6:45 PM EST, November 22, 2011
Evan Lysacek has decided not to enter January's U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Responding late Monday night to a text message in which I noted the entry deadline was Wednesday and asked if he were going to enter, Lysacek said, "Unfortunately, no I'm not."
The reigning Olympic men's figure skating champion had told me in late October he would skate at nationals if the contractual dispute between him and U.S. Figure Skating could be settled.
In a telephone conversation Tuesday, Lysacek said he had chosen not to enter because of unresolved issues involving "prior contractual obligations." He declined to elaborate.
U.S. Figure Skating communications director Barb Reichert said in a Tuesday email the federation would not confirm or deny any report until USFS receives official word from Lysacek.
Lysacek, whose last competition was the 2010 Olympics, had announced in late September he intended to make a comeback for the 2014 Olympics and told me that he hoped to compete this season.
The two-time Olympian insisted Tuesday he still plans to take a shot at making the 2014 U.S. Olympic team. He reiterated his feeling, expressed last month, that "I am in the best shape of my life." Lysacek said he had been watching Grand Prix competitions to get a sense of what judges were rewarding and how that might affect his future competitive programs.
"I'm definitely still looking at Sochi as the goal, and I will continue to train as much as possible," he said. "My life has changed a great deal since I trained for the last Olympics, with a lot more obligations that lead me to prioritize and pick and choose what I do. But I am glad I started this whole process of training and preparing now instead of a year from now."
Two weeks after Lysacek had made the comeback idea public, USFS announced he had withdrawn from the Grand Prix series. Lysacek said he withdrew because he could not reach an agreement on issues the federation said involved money.
"Evan wasn't satisfied with our athlete contract,'' Reichert said at that time.
All figure skaters competing under the aegis of the USFS are asked to sign contracts -- known as athlerte agreements -- each year. The agreements recently have become basically boilerplate as USFS no longer could pay what essentially were appearance fees to athletes because of its diminished financial resources.
Sources have indicated the differences between Lysacek and the federation involved matters other than an appearance fee.
Lysacek spent Monday night in the audience for the penultimate episode of this edition of Dancing With The Stars. He finished second in the spring, 2010 DWTS edition.
I asked Lysacek if he had considered joining Stars on Ice again when it became clear negotiations with USFS were going nowhere. He replied that Stars, run by his former agents, International Management Group, had no longer been an option once he planned to compete this season.
Stars on Ice producer Byron Allen said the same thing in a Tuesday email response to the question of whether Lysacek would have been invited to skate the tour after he had switched agents from IMG to Creative Artists Agency last summer.
"We never got to the point of making him an offer; he made it clear to us that competing was his priority this year," Allen wrote. "His skating both in the show and in practice (last season) was so consistent that he definitely could compete with anyone."
Consistency has been Lysacek's hallmark in his competitive career. He won 12 medals in his final 12 appearances on the Grand Prix circuit; finished no worse than fifth while winning two titles (Olympic and world) and seven medals in two Olympics, four World Championships and three World Junior Championships from 2001 through 2010; and had two firsts, two seconds and two thirds in six U.S. Championships from 2005 through 2010.
And lack of consistency has been the hallmark of U.S. men since 2010.
While there is no way to know how well Lysacek would have skated at nationals, he never has gone into a competition unprepared. So it would be easy to have seen him finishing in the top two to make the U.S. team for the 2012 worlds, and his absence likely hurts U.S. chances of earning back the full complement of spots for the 2013 worlds.
After 10 straight years in which the U.S. men had three spots (achieved by having the top two finishes add up to 13 or fewer), they earned just two for 2012 because the top two men at last spring's worlds finished 9th and 11th.
Other than Jeremy Abbott, who won the Cup of China despite finishing third in both the short and long programs, no U.S. man has a real shot at making the six-skater Grand Prix Final with one competition left -- this week's Cup of Russia.
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