If you missed the men’s figure skating short programs last night you missed quite a show. In 2006 Russia’s Yevgeny Plushenko ended the first stage of competition with a big lead that would only increase. But last night, as he sought to defend his gold, it was clear his competition has caught up. Chief among those competitors is Evan Lysacek of the United States who sits in second place just a fraction of a point behind Plushenko. SI Kids sat down with Lysacek, the current World Champion, before the Olympics. Here’s what the gold medal contender had to say.
SI Kids: For so long the ladies figure skating team got all the attention. How does it feel that the men are now the stronger team?
Evan Lysacek: The cameras kind of turned from the ladies to the men and we’re excited about that. We all work very hard and we like that recognition.
Every American who has gone into the Olympics as the current world champion has won a gold medal. How are you going to deal with that pressure?
I don’t think that because I won the world championship that I’m unbeatable. I think I need to be stronger and better. I carry with me a lot of confidence from the world championship and I’m not expecting to win [Olympic gold] but I will be the most prepared I can be.
What skills have you improved since worlds?
Some of the improvements I’ve made are on my spins because last year that was an area where I gained points over other guys. But I’m sure they’ve all gone and looked at the results and seen what happened and they’re going to come out this year with strong spins. So I really have to show strength there.
Do you still love what you do?
I still get really excited when I’m skating well. I was like that when I was 10-years-old and I’m still like that. When I do a clean run through in practice I want to do it again. I’m the same kid and I still just love to be on the ice.
How to you mentally approach the Olympic pressure?
The most important thing for me has been not changing my approach or direction at all. It’s like, whether I’m the World Champion or the Olympic Champion, if I do a triple loop that sucks my coach is going to tell me. I’m a creature of habit and I like doing to same routines over and over again and I like competing. So my approach is the same as it was before worlds, maybe even harder, because I’m hungrier.
How does winning the World Championship motivate you to do well at the Olympics?
It wasn’t just a goal of mine to be the best. It was a dream. So then when you achieve your dream it rejuvenates you and that’s what happened to me. This last year I’m more energetic, more joyful and happier on the ice then I ever have been before.
The men’s free skate takes place tomorrow night and will determine which skaters take home medals. Did you see Lysacek skate? How do you think he will finish? Hit the comments and let me know.