““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
If you enjoyed watching Evan Lysacek skate his way to a gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, then you may also be one of the millions who tuned in to ABC TV's Dancing with the Stars last spring to see him compete for the mirror-ball trophy. After Lysacek and his partner, professional dancer Anna Trebunskaya, waltzed, tangoed and rumbaed through 10 weeks of grueling practice and performances, they came in a close second to singer Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough.
Lysacek, 25, grew up in Naperville, Ill., then moved to Los Angeles and began training with coach Frank Carroll, who also worked with Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan. The six-foot, two-inch Lysacek went on to compete in the 2006 Olympics, where he performed what many consider a career-best free skate program after almost withdrawing because of stomach flu. He won the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championship and the 2009 World Figure Skating Championship and was ranked number one earlier this year by the International Skating Union.
Lysacek's signature skating move is the quadruple jump, but he's probably better known for his elegant and graceful style on Olympic ice, where he looks as though he isn't competing but simply enjoying the moment.
What is more difficult-ice skating or dancing?
It's hard to say. Dancing for me is brand new, so I have trouble with different things about it every week. Every different dance comes with a new set of challenges. Skating is what I've done my whole life, so it's where I'm most comfortable. Physically it's pretty hard and the training is extremely grueling. There's a lot of stamina and strength involved.
Are you learning anything on the dance floor that will help you when you resume training for competitive skating?
I hope so. I thought there would be some similarities but the movement is so different, the posture is different and the rotation is different. There is a performance aspect of both sports, and I think that in dance you have to explore those different genres, characters and styles and that's something that you're not necessarily forced to do on the ice. Now that I've had experience in so many different styles I can hopefully take that on the ice and experiment with some of the stuff in my skating.
Did you enjoy your time on Dancing with the Stars?
Oh yeah. I think that there's a lot of negativity on TV right now, a lot of rehab shows and trashy dating shows and murder mysteries. Shows like this are great for the entire family but they're also uplifting. For us to be part of it-the entire cast is feeling the same kind of thing-it's the most positive experience we all could have imagined.
Do you have a favorite dance?
I did like the rumba a lot. I think it's because I liked the song we had, but I enjoyed the tango, I liked the jive, I liked the quick step a lot. They're all very different.
Did you have a strong feeling going into the Olympics that you could do well?
I knew I could do well because I had trained. I basically sacrificed everything, trained as hard as I possibly could and gave 200 percent every day because I wanted to be able to know that I had not left anything on the table. For me it was about not leaving a single doubt in my head that I could have done one more run-through in my routine or one more weight workout or one more cardio workout. I did everything I could leading up to that moment, and then you have to leave a little bit up to fate. Going into it I wasn't thinking of the placement medal, results, scores-none of that was within my control. All I could control is what I did out on the ice, and for it to go exactly how I wanted it to is still amazing to me. I guess it's just now starting to sink in-the gold medal and hearing my name announced on Dancing with the Stars every week as Olympic champion. And when I toured with Smucker's Stars on Ice, and heard my name announced as Olympic champion every night, it was extremely surreal and something that I hope I'll get used to but I just don't know right now.
Skating must be much harder than you make it look.
It's an extremely difficult and physical sport, as any Olympic sport is, but the difference with skating is we're graded on how well we do each element in the routine. So we're not just trying to execute it-we have to make it look easy. And that requires hundreds of thousands of repetitions of each element of your routine throughout the year to make them such second nature. The first time you try an element you're sore for days because muscle groups are getting such an intense jolt or torque, but as you train your body to be stronger and stronger, to almost turn into a machine, those elements slowly become second nature.
Have you had time since the Olympics to relax?
I did not take one second off. I went straight from Vancouver to the training center for Dancing with the Stars then joined the Smucker's Stars on Ice tour. My only breaks were onboard the aircraft. I get to relax and listen to music, have a nice meal and be with my friends, so I really do cherish that time.
It's important for me to be rested when I arrive because I don't have time to go to a hotel and sleep. Flexjet [Lysacek's official sponsor at the time of this interview] gives me the opportunity to rest but not lose a beat while I'm traveling.
How else is business jet travel helping you?
Because I'm flying privately I don't have to worry about people taking my picture while I'm sleeping and posting it on Twitter, any of those funny things that have happened to me on [airline] flights, and We can do whatever we want because my partner and the production crew travel with me. If we have to get extra training in for our dance, we can do it on board, or if we want to take a nap, we know that we're doing it in private. It makes a huge difference.
So you can dance on a Challenger 300?
Yeah, there's plenty of room. Because the seats can be reconfigured we can make space to work on particular moves. Right now I'm working on loosening up my hips. But for the most part it is my time to relax, so I want to try to not get too much training in there and just enjoy the wonderful food and the comfortable flight.
Could you imagine trying to meet your schedule using the airlines?
It wouldn't be possible. There were so many trips on this tour that I would not have made it to the show in time using commercial aircraft, between driving to the airport and flying through different cities to get to a smallerlocation like Hartford, Connecticut. I wouldn't have made it because I have to be in L.A. for the live shows on Mondays and Tuesdays and on Tuesday night I'm wrapping up live TV, and that dominates my schedule as to when I can leave. So Flexjet has made my schedule a possibility.
Would you like to own your own jet someday?
I do imagine that moment quite often. I would love to be able to afford my own plane.
What's next for you career-wise?
A lot of very interesting offers come my way. Right now it's just about finding time to sort through them-offers to do some acting, broadcast, different outlets for skating, maybe not just competitive. I'm still not ruling out coming back for another Olympic games. So right now, it's about what I think I'd be good at, what I want to do, and I think I need to spend time figuring out what my next goal will be because I'm very goal oriented. I need to know my goal and plot how I'm going to achieve it.