Figure Skater Evan Lysacek On 'Rise,' 'Dancing With The Stars'
Olympic figure skating champion Evan Lysacek is hitting the ice to pay tribute to the 1961 U.S. Olympic figure skating team, which lost many of its members in a tragic plane crash. On the 50th anniversary, Lysacek and other top U.S. skaters commemorate the team with the new documentary, Rise.
Lysacek’s figure skating talent was born out of Naperville, Ill., from parents of Czech and Italian descent. His grandmother always had dreams of being in the Ice Capades and gave him ice skates as a gift. Lysacek had his own dreams of playing ice hockey, so at the age of 8, his mother found a nice medium for him in figure skating lessons. Lysacek's diligence for dancing on ice was quickly recognized, and by the age of 11 he was competing for national recognition.
Lysacek skated in several junior competitions, seven of which saw him take first place. At the age of 19, he finally placed into senior competitions. He won his first gold medal in a senior competition in 2005 at the Four Continents Championships, and won again in 2007. During the 2006 Winter Olympics, Lysacek competed with the U.S. Olympic team where he placed fourth in the men’s event. Lysacek clearly thrives as a solo artist on the ice, and every year onward, his talent showed immense improvement. In 2007 and 2008, Lysacek was crowned the U.S. National Champion of figure skating, in 2009 he was named the World Champion and in 2010 he was bestowed the deserving title of Olympic Champion.
Lysacek has managed to engage himself in other side projects. He has studied method acting at the Professional Arts School in Beverly Hills and appeared in the short independent film, Skate Great! He showed off that he is as “good on wood” as he is “nice on ice” as a celebrity contestant on Dancing with the Stars in 2010, with professional dance partner, Anna Trebunskaya. He is a dedicated supporter of a number of organizations including Target—A Time For Heroes, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
After winning the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships, Lysacek became sponsored by many big name brands such as Coca-Cola, AT&T and Ralph Lauren. During his competitions, Lysacek has dazzled in a number of high-end designer’s costumes, such as Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen and Vera Wang, the last of whom designed his entire costume array for the 2009-2010 season.
Here, Lysacek sits down with Uinterview to talk about Rise, the documentary that pays tribute to the 1961 Olympic team. Upon discussing the old-school style of skating both in the form and style of the 60’s, Lysacek tells Uinterview, “Sometimes I think to myself that I would have fit in better in that era than I do now.”
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- Q: What was your reaction when you had first heard the story of the 1961 team's plane crash? - Uinterview
- A: Well, being a skater myself, I had known about the crash very vaguely, and I think watching the film, and seeing how emotional everyone was within the sport, I had an understanding of why it’s not talked about more. We’re 50 years later now – this week is the 50th anniversary – and that seems like a very long time to us in our generation of instant gratification where everything happens instantaneously, but 50 years is really not that long, and so many that were directly affected by that crash are still alive and well. Still coaching and judging the sport. It’s hard and really painful for them to really talk about it. So I don’t think it’s really brought up enough. I think this film is great, because it’s a really incredible story, and since I’ve been doing press and talking to people, I think they’re astonished that they don’t know more about it, and that it hasn’t been discussed within the United States that much. So the film is great, and it touches on the dreams and the goals and aspirations and puts it all into perspective of all that was lost in that crash. So my reaction to it was that I was educated about something that my coach had been through. He’s still very hesitant to talk about it — and him, and a lot of other people in skating that I’ve known for a long time — I feel like I know them better now.
- Q: Your coach’s coach, Maribel Vinson, was one of the victims. Do you feel any of her influence on your skating through your coach? - Uinterview
- A: Absolutely. And I had known through storytelling that Frank, my coach, had really adopted her teaching style and her mentality about training and competing.
- Q: What would you say that is? - Uinterview
- A: Tough love. But it was funny for me to watch the film and watch people like Ron Ludington use some of the phrases and quotes that she used to say and think to myself, “Oh my God, my coach says that on a daily basis," or, “he uses that same term with me.” And it was just astonishing to me how much of her persona he has adopted, and those are all things that have transferred to my success in my career.
- Q: You’re doing a special performance for the Rise premiere event. Tell us about it. - Uinterview
- A: Yes, we filmed it at the U.S. Championships a couple of weeks ago, and I think it’s been edited and beautified, and it will be shown right after the completion of the film. It is a sad story overall. It’s also educational because I don’t think people know a whole lot about it, but it’s a sad story and we — meaning me among many other people that were involved in the film — didn’t want it to be a sad 50th anniversary. We wanted it to be a celebration, so that’s sort of what the skating number that I did is about. It’s about trying to bring back some of the moves and some of the kind of old school skating style. And we incorporated a lot of children into the number, and their exuberance and their joy for skating is, I think, what comes through most and makes it really a celebration of skating.
- Q: What are your thoughts of the skating style back then? The men were wearing tuxedos while skating in the 60s. - Uinterview
- A: Well, I find that in a lot of sports, and I guess I’m sort of an old-school athlete over all, and that sort of comes from my coach – he always taught me to have respect for those that have come before you and have respect for the rules and for sportsmanship. I admire the athletes that have that level of respect and are not so much the flashy ones that get arrested for x, y and z. I look up to the Roger Federers of the world, that are so respectful and could have succeeded just fine in the 60s and 70s with those kind of athletes and would have fit right in. And that’s sort of what I see in that film, and it made me happy to see it. Sometimes I think to myself that I would have fit in better in that era than I do now.
- Q: What do you have coming up next after this? - Uinterview
- A: Well, Friday I start the U.S. portion of the Stars on Ice Tour, the 25th Anniversary Tour, which will be 25 destinations in the United States, and I’m looking forward to it.
- Q: Are you going to be watching Dancing With The Stars when it gets back on the air? - Uinterview
- A: You know it!
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