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Evan Lysacek expands his horizons

Brings fresh approach -- and Tarasova choreography -- to Skate America

Evan Lysacek and girlfriend Tanith Belbin at "An Evening of Hope."
Evan Lysacek and girlfriend Tanith Belbin at "An Evening of Hope." (Paul LaTour)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/22/2008) - Evan Lysacek is taking a step forward by giving back.

The two-time U.S. champion, who makes his season debut at Skate America, has been working on more than his triple Axels and quad toe loops.

"Charity work is something I'm very passionate about," the 23-year-old skater said.

In addition to hosting and producing his own show, An Evening of Hope in suburban Chicago last month, he's lending his name and services to other causes he believes in. It's all part of a plan to take advantage of his time in the spotlight to help others.

Expanding his horizon, he believes, will also help him on the ice, especially as he tackles Tatiana Tarasova's choreography in two new competitive routines -- a short program set to Ravel's "Bolero" and a free skate to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

"I love being a skater, and I feel very lucky," the two-time world bronze medalist said. "Being injured last season and having to miss worlds has made me appreciate it more. I have to make the most of this time."

In March, just six days before he was scheduled to leave for the 2008 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, a broken skate blade led to a nasty fall on a triple Axel in practice. The resulting dislocated left shoulder canceled his trip, but the accident left him with a resolve to try new things.

Principal among them: traveling to Moscow to work with Tarasova, who gave him both a new on-ice look and outlook.

"Tatiana reinvented my skating and reinvented my style," Lysacek told icenetwork.com this summer. "She did exactly what I asked her to do."

ICE: You'll debut two new programs at Skate America. How are they going?
LYSACEK: Training is going great. I feel lucky and blessed to step on the ice every day and do something I love. I'm more excited for this season than I've been in a long time. I'm skating because I love this sport! The offseason was very productive. Working with Tatiana Tarasova this season is going really well. She and I are proud of the programs that we worked very hard on. They're both very different for me. I hope people can appreciate the changes I've made.

ICE: You've also been very busy off ice, planning your own show in memory of your friend Stephanie Joseph, who died of cancer at age 21.
LYSACEK: My charity show in September was a huge success. We had more than 1,500 people at the show. Charity work is something that I'm very passionate about, and to be able to help the Make-a-Wish Foundation, an organization I have worked with for six years and believe in a tremendous amount, and the Stephanie Joseph Memorial Fund as much as we did gives me chills. Of course, I had tons of help and support from some incredible skaters and very generous sponsors.

ICE: What else have you been doing in the offseason?
LYSACEK: I have also joined Friends of Ronald McDonald House Charities. This is a group of celebrities raising awareness for RMHC. It is a huge honor to work with this organization. One big event that's coming up is World Children's Day on Nov. 20. Everyone can participate by visiting their local McDonald's and donating one dollar for the helping hand program, or by visiting www.rmhc.org to support RMHC and/or World Children's Day.

I am also still working with, and on the board of, an amazing charity organization that is tied into skating, Figure Skating in Harlem. I have gotten to know most of the girls in the program over the last three years, and I am blown away by what outstanding people they all are. They all maintain a B average or higher in school. They're learning a very difficult sport, figure skating, as individuals and as a [synchro] team. So many of them have huge goals in life, and I know they will achieve them with the strong values that they are taught through FSIH. We have a huge gala event at the Wollman Rink in Central Park in the spring, and the last event was the biggest ever in attendance and profits.

ICE: The Olympics are just 18 months away, and two top male skaters -- reigning world champion Jeffrey Buttle and two-time world champion Stéphane Lambiel -- have just retired. What do you make of it?
LYSACEK: I am good friends with both Jeff and Stéphane, and I think they are both very happy with their decisions. As a friend, all I want for them is to be happy. They have both left a very impressive legacy in skating. They are two of my favorite skaters to watch, and I will continue to admire and respect them.