U.S. figure skater Evan Lysacek realized his doctor, an orthopedic specialist, had given him a sensible, sound recommendation that likely would be best for his long-term health.
He simply had no intention of following it.
Withdraw from this figure skating season? Do nothing for six weeks? To heal a stress fracture in his pelvis?
"Sorry," Lysacek recalled thinking as he met with the physician in September, "that's not an option."
No way was Lysacek putting away his skates, not a mere 17 months before the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, not with the season-opening Smart Ones Skate America -- which begins with the men's short program tonight in Pittsburgh -- just weeks away.
It didn't matter that pain had been radiating through Lysacek's left hip every morning when he stepped out of bed since the junior world championships in March, when he aggravated a problem originally diagnosed as a strained groin.
This, Lysacek believed, was going to be his breakthrough season and he wasn't going to skip it for something as insignificant as a stress fracture. Last December, six months removed from his graduation from Neuqua Valley High in Naperville, Ill., he won the Junior Grand Prix Final in Malmo, Sweden, topping Russian Andrei Griazev, who trains under Tatiana Tarasova and Alexei Yagudin in Simsbury, Conn.
In the spring, Lysacek finished second to Griazev, who has been called the next Yagudin, at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships, earning his third straight silver medal in the event.
This fall, Lysacek, 19, will compete full-time on the senior circuit, trying to establish himself as a U.S. Olympic team contender with the likes of Tim Goebel, Johnny Weir, Michael Weiss and Ryan Jahnke.
"If I want to be on the Olympic team in 2006, I need to say, 'I'm here,' . . . and not just fall off the face of the earth," Lysacek said. "I'll take care of [the hip] in the offseason.
"My attitude is really just forget about it. Take my medicine and let adrenaline take over."
The approach, Lysacek said, helped him perform capably at the preseason Campbell's Classic in St. Paul, Minn., on Oct. 1. Though he was fifth of sixth skaters, he topped Japan's Takeshi Honda and finished behind four skaters of distinction: Goebel, Joubert, Canada's Emanuel Sandhu and Weir.
"The performance for me was huge," Lysacek said. "I went out and just put on a good show."
At Skate America, Lysacek will compete against Weiss, Jahnke, Griazev, France's Brian Joubert, the silver medal winner at this year's world championships, and Germany's Stefan Lindemann, the 2004 world bronze medal winner. In short, the field is very strong.
Lysacek and Weiss also were invited to the Cup of Russia, Nov. 25-28 in Moscow.
Lysacek hopes the style he projects with his long, lanky frame and his reputation for connecting with audiences will help him as he hobbles through the season, trying to showcase his full arsenal of artistry if not pure athletic ability. Not only will he rely on anti-inflammatory medication commonly used to treat arthritis -- "I can't even walk on it days I don't take it," he said -- he has severely altered his repertoire and training.
His doctor, Leisure Yu, forbade him from doing quadruple jumps and urged him to curtail his training severely. Yu told Lysacek, who stands 5 feet 11, that he probably couldn't make his hip any worse by competing, but would be wise not to overwork it. In the offseason, Lysacek said, he intends to rest it fully for a couple of months.
Lysacek, who last summer moved from his home in Naperville, Ill., to El Segundo, Calif., to train under esteemed coach Frank Carroll, acquiesced -- albeit reluctantly -- to the performance and training concessions.
"He's very driven," said his mother, Tanya, a substitute teacher in Naperville. "Evan stretches what the doctor says. If the doctor says do 10 jumps, Evan might do 20 jumps. He's not very compliant."
Desperate, however, to compete effectively, Lysacek for once heeded his doctor's advice. He eliminated from his repertoire the quad toe jump, which he was attempting about 20 times daily in practice last season. And he and Carroll have relied on the barest of on-ice training sessions supplemented by heavy off-ice training that involves less pounding.
Previously, Lysacek said, he skated at least three hours a day. Now, he said, he is at the rink for at most two 45-minute sessions, which consist of little more than a warmup period, a run-through of his programs, and a cool-down period.
"This time he's come back and done what he's been told to do," Carroll said. "He is a workaholic. . . . He tends to go overboard with training. If he's thoroughly exhausted, he feels like he's done his job. He's learned how to train smarter, do fewer things better and concentrate on quality rather than quantity."
Lysacek, who became the first skater in 50 years to win the novice and junior men's U.S. championships in consecutive seasons in 1999 and 2000, figures he suffered the fracture unknowingly at some point last year.
Doing anything with any sort of restraint is difficult of Lysacek, who tends to become obsessed with every project he tackles. That's why he put off full-time college -- he aspires to earn an MBA from Harvard and embark on an international business career -- while he pursues his skating career, taking a class or two per semester at Santa Monica College. It also explains his doting handling of his black, 2002 Infiniti I35, which he purchased used last year with money he saved. He washes it every day before driving to skating practice.
Performing without a quad jump in major senior level competition on the men's side will have repercussions, but Lysacek hopes the International Skating Union's new computerized judging system, which is intended to reward well-rounded skaters, works in his favor. All of the top skaters routinely land quads and some, such as Goebel, can knock off several in one program.
"I may not be the strongest jumper or the strongest spinner, but when it comes to the all-around, I can put it all together and deliver a strong performance," he said.
But will is be good enough to scramble through a thicket of experienced male skaters?
Don Laws, who coaches McLean's Weiss, called Lysacek a "very, very talented young man," but said he had yet to be moved or awed by any of his performances. Laws described Lysacek as on the cusp of skating maturity.
"He just has to settle in, find certain niches that suit him and him alone," Laws said. "He's doing a lot of everything. He has to decide if he has a style or uniqueness or specialty about him, instead of just tricks."
While chasing the loftiest goal Lysacek can imagine -- a berth on the Olympic team -- he is keeping his dreams in check. He realizes he doesn't have to win in Pittsburgh to begin his climb. He believes he must, however, make a good impression.
"People say, 'There's a new kid on the series,' so why don't I use that free publicity?" Lysacek said. "I might as well go out and put on a good show."