I have a presence in society and sometimes my goals are very private. So I feel that I am aloof in so many ways.

I disappear for days at a time and sometimes weeks from my friends and from my family. It’s just, I’m not, I hope I don’t sound like I’m complaining, but it is difficult. It’s difficult to then reenter society and turn on a TV and watch TMZ or watch even the news, watch Brian Williams at night and feel like I’m connected to stories that are happening and it takes me a few days to sort of reconnect with the world after I’ve just disappeared to accomplish a goal. That’s something that I don’t know if I can continue living that way. I have instilled that system of work in myself through work and competition, but I don’t know if I can continue like that. Right now I’m searching for the answer on a professional and personal level.”

CY: Good luck with finding out who you are, what you want to do with the rest of your life, and we wish you the best. Thank you for a very compelling conversation on analyzing where you currently are in your life. We really appreciate it.

EL: “I appreciate it as well. Thank you Chris.”

You can out all the information about tonight’s Skating with the Stars Gala and log on to the Figure Skating in Harlem website at http://www.figureskatinginharlem.org/events/skating-with-the-stars.php

Evan Lysaceck’s Official Twitter is at http://twitter.com/#!/EvanLysacek

His official website is at http://officialevanlysacek.com/

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