By NANCY ARMOUR
2013-12-10 10:42 PM
Evan Lysacek will not defend his Olympic figure skating title in Sochi because of a torn labrum in his left hip.
After two months of aggressive treatment, doctors told Lysacek last week the injury was not going to improve and he was risking permanent damage if he kept training.
"This has been my entire life, training and representing my country," Lysacek told The Associated Press, pausing to fight back tears, on Tuesday. "So it's just kind of difficult. As much as I knew it could go either way, I never accepted it wouldn't. I always thought it would work out. I was crushed. I am crushed."
Lysacek said he will have to take time off the ice for the injury to completely heal, and surgery remains a possibility.
"I'm going to have to put the same focus on recovery and getting healthy that I put into training," he said.
Lysacek hasn't competed since the 2010 Vancouver Games, where he became the first American man to win the Olympic title since Brian Boitano in 1988. A torn abdominal muscle derailed his comeback last season, but he was healthy and in great shape when he went to U.S. Figure Skating's "Champs Camp" to get feedback on his Olympic year programs.
As Lysacek performed his short program on Aug. 21, he took a "violent" fall on a quadruple jump. He was initially diagnosed with another abdominal tear, and stayed off the ice for a month. He continued to have pain when he returned, and tests on Sept. 26 revealed the torn labrum.
"It was frustrating. But I was optimistic," Lysacek told the AP. "I just really believed this was going to work out. Honestly, I liked my chances a lot. Before all these injuries, I was skating the best of my life. Better than Vancouver. I was excited to show people I was better than I was before. That's what being an athlete is all about, right?"
Lysacek told his doctors he needed to be healthy enough by December to compete at an international event, which he had to do to obtain the minimum technical scores required for Sochi. He was put on an aggressive program of rehab and physical therapy, and Lysacek said he was optimistic when he was able to return to the ice in October and do double and triple jumps.
As his training intensified, though, so did the pain that he described as "like you're being electrocuted."
The location of the injury is what made it particularly devastating. The hip injury was never going to improve so long as Lysacek kept training. The more he pushed, the more it strained other parts of his body, like his groin and hamstrings.
"In the last couple of weeks, the pain has become unmanageable," he said. "I'm really not a weak guy. I have a pretty high pain threshold. This has proved to be too much, even for me, the level of pain."
Sochi was almost certainly going to be the last Olympics for the 28-year-old Lysacek. But he's not certain if this is the end of his competitive career.
"I'm focused on recovery right now. But I really don't want this to be how my career ends," Lysacek said. "The last week has been so painful. But I don't want this to be my last moments on the ice."