Dr. Robert A. Weil met Evan Lysacek in 1996, when the Olympic champion was then a 10-year-old kid skating at All Seasons Ice Rink in Aurora under the guidance of coach Candy Brown Burek. “Evan was already special at that age,” said Weil, a specialty-sports podiatrist, who has crafted Lysacek’s custom orthotics for nearly two decades, a vital item which helps to keep a skater’s lower body in alignment.
On Tuesday, Lysacek, the Naperville native, announced that he would not compete in the 2014 Sochi Olympics because of a torn labrum in his left hip that resulted from a fall on Aug. 21 as Lysacek attempted a quadruple jump.
When did you know that Evan wouldn’t compete in the Sochi games? I officially knew when I saw [Today]. I sent Evan a text telling him how proud I was of him and he replied with something along the lines of “Thanks Doc, tough day.” He’s a man of few words when he’s locked in.
But I knew the reality after I had been in contact with him over the last few months. His progress was slow. He was hurting and trying to fight through it.
What went through your mind when you heard the news? The end of an era. Our entire past flashed through my mind when it all became real. Specifically, I remember the picture of him as a 10-year-old boy when he said, “Thanks Dr. Weil for my new feet.”
Prior to Evan’s injury, what has the last few years been like for him after winning the gold in Vancouver? He thought he’d wait for a year or two, then he decided ‘If I lose I lose, I’m not done competing.’ That was this journey for the past year and a half: to try to get to Sochi, Russia.
What factor do you most attribute Evan’s recent injury to? Lousy luck. Had it not been for this, I think he would have made it back.
Evan had a surgical procedure to correct a sports hernia last year and he recovered well, but he was never 100 percent and was in a hurry to get back.
The three major points for whether Evan would be able to get to Sochi were: 1.) Could he hold up to super intensive training? (And he really, really couldn’t after the fall). 2.) Could he qualify? 3.) Could he win? This time, he ran out of time.
How long would Evan have needed to recuperate if he was to compete at Sochi? He needed a couple more months of time. He’s got to heal. We probably needed a month or two of slowing down. There was just too much intensity considering the injury. It was untenable.
Have you ever treated Evan for an injury? Evan had a lingering foot problem after winning the world championship and leading up to the Vancouver Olympics. Part of his visit was to update his orthotics and part was to talk strategy about not doing the quadruple jump.
On top of that was his rapid growth. He’s a tremendous lever system and we knew there would be lots of stress on hips. But this latest injury was acute and it was more bad luck than his hips wearing, which in some ways is harder to take.
Having known Evan for nearly two decades, what’s your understanding of how he made the decision to bow out of the Sochi games? Evan is tough as they come, but he couldn’t work through the discomfort. Doctors, I think, were saying it could do permanent damage. He’s had so many disruptions in his training, He doesn’t want to embarrass himself.
Do you think Evan will compete again? I don’t know if he’ll compete. He might see that his whole reasons to compete was the Olympics. Of course he’ll be back in ice shows. Maybe he’ll be commentator in Sochi. We would expect if anyone can comeback, it would be Evan. The question is what does someone feel in their heart, is it worth it to compete again at 28, already old in some ways?
What is the bigger challenge of Evan’s recovery, the mental or physical aspect? It’s both an issue of mind and body. He has standards of excellence as does any champion. Evan has always been an overachiever in training. You have to hold this kid back. If the Olympics were in the spring…
But for him its been a question of “Hey, how much pain can you handle?” The mental side is huge and right now Evan is reeling with the reality of this situation because it’s been his whole life.
If you were speaking with Evan today, what would you tell him, both as a doctor and as a friend? Listen man, we love you, we understand and you’re a great champion. He’s always been a tremendous optimist. He’ll shine wherever he goes.