Evan Lysacek woke up every morning praying this would be the day the excruciating pain in his left hip — "like you're being electrocuted" — would subside. And every day when he stepped on the ice, the searing throb of pain reminded him that passion alone can't fuel a dream.
The reigning Olympic figure skating champion announced Tuesday that a torn labrum in his left hip will keep him from competing in Sochi. 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. "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. His return would have been a huge boost for the American men, who have disappeared from the international scene in the last four years.
No U.S. man has been better than fifth at the world championships — Lysacek's worst finish at either worlds or the Olympics — since he won the title in 2009. For the third time in four years, no American man qualified for the Grand Prix final.
As Lysacek performed his short program 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?"