The last time an American man won Olympic figure skating gold, Evan Lysacek was a toddler. That was in 1988 when Brian Boitano edged Canadian Brian Orser in the Battle of the Brians on Orser's home turf in Calgary. Twenty-two years later, the Winter Olympics are back in Canada, and Lysacek, the defending world champion, is seen as the one who can end the U.S. drought. "Scott Hamilton is a good friend of mine, and he keeps telling me that most U.S. world champions have won the Olympics," Lysacek, 24, tells TVGuide.com. "But I'm just going to do my best. I'm the type of competitor that just goes about my business and handles things when I get there." Lysacek, who finished second at nationals behind Jeremy Abbott and ahead of Johnny Weir, has his work cut out for him with a loaded international field that includes defending champion Evgeni Plushenko. See what he has to say about his competition, whether he will throw a high-scoring quadruple jump and why the men's team is "going to take on the world."
Catch the men's short program Tuesday at 8/7c and the long program Thursday at 8/7c on NBC.
TVGuide.com: I'm sure you know this, but more often than not, the national champ doesn't perform well at the Olympics, so is this a blessing in disguise?
Evan Lysacek: [Laughs] Yeah, for whatever reason that's the way it's been in the past. I mean, I would've loved to have a great performance, but it's been a great season. I used nationals to try that quad and try some jumping passes that were a little more difficult. I'm going to have to make that decision come the Olympics on which elements to put in. It obviously wasn't perfect there, but at the same time I'm a little relieved I didn't have my Olympic performance at nationals. Maybe it is a blessing. It takes off the pressure and I can just slip in there and put on my Olympic performance when it really counts.
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TVGuide.com: You didn't do a quad when you won the world championships last year because you had a stress fracture in your foot, and you still have some issues with it. Are you going to do a quad in Vancouver?
Lysacek: It's a big risk factor with my foot. I'm going to have to make that call whether to do it. I know that if I don't do it, I have to be absolutely perfect on everything else. ... The quad is always just a numbers game. If I'm hitting 90 percent of them in practice, I'm probably going to do in the competition. If I'm hitting 30 percent, no matter what the point value, I'm probably not going to do it because it's not worth the risk. If [my foot] is still hurting, it's also probably not worth the risk.
TVGuide.com: A lot of people are pegging you to be the first U.S. man to win since '88 and the first reigning world champion to win since '84. Do you feel pressure?
Lysacek: I'm just glad and honored more than anything. I'm a sports fan and as much as I'd like to predict the outcome of tennis matches and basketball games, it's so hard to predict in sports. I know there are all these statistics, but no one knows what's going to happen with this field. For the last several years, the focus has been shifting from the women to the men — in this country especially — but also in several other countries, too.
TVGuide.com: Is it about time the men and not the women get the spotlight for a change?
Lysacek: [Laughs] Our men's competition has been so unpredictable, so exciting, and I think that made people want to watch. And for an American to win the world championships in America, I think sort of solidified that. That was such a special moment for me, but it's also done a lot for men's skating in this country. Now we have a crop of guys who are so gifted and we have an Olympic team that's probably stronger than any other team, and we're going to take on the world. In the United States, there's very young talent on the women's side, which is great because they'll be developing it through the next Olympics.
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TVGuide.com: What do you think of your international competition? Patrick Chan's the home favorite, and Evgeni Plushenko and Stephane Lambiel are back.
Lysacek: Patrick Chan is obviously going to have full support from the Canadians. Plushenko is sort of unpredictable since he hasn't competed in four years, but he's a really strong competitor. Brian Joubert, world champion, and Lambiel's a world champion as well. It's going to be exciting. I think it should be that way. I've heard several times that it was the first event to sell out. My poor family is still trying to get tickets! [Laughs] They give athletes two tickets, so we have to buy extra tickets.
TVGuide.com: You were sick in 2006 and finished fourth. People still talk about your free skate and how you should've at least made the podium.
Lysacek: Yeah, that's so nice to hear. I was young. My goal was to be top 10 there and a fourth-place finish — I was so happy with it. I think now I'm stronger, smarter, better technically and artistically. Last time, I got there very early and I was just excited to be part of the entire Olympics. This time, I'm looking forward to and imagining one moment only and it's when they open the gate and let me on the ice to skate.
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TVGuide.com: You've been working with a ballerina, right?
Lysacek: She's really helped me with flexes on the ice and off the ice. Oh my God — my legs get so sore! I do a lot of cardio and weights and I run, but nothing makes me as sore as doing ballet with her. She's so tough! It's given me a better understanding of movement. I don't by any means think I know it all, but I think I've made definite improvement.
TVGuide.com: You compete the first week, so are you going to stick around for other events?
Lysacek: Yeah, I want to watch some of my good friends compete. Apolo [Anton Ohno] is a good friend of mine, so I'm looking forward to watching him. Short track's so much fun to watch. Angela Ruggiero, the captain of the women's hockey team, is another good friend. They've medaled at every Olympics since Nagano — gold, silver and bronze — so hopefully they can come away with another gold. They were the world champions against Canada, so I'm sure it'll come down to those two countries. And I want to see Gretchen Bleiler in the halfpipe. Chad Hedrick — he's amazing. I really hope I'm able to catch some of my friends, even if it's not live, like at the Team USA house where you can watch with the rest of the team.