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Decorated U.S. skaters honored with HOF induction

Former Olympic teammates presented with honor by coaches, loved ones
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The members of the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame Class of 2016 (L-R): Ben Agosto and Tanith Belbin, Evan Lyscek and Sasha Cohen. -Jay Adeff

They skated together, toured together, traveled together, and some of them even lived together. On Friday, they entered the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame together.

Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek, Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen and Olympic silver medalist ice dancers Tanith White and Ben Agosto were inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the 2016 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The late Gustave Lussi, who guided Dick Button to two Olympic gold medals and helped mold Olympic champions Hayes Alan Jenkins, David Jenkins and Dorothy Hamill, is also part of the 2016 class.

"It's rare that so many inductees come from the same generation," Lysacek said. "I didn't have a ton of friends from skating, but we became fast friends. We could always relate to one another."

Lysacek, Cohen, and White and Agosto represented Team USA at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy. Cohen won her silver medal there, and White and Agosto became the first U.S. team to win Olympic silver in ice dance. Lysacek, who battled the flu during those Games, rallied from 10th place after the short program to finish fourth. Four years later in Vancouver, he won gold, becoming the first U.S. man since Brian Boitano in 1988 to win the Olympic title.

"I remember watching so many greats before me -- Scott Hamilton, Dorothy Hamill, Kristi Yamaguchi -- and it was just a dream to reach that level, to compete in the Olympics," Cohen said. "Then, to become one of those names that lives on -- I couldn't imagine that when I was starting off in the sport as a little girl."

The four Olympic medalists recalled bus rides together while on tour and traveling to oversees competitions as young competitors. Cohen's mother, Galina, laughed while recalling a time when Lysacek and Cohen were roommates in Los Angeles, and Lysacek built a bed for her daughter.

Lysacek, who tried to make a comeback for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games but was forced to retire with a hip injury, spent part of his post-competitive career negotiating commercial real estate contracts in New York City. For the last 10 months, he has been working for fashion designer (and fellow U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Famer) Vera Wang. He was recently promoted and handles product development as well as digital and social media, and is the head of visual displays. Wang, along with several of Lysacek's new work colleagues, traveled to Saint Paul to catch the competition.

"It fills my need to work all the time," said Lysacek, who was known for his intensity and double and triple run-throughs as a competitor. "I have three phones."

He took it a little easy this weekend, bringing only two phones to Minnesota.

"I like to work," Lysacek said. "Some people like to take a break and relax, but that's just not me. I like to work and stay busy."

Cohen, meanwhile, is a political science major at Columbia and is scheduled to graduate this spring. She is also planning her wedding in August. She hopes to apply for a master's degree program and work in social justice. She is an avid traveler as well.

"I live vicariously through her travels," Lysacek said.

White is coaching a bit in Detroit and is also working as a commentator for NBC. She will be broadcasting coverage of various sports this summer at the Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She and Agosto also continue to tour together. She is now married to Charlie White, the 2014 Olympic ice dance champion with Meryl Davis, and he presented her and Agosto into the Hall of Fame.

"Charlie was the natural choice," Tanith said with a smile. "First of all, he's very well spoken. He's used to getting up in front of the skating family and speaking his heart, but obviously it's a wonderful crossroads of my life to have this momentous occasion and to have my husband there celebrating it with me.

"I've just been so fortunate that way in my entire life and career -- to stand on the Olympic podium with my best friend, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame by my husband, to have my costumes made by my mother," she said. "Figure skating is intertwined into my life in such a loving and exquisite way. Obviously, there are times in a skater's career where you feel like that's smothering, but as I've become older and more multifaceted myself, I've embraced the involvement of skating in every aspect of my life, because it's truly brought me the most joyous moments I've ever experienced."

Agosto makes his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he coaches and choreographs for skaters. Recently, he worked with Christopher Dean, helping direct and choreograph Holiday on Ice shows in Europe. His goal is to encourage the growth of ice dancing.

"I had always thought after skating that I would go into sports medicine," Agosto said. "But I realized I kind of have a doctorate in skating."

Lysacek was presented into the Hall of Fame by coach Frank Carroll, and Cohen also turned to her coach, John Nicks, to present her. Both Nicks and Carroll are Hall of Famers.

Nicks worked with Cohen when she was starting her skating career and worked with her again late in her career.

"At first, I didn't think to ask Mr. Nicks," Cohen said. "I thought it would be a long shot to get him to come to Saint Paul in January."

Nicks continues to coach in Southern California but no longer travels for international competitions. He did, however, venture to Minnesota to be at the side of one of his star pupils.

"Frank always told me to honor those who came before us," Lysacek said.

The four Olympic medalists honored those who helped them in the past, and now they will leave a legacy for the future.

"It's bittersweet," Cohen said. "It does act as punctuation to my career."

An exclamation point, to be sure.

Hamill honored

Dorothy Hamill was the headliner of the 1976 class of skaters who were honored in Saint Paul.

"Forty years," marveled Hamill, the Olympic champion four decades ago in Innsbruck. "Forty years. Wow. That's just not right."

Hamill, who splits her time between Massachusetts and California, said she has many keepsakes from those Olympics, including her figure and freestyle dress, and freestyle boots, a program from the Games and an Olympic diploma. Among one of the most valuable treasures she had were her father's handwritten scores from the figure competition.

She doesn't like watching video of her historic performance, saying she last watched it a couple of years ago.

"I hate it," she said. "I hate watching myself. It's kind of like when you hear yourself speak."

Among others from that class who traveled to Saint Paul are Linda Fratianne (who won the Olympic silver medal in 1980), Olympic bronze medalist ice dancers Colleen O'Connor and Jim Millns, David Santee and Terry Kubicka.