Lysacek sees mental toughness as key to retaining U.S. National title

USA's Evan Lysacek, 22, won silver in Oct at the 2007 Skate America Figure Skating Championships.

Evan Lysacek heads into next week’s 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships with a healthy body and a clear mind. The two-time Worlds bronze medalist will be competing in his eighth senior nationals. He feels that he is in good physical shape for the event, but that’s only half the battle.

“I am trying to stay calm and train my brain until I get there,” explained Lysacek. “I would say that in our sport that a large part of competing is mental training. It is one thing to be in shape physically, but you have to have your nerves and your brain basically in control before you go out to compete.”

The defending champion is taking a relaxed approach to his mental preparation as he puts the finishing touches on his training for this year’s competition.

“I am just sort of living my life here as normal,” said an invigorated Lysacek. “The weather has been really nice here in Los Angeles, so I have been riding my bike a lot and running on the beach… spending as much time outside in the fresh air that I can. I am just trying to stay healthy and stay in a good mental state of mind.”

Of course, Lysacek recognizes that mental toughness isn’t what is evaluated on the judge’s scorecard, so he is planning to skate his programs with a full arsenal of jumps – including a quadruple in both phases of competition.

“I said right from the start [of the season] that I would do a quad in the short and the long in every competition out,” declared Lysacek. “So that’s what I’m doing regardless of what anyone else is doing. I’m looking towards 2010 and trying to build.”

As with any high-stakes element, however, Lysacek realizes that there is a risk to going for the quad.

“The name of the game isn’t really being perfect anymore,” the 22-year-old admitted. “I would say the name of the game is going for everything and attempting it. For me, the most important thing is to put everything that I am capable of in my program. I think that going for that difficulty is almost more important than holding back and doing something safe that is going to be clean.”

Lysacek, who just claimed his first ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final medal (a bronze), is looking to improve on those performances.

“Two of my spins were level threes [at the Grand Prix Final], Lysacek explained, “and I think it was just one of those bullet points in the rules that I missed.” [The rules state that] I couldn’t do both difficult variations in the spins on the same foot. They have to be done on different feet. So I changed two spins in my freeskate and one in the short to guarantee that they will be level four.”

Last month at the Grand Prix Final, Lysacek faced the biggest roadblock to his second national title in three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir. Weir defeated Lysacek earlier in the season at the Cup of China, but Lysacek easily outdistanced Weir in the final. Heading into Saint Paul, Lysacek will attempt to focus solely on his skating, and try to tune out his competitors.

“For me, positivity is very important because it is easy when you are competing to let small doubts creep in even just about yourself,” admitted Lysacek. “If there is anything going through your brain about anyone else, it automatically doubles the doubts. So my focus is on me.”

Lysacek will begin his title defense next Friday as the men skate their short programs. Weir will discuss his thoughts tomorrow as he approaches the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Come back to goldenskate.com for coverage on Weir’s interview tomorrow evening, and see us again next week for coverage of the junior and senior events from Saint Paul.

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