Lysacek Captures the Bronze at World Championshipsby Laura Fawcett
Photo by Michelle Harvath
(3/23/06) - Is Evan Lysacek the king of improbable comebacks?
After his free skate at the 2006 World Championships, Lysacek talked about the stress of his season – the pressure, the hip injury, the Torino flu. There wasn't any reason, he said, to expect a follow-up performance to his stunning debut on the World stage last year, where he finished third.
Yeah, sure, whatever.
“Last year was fun, and it was the new kid in the block, and I came in and swept up the bronze like it was nothing,” Lysacek said. “It was just fun. This year it was the complete reverse of that. It was stress, it was a lot of pressure; I was way nervous.
In a scenario reminiscent of the Olympic Winter Games, Lysacek saved his best performance for last, but this time the ending was different. Skating in the penultimate group, the reigning U.S. silver medalist reeled off seven clean triples, including a quad toe (two-footed)-triple toe combination, and gave “Carmen” all the justice it deserved. He won the bronze medal behind gold medalist Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland and silver medalist Brian Joubert of France.
Lysacek was about 10 points behind the leaders heading into the free skate, so there was no reason to think a medal would be possible.
He was wrong.
One by one his competitors went down without beating his score.
Japan's Nobunari Oda, flawless all week, may have let the pressure get to him in the free skate. Oda's program, while strong, couldn't match up to Lysacek technically, and the American stayed in the lead.
Joubert was another story. In every aspect he was magnificent, landing two quads and six triples to take a commanding lead over Lysacek. For the remaining competitors, the Frenchman's personal best score of 156.47 looked impossible to beat.
For his part, Joubert reiterated the difficulty of the year, talking about the toll the French media took on him after his sixth-place Olympic finish. Two days after returning, however, he switched back to “The Matrix” for his free skate and everything changed.
“Within two days, my jumps were perfect, my short program was better, too,” he said. “If I'd have known that I could skate ‘The Matrix' like I did tonight, I should have returned to it sooner.”
So Joubert was planted in first place, and there were four more skaters who could overtake Lysacek.
The Canadian crowd went absolutely berserk for Jeff Buttle, but after opening with a textbook triple flip-triple toe combination, his elements went downhill. He popped two triple Axels but had level four spins, and his program components marks surpassed Lysacek's. Butttle's technical score was no match for Lysacek's, so it was down to three skaters.
Canada's Emanuel Sandhu started off strong with a quad toe and a double toe, but little bobbles on jumps throughout the program hurt his technical mark. H also received a level two on his circular footwork and level one on a camel spin. His segment score of 142.53 was seven behind Lysacek, and suddenly with only Johnny Weir and Stephane Lambiel left to skate, an American was guaranteed a medal.
|The 2006 World men's medalists - Brian Joubert, Stephane Lambiel, Evan Lysacek|
Photo by Paul Harvath
Although Weir told reporters later it was “just hell getting on the ice” due to the pain, it wasn't obvious in the opening moments of his program. He nailed his triple Axel-triple toe combination and rotated the quad but two-footed the landed. His following jumps were just a little off his usually consistency, and then late in the program he fell hard on a triple flip. Clearly in pain, Weir got up and finished the program.
“I needed to keep going,” he said when asked whether he felt like ending his program after the fall. “I'm not happy at all. I haven't really wanted to be here all week, but I'm here and I tried. That's all I can to do.”
Weir's score in the segment was 128.66, which would eventually leave him in seventh place overall.
With only Lambiel left, Lysacek was guaranteed a medal. Lambiel matched Joubert in technical ability and expression, landing two quads, including one in combination, and five triple jumps. He barely beat Joubert in the free skate, 156.68-156.47, but that along with his short program lead gave Lambiel his second straight World title.
“I'm so happy with this title,” Lambiel said. “I made the decision to come here 10 days ago. It was very important for me to come here because the 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be in Vancouver. So I wanted to skate here in Canada.”
With Lambiel winning gold and Joubert silver, it was the second straight bronze medal for Lysacek at Worlds. After learning about the medal, Lysacek had a chance to reflect on his season and love of skating.
"When you love what you're doing that much it's hard not to enjoy it. And sometimes I forget that, because I get wrapped up in placement and doing triple Axels and quads and whatever. I enjoy what I'm doing and that's first and foremost. It's days like these when I can relax a little bit and take a baby step back from it all and say it was worth it to just let go and enjoy it."
Matt Savoie ended up 11th place, marking his highest placement ever at a World Championships. He had one fall on a triple Axel and stepped out of a triple Lutz, as well as doubling some planned triples. In all he was pleased with his performance, and he received high program component scores.
“The season was a great one for me,” Savoie said. “I definitely got the chance to compete a lot more than I anticipated. I had some good performances at some key times – probably the best of my career. Even though tonight wasn't the best I've ever done, internationally it's actually the second best long I've competed.”
Savoie will not be competing next year when he begins Cornell Law School, but he emphasized he is not officially retiring.
With the combination of Lysacek and Weir's placements, the United States will again have three men at next year's World Championships.