VANCOUVER, British Columbia - How far will Evan Lysacek push himself in pursuit of Olympic glory?
Not even the 24-year-old from Naperville knows for sure.
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Lysacek, the reigning world champion in men's figure skating, takes the ice Tuesday in the short program at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. The long program will be Thursday in Pacific Coliseum.
Injury has added intrigue for Lysacek watchers.
Preparing for last month's nationals, Lysacek felt a familiar pain in his left foot, where he had suffered a stress fracture weeks before last year's Worlds. The pain was especially sharp when he attempted a quadruple jump.
At nationals, the 6-foot-2 Lysacek went to test his big jump.
"I was trying to figure out whether or not it was a risk I wanted to take at the Olympics, in the biggest moment of my life," he said, "so I used that practice event to test it out, and it didn't prove to be a worthwhile risk for me."
So no quad here?
"Right now I'm not planning on it," he said. "I've been doing just a couple triple-toes every day and, if I really feel it in the heat of the moment, I have been doing them (quads) every once in awhile in practice and know that I can do it.
"So if I feel like it's that I want to throw in and risk it, that option is definitely open. My plan right now is to do what I can do well."
He will be one of four world champions competing, along with Evgeny Plashenko of Russia, Brian Joubert of France and Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland. Some are calling it the toughest men's field ever.
Plashenko, the 2006 Olympic champion and 2002 silver-medalist, came out of retirement in December.
Joubert is sixth in the world standings, Lambiel 17th.
Lysacek is No. 2, sandwiched between Czechs Tomas Verner and Michal Brezina. He also has formidable teammates in Johnny Weir (fifth at the Torino Olympics) and Jeremy Abbott, the reigning national champion.
Lysacek placed fourth at the last Olympics, where he says he learned how to better focus.
"I think last time (at Torino) I overexerted," he said. "To be honest, this type of stuff early in the morning, and everything that goes along with the competition is what sometimes becomes a distraction.
"So I'm having to do my best to block a lot of it out. Of course I'm honored to represent the United States, and I'm still glad to be a part of this team.
"But my job, when it comes down to it, is the same. And that's to perform my best when the time comes."
One diversion he did allow was an "awesome" opening ceremony.
"I walked in with (speedskater) Chad Hedrick. We were walking with (men's hockey player) Jack Johnson and the women's hockey team last because they said they walked last in 1998 - and they won gold, and they haven't walked last since then."
Among those on hand here are Lysacek's parents, Don and Tanya. They came with "my lucky pillow," Evan said with a laugh.
Lysacek, in costumes designed by Vera Wang, will skate his short program to Igor Stravinski's "Firebird," his free skate to Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov's "Scheherazade."
He said to do so without a quad does "not even a little bit" put him at a disadvantage.
He says he has plotted his course "and how a positive grade of execution could make up for the lack of a quad - or could make up for anything, really."