The Great Lysacek
Evan Lysacek Takes Center Ice
I love the Olympic Games! I love the summer and the winter games. It is a spectacle like none other. The Olympics are a celebration of sport that provides a path to glory as the best athlete in the world in your sport. And it provides we mere mortals an opportunity to revel in the feats of supermen and wonder women. The majesty of the winter Olympics reside in the combination of grace, elegance, prowess and death defying acts that combine in many of the performances. Although, except for some of the lifts, one is not likely to suffer severe injury in figure skating, yet no event combines grace, elegance and prowess more perfectly than figure skating on ice. And while there were several impressive performances in the short program, no one did it better than the American wizard Evan Lysacek.
For those with an ear for music, it was apparent from the opening bars that Lysacek intended to go for the Gold. He had chosen as the accompaniment for his elaborate high speed choreography “The Fire Bird Suite,” by Igor Stravinsky, a composition of mind boggling complexity that scandalized the world of European classical music when it was first performed at the beginning of the twentieth century. Its irregular rhythms, space age orchestrations and dramatic melodic theme demands the highest levels of choreographic imagination and flawless performance. Mr. Lysacek rose to the occasion in grand style: pirouetting high and low, touching head to knee and extending his toe, twisting his body into pretzel like configurations, then soaring through the air with the grandeur of Stravinsky’s magnificent Fire Bird.
Lysacek Takes a Turn!
Decked out in a striking black costume that gave him the aura of an avenging angel, from the starting pose Mr. Lysacek looked like what he was: An amped up World Champion who had come to claim the golden ring. His poise and prowess were apparent from his introductory maneuvers, gliding across the ice with the grace of a falcon in flight. And when he lept into triple axles and Lutzes, boldly defying gravity, I was enthralled. Yet my cheers for Mr. Lysacek’s performance were based purely upon admiration for his virtuosity; it had nothing to do with national pride – a dubious motivation which George Bernard Shaw called “the last refuge of scoundrels. “
Since his performance was just beginning as I walked back into the room, I missed the introduction; hence I didn’t even know that he was American. I figured he was Russian based on the his Slavic surname. It was only after I heard his trainer speak to him in English with an unmistakably American idiomatic flavor that I realized he was a countryman. And, in spite of my internationalist orientation and sportsmanship, I must confess to lapsing into niggling prideful emotions whose inspiration lies in primeval tribal instincts. However I had paid especially close attention to Lycechek’s routine for a different reason: The young Russian /American Johnny Weir, who trains just across the river in New Jersey, had put on a show that left me breathless! Yet the expert commentators didn’t even think he had a shot at the Gold. So I was like: “Well, if this ain’t a Gold Medal performance I can’t wait to see what is.”
Thus, when I heard the commentators say that Lysacek was the reigning World Champion I sat up and paid close attention. Although my technical knowledge of figure skating, as sport or art, leaves much to be desired, and I can regurgitate little of the esoteric jargon experts employ to describe the fantastic feats on ice, as a ex-athlete and longtime fan of dance and sport I recognize grace and prowess in the use of the human body: and I know greatness when I see it. When the splendid insider commentary of the experts, which included former Olympic skating Champions, is factored in I felt I had a pretty good idea what was going on. But as in living life or reading a good book: you get from figure skating what you bring to it. What I brought was a discerning eye for rhythm and grace, and a respect for the bio-mechanical possibilities of the human body. And in these things Mr. Lysaeck was simply marvelous!