So much for Evan Lysacek’s figure-skating comeback starting in Salt Lake City.
The defending men’s Olympic champion has pulled out of the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic that begins Thursday at the SLC Sports Complex, citing a torn abdominal muscle. That really takes the shine off the second annual event, although there are still quite enough elite skaters scheduled to compete to make it by far the most prestigious figure-skating competition in Utah since the 2002 Salt Lake Games.
Defending U.S. men’s champion Max Aaron will still be there, along with national silver medalist Gracie Gold and national pairs champs Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir.
World ice dancing champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White also are in the field, with world bronze medalists Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France — two-time Olympians, both — and Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, who finished fourth in pairs at the most recent world championships.
But boy, having Lysacek would have been big.
He had not skated competitively since winning gold in Vancouver, and had hoped to finally put a series of injuries behind him and start the long road toward defending his title at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia. No man has repeated as an Olympic figure skating gold medalist since American Dick Button in 1952.
Lysacek had planned to return to the ice last fall, but was sidelined by a groin injury and sports hernia surgery. Then, at a simulated competition in front of judges and technical observers at the World Arena in Colorado Springs last month, his coach Frank Carroll told USA Today that Lysacek’s injuries and surgeries “were a lot more extensive than a lot of people know.”
The next day, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Figure Skating Association said Lysacek departed the event early for undisclosed reasons.
“It’s getting better and better,” Carroll had said, “but he is in pain, and he has to be very careful with how much he does. I don’t know in figure skating if someone has tried to come back from that level of injury.”
At the time, Lysacek (who had declined through the federation an interview request from The Salt Lake Tribune) told USA Today that he was gaining confidence and that “I see myself in Sochi. … I hope that I can make that a reality. I have a lot of steps up the ladder to get there.”
The U.S. International Figure Skating Classic is designed largely for skaters who need to gain experience in an international yet not hyper-pressurized environment, or those who would like a little more work before the ISU Grand Prix season starts with Skate America in Detroit on Oct. 18-20.
In all, about 130 skaters are expected to participate.
Lysacek had been expected to compete at Skate America, as well as at the national championships in Boston on Jan. 5-12, which will determine which two men will represent the U.S. at the Sochi Olympics.
His plans are unclear now, though a statement from the federation said Lysacek expects to make a full recovery from the “slight” muscle tear.
“One of my greatest weapons against the competition this year is experience,” Lysacek told USA Today. “I’ve been in almost every situation. I’ve been up, down, on the greatest highs and the lowest lows. … I have every silver, every gold, every bronze medal to prove it so I think those experiences will come in handy because of the ability to adapt is really crucial to success in the Olympics.”
The U.S. International Figure Skating Classic also will feature the Challenge Skate, a competition for novice and junior skaters who skated at nationals last year and need to gain experience at international events.
Four local skaters are among the competitors, including Layton’s Mitchell Friess, 16; Salt Lake City’s Justin Ly, 14; and Murray’s Hina Ueno, 12. Matthew Graham lives in Shelley, Idaho, but trains in Salt Lake City. The Challenge Skate sessions will be held during the mornings and early afternoons, a spokeswoman said, though exact times were not yet available.
U.S. International Classic
Where • SLC Sports Complex, 645 S. Guardsman Way
• Pairs Short Program, 5 p.m.
• Men’s Short Program, 6:30 p.m.
• Short Dance, Noon
• Ladies Short Program, 2:40 p.m.
• Pairs Free Skate, 5:20 p.m.
• Men’s Free Skate, 7 p.m.
Ladies Free Skate, 3:30 p.m.
Free Dance, 6:30 p.m.
• Only general admission tickets will be sold, and only at the SLC Sports Complex during the competition. There is no reserved seating or advance purchase.