Is Dancing with the Stars' Mirrorball trophy more prestigious than an Olympic gold medal? "It's hard to say. Olympic gold has been my goal for my whole life," newly crowned Olympic champion Evan Lysacek tells TVGuide.com. "But the Mirrorball is very prestigious. I first came into this saying, 'I just want to have fun. I really want to learn to dance because I think it can help my skating.' But as I started rehearsing and the competitive fire is going, I want to win." History is on the figure skater's side: Fellow Olympic gold medalists Shawn Johnson, Apolo Anton Ohno and Kristi Yamaguchi have all won Dancing. Lysacek thinks he has his work cut out for him. "I'm not graceful at all, so it's going to be hard, but I'm ready to put in the time," he says. See what else he has to say about his Dancing experience so far, why he thought his partner would resent him and more.
TVGuide.com: Is learning to dance your way of unwinding after the Olympics?
Evan Lysacek: [Laughs] The Olympics were so amazing and it's sad to see it end, but I'm happy to have a new challenge. My schedule was pretty full after the Olympics, so I didn't think I could make this work. I first started watching when Apolo was on, but I really got into it when Kristi was on because I could go watch it live. Kristi told me that it's not as easy as you think it's going to be.
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TVGuide.com: A lot of people think skating and dancing are similar.
Lysacek: I thought there could be some of my skating that I could use, but there's really not. In dance, you count and in skating, you use the phrasing of the music, so I'm learning how to count. We rotate everything in skating counterclockwise and they rotate clockwise. I feel like I'm getting more dizzy than I would be if I were just skating.
TVGuide.com: What's been the hardest for you?
Lysacek: I've never had a partner for anything. I'm just getting used to having to hold somebody else's hand while I'm doing everything. When I'm learning something new, I usually don't want anyone around me. Anna [Trebunskaya] is just holding onto me the whole time, so it's very different.
TVGuide.com: Do you wish you were an ice dancer now?
Lysacek: [Laughs] No. I don't know if this is like ice dancing. Maybe it is, actually. It's very difficult to keep your feet coordinated with your partner's feet. I have bowlegs, which makes it worse! Every time I bend my knee, it makes, like, a sharp right-hand turn. ... [The Viennese waltz] has a very different knee rhythm and knee action than I'm used to, so I keep rising up at the wrong time and bending down at the wrong time, so I end up kneeing [Anna] in the leg.
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TVGuide.com: You've gotten some criticism over your career for being more athletic than artistic. Does that fire you up even more to tackle dancing?
Lysacek: Yeah, you're right. That's definitely one of the reasons why I wanted to do the show — because I have been criticized, really throughout my whole career, for not having musicality, having no grace, no dance ability, which people have said. It's kind of my opportunity to prove critics wrong, I hope. I'm just working hard and listening to Anna. She's my partner, but she's my coach too. She's trying to figure out a way to get over the bump and teach me how to have finesse.
TVGuide.com: I thought it was funny that you're paired with Anna since she's Russian and you just had the whole quad-debacle with Evgeni Plushenko.
Lysacek: [Laughs] I thought it was funny too. All the girls are so gorgeous and so talented, so I would've taken any of them. I wasn't nervous about who I was going to get, but I thought for a second that Anna might resent me because I beat her countryman. But she didn't! To find out that she's so nice and so sweet is really refreshing.
Olympic Moment: Plushenko reluctantly surrenders gold to Lysacek
TVGuide.com: Vera Wang designs your skating costumes. Are you going to recruit her for your Dancing ones too?
Lysacek: Vera's been great to me, but they have a really good wardrobe department and they let the star and the dancer have a lot of input. So when everyone says, "Oh, they're putting me in these crazy outfits!" They're not! They pretty much let you decide. I told them I have a specific taste and I would like the costumes to reflect that as much as possible. Unless there's not time for me to have input, then they'll put me in whatever.
TVGuide.com: Who do you think is your biggest competition?
Lysacek: Everybody! Especially Nicole Scherzinger — I'm sure she's going to be incredible. Chad Ochocinco, obviously another athlete. The Bachelor [Jake Pavelka] and Kate Gosselin are actually really graceful, so I think they'll be stiff competition too. I've never really seen them move yet, but I'm judging from our filming day when we were all together and they were two that I definitely thought were pretty graceful — more graceful than me! But I will work my hardest to learn to be.
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TVGuide.com: Scott Hamilton and Sandra Bezic kept reminding us during the Olympics that you put in more hours than any other skater they know.
Lysacek: That's my philosophy. I may not be the best dancer from the start, but I'll work the hardest. Skating is not like dancing where you have to learn a different style. Skating is like, I learn the choreography and I perfect only the moves that I have in my program. When I perform my program, I can tell if the elements are good because I've been working on them for eight months, but as far as a specific type of movement and style and being able to do it instantly, this is so much harder. But I'm here to work hard and learn fast.